History & Culture
History, Purpose and Mission...
″Learn about the rich history of the events that led to the march that changed the face of American politics forever..."
The Selma to Montgomery National Historic Trail was established by Congress in 1996, to commemorate the events, people, and route of the 1965 Voting Rights March in Alabama. The March route is a component of the National Trails System, and is administered by the National Park Service (NPS). The route is also designated as a National Scenic Byway/All-American Road, awarded by the Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT). Additionally, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) is a key partner in interpreting and protecting this historic route; with the majority of project funding provided through the Scenic Byways Program.
SEMO is the shortest National Historic Trail in the National Trails System. The National Trails System Act institutes a national system of recreation, scenic, and historic trails. Historic trails are extended routes that follow nationally-significant, original routes of travel as closely as possible.
The 54-mile trail follows the historic voting rights march route by beginning at Brown Chapel A.M.E. Church in Selma, and crossing the Edmund Pettus Bridge. On March 7, 1965, as non-violent marchers crossed the bridge, they were tear- gassed, beaten, and their processional stopped by law enforcement officers. This display of violence, heaped upon non-violent protesters was captured by the news media and broadcasted worldwide. This event came to be known as "Bloody Sunday." Outraged protesters from across the country joined the marchers for a subsequent five-day march that began in Selma on March 21, 1965, this time with state and federal law enforcement protection.
The marchers traveled along U.S. Highway 80 in Dallas County, continued through Lowndes County and Montgomery County, and ended the five day trek at the Alabama State Capitol in Montgomery. The Southern Christian leadership Conference (SCLC) and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) organized the logistics for the march-providing food, water, sanitation, and other services for the marchers, who camped out along the way. Twenty-five thousand marchers concluded the historic march in Montgomery on March 25th with many notable speakers who addressed the crowd at a concluding rally near the capitol building. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered one of his most notable speeches at the rally.
Historians view the 1965 Selma to Montgomery Voting Rights March as one of the last great grass root campaigns for human rights and the summit of the modern civil rights movement that originated in the 1950s. The March and complimentary events brought the issues associated with voting rights to the forefront of the United States political agenda and raised the nation's consciousness about the struggle of African-Americans for equal rights.
The Purpose of the Selma to Montgomery Trail is that of the following:
″Commemoration of the events, people, and route of the Selma to Montgomery Voting Rights March of 1965, as a reminder of the right and responsibility of all Americans to participate fully in the election process and the maintenance of vigilance in protecting the right to vote;
″The identification, preservation, and protection of the historic route, and resources that inform the world about the Selma to Montgomery Voting Rights March of 1965;
″The interpretation and documentation of the story of the Selma to Montgomery Voting Rights March of 1965, including its antecedents, and aftermath, in the context of the larger human and civil rights movement; and
″The enhancement and development of broad partnerships between the National Park Service, state and local governments, as well as various citizen groups, to achieve the Trail's purpose.
It is the mission of the National Park Service to preserve and interpret the history of the sites associated with the 1965 voting rights march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama which resulted in the signing of the Voting Rights Act on August 6, 1965.
"Learn why the Selma to Montgomery National Historic Trail is significant to the right of all Americans to cast the ballot..."
The following statements summarize the significance of the Selma to Montgomery National Historic Trail:
1. Events associated with the march from Selma to Montgomery, with what came to be known as "Bloody Sunday" sent shock waves around the world, raised the nation's consciousness, and convinced political leaders, that the time had come for voting rights legislation.
2. The Selma to Montgomery Voting Rights March was the major catalyst for passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Marchers brought the issue of voting rights to the forefront of the United States political agenda, and their peaceful means won broad support for their cause.
3. Passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, five months after the Selma to Montgomery marches achieved the legal right to vote for all Americans, and forever changed the political life of the South and the United States as a whole. The Selma to Montgomery March remains one of the most significant civil rights protests in U.S. History.
Did You Know?
The Selma to Montgomery National Historic Trail is located on U.S. Highway 80 and extends 54 miles from Selma to Montgomery, AL.