The historic places, cultural landscapes, and natural environments along the Selma to Montgomery Trail served as the backdrop for the voting rights struggle in Alabama. These places provide a window into the social, economic, and legal system that resulted in the Selma to Montgomery voting marches, images of which still shape the national reaction, response, and memory of the civil rights movement — read about a few of them below.
George Washington Carver Neighborhood
The center of the Selma campaign was the George Washington Carver Neighborhood, a large public housing project constructed for African Americans after World War II. Hundreds of SNCC and SCLC members and other organizers stayed with neighborhood families, meetings were held in the churches and march began there. It was named for the famous African American botanist, inventor, and professor best known for the myriad uses he found for peanuts.
Brown Chapel AME Church
Both the building and the members of Brown Chapel AME Church played pivotal roles in the Selma, Alabama, marches that helped lead to the passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. The starting point for the Selma-to-Montgomery marches, Brown Chapel also hosted the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) for the first three months of 1965. Another nearby local church, First Baptist, acted as the headquarters for the organizers of the Selma Campaign--the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). Brown Chapel AME Church, with its imposing twin towers and Romanesque Revival styling, was built in 1908 by a black builder--of whom little is known -- Mr. A.J. Farley.
Edmund Pettus Bridge
David Hall Farm — Campsite 1
Although the first day of the march was only 7 miles long, many of the participants weren’t used to walking that far. They stopped that night on the land of farmer David Hall, who risked harassment from white neighbors. An advance crew had set up tents for separate men’s and women’s camps, supplies and first aid, and a Selma church supplied the supper meal. Physicians and nurses among the marchers attended to ill and injured. Volunteer security guards patrolled the camp because the marchers didn’t trust the National Guardsmen, who were white Alabamans.
The Rosie Steele Property - Campsite 2
At the end of the second day, the marchers camped on land owned by Rosie Steele, a 78-year-old black resident of Lowndes County. The ground near her grocery store and filling station was infested with red ants, it was raining, and the food sent from Selma, by then 20 miles away, arrived cold. The next morning, the marchers improvised rain gear from plastic garbage bags and cardboard, but they were soon soaked.
The Robert Gardner Farm — Campsite 3
More than a day of rain and drizzle meant that the already soaked marchers arrived at a muddy campsite for their third night on the road. Tents had been pitched on the farm of another black Lowndes county resident, Robert Gardner. After dinner supplied by Tuskegee Institute students, some marchers tried sleeping on donated air mattresses, but many of them were deflated by morning. Others sheltered on the farm house porch.
The City of St. Jude — Campsite 4
Founded in 1934, the City of St. Jude has served the Montgomery community as a place of justice. The final morning of the march, the heavy rain had ended but clouds and intermittant drizzle continued. Lead by Martin Luther King Jr. and Andrew Young, a stream of more than 12,000 people, largely black but including white supporters, too, moved out of the City of St. Jude campsite to walk 4 miles through the streets of Montgomery to the capitol. The chapel at the City of St. Jude stands today just as it did for the Footsoldiers on the original march.
Alabama State Capitol Building
Following four days and nights of cold, rain, and exhaustion, weary yet elated marchers arrived at the Alabama State Capitol in Montgomery, Alabama. The marchers had left Selma on March 21, 1965, marching through Dallas, Lowndes, and Montgomery Counties, a long 54 miles in a Voting Rights March to demand obstacles put into place to limit African Americans right to vote be removed.
Last updated: September 6, 2023