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.

Aerial view of the George Washington Carver Neighborhood
Aerial view of the George Washington Carver Neighborhood as a crowd leaves Brown Chapel A.M.E.

Photo courtesy of the Alabama Department of Archives and History

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 members of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee(SNCC) and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference(SCLC) and other organizers stayed with neighborhood families. Meetings were often held in the local churches and the marches began there.
The neighborhood was named for the famous African American botanist, inventor, and professor best known for the myriad uses he found for peanuts.

A tall brick church building with a circular window in the middle and wide brick steps.

NPS Photo/Theresa Hall

Brown Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church

Both the building and the members of Brown Chapel A.M.E. Church played pivotal roles in the Selma, AL, 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 A.M.E. 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 in Selma, Alabama

NPS Photo

Edmund Pettus Bridge

The Edmund Pettus Bridge became a symbol of the momentous changes taking place in Alabama, America, and the world. It was here that voting rights marchers were violently confronted by law enforcement personnel on March 7, 1965. The day became known as Bloody Sunday.

The march resumed on Sunday, March 21, with court protection through Federal District Court Judge Frank M. Johnson, Jr., who weighed the right of mobility against the right to march and ruled in favor of the demonstrators. "The law is clear that the right to petition one's government for the redress of grievances may be exercised in large groups...," said Judge Johnson, "and these rights may be exercised by marching, even along public highways."

This time, 3,200, versus the initial 600, marchers headed east out of Selma, across the Edmund Pettus Bridge. Marches walked an average of 12 miles a day and slept in fields. By the time they reached the capitol on Thursday, March 25, they were 25,000 strong.

Campsites of the 5-day, 4-night March‎ ‎

The Hall Family pose in front of the trail sign marking the site of the marchers first campsite on the way to Montgomery in 1965
The Hall Family pose in front of the trail sign marking the site of the marchers first campsite on the way to Montgomery in 1965.

NPS Photo

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 Alabamians.‏

The Rosie Steele Property; the site of Campsite 2, where protesters slept during the march in 1965

NPS Photo

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 landowner in 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.

A brown highway sign reads, "Selma to Montgomery Trail. Campsite 2. Robert Gardner Farm. March 23, 1965."

NPS Photo

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 farmhouse porch.

The Chapel at the City of St. Jude; the site of the fourth and final campsite for the marchers
The City of St. Jude Chapel

NPS Photo

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.

On the final morning of the march, the heavy rain had ended but clouds and intermittent drizzle continued. Led by Dr. 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 foot soldiers on the original march.

A large white building with a lawn and trees.

Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress

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.

On March 25, 1965 over 25,000 marchers stood in front of the capitol steps to hear Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. address Governor George Wallace and the White power establishment:

“They told us we wouldn’t get here. And there were those who said that we would get here only over their dead bodies, but all the world today knows that we are here and we are standing before the forces of power in the state of Alabama saying, "We ain’t gonna let nobody turn us around."
- Dr. King

The Selma to Montgomery Voting Rights March resulted in the August 6, 1965 passage of the Voting Rights Act.


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    Last updated: October 24, 2023

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