Places

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 (Alabama Department of Archives and History, Photo by Spider Martin)

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.
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Image of a large building.
Brown Chapel AME Church

NPS, Theresa Hall

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.
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Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama
Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama (NPS, SEMO)

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, marches headed east out of Selma, across the Edmund Pettus Bridge and on to Montgomery. Marches walked 12 miles a day and slept in fields. By the time they reached the capitol on Thursday, March 25, they were 25,000-strong.
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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, SEMO)

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.
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The Rosie Steele Property; the site of Campsite 2, where protesters slept during the march in 1965
The Rosie Steele Property; the site of Campsite 2, where protesters slept during the march in 1965 (NPS, SEMO)

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.
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NPS road sign dedicated to the third campsite during the Selma to Montgomery march that reads "Selma to Montgomery Historic Trail, Campsite 3, Rpbert Gardner Farm, March 23, 1965"
NPS road sign dedicated to the third campsite during the Selma to Montgomery march that reads "Selma to Montgomery Historic Trail, Campsite 3, Robert Gardner Farm, March 23, 1965"

Don Morfe, July 12, 2010

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.
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The Chapel at the City of St. Jude; the site of the fourth and final campsite for the marchers
The Chapel at the City of St. Jude; the site of the fourth and final campsite for the marchers (NPS, SEMO)

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.
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A large white building with a lawn and trees.
The Alabama State Capitol building in Montgomery, Alabama.

Library of Congress/Carol M. Highsmith, 1946

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 saying, “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 goin’ let nobody turn us around." 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: August 20, 2022

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