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NPS Ranger with group of marchers at SEMO commemorative march in 2015
NPS Ranger stands with large group of marchers commemorating the 50 year anniversary of the Selma to Montgomery Marches (NPS, SEMO)

Creation of the Selma to Montgomery National Historic Trail


In 1993, Congressman John Lewis introduced a bill in Congress to designate the route of the Selma to Montgomery marches as a national historic trail, though little progress was made in getting the bill passed for the next couple years.

In the meantime, Alabama Governor Fob James declared the stretch of Highway 80 between Selma and Montgomery a state scenic byway in 1995, and in January 1996, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) designated the route as an All American Road.

Finally, in 1996, Congress authorized the creation of the Selma to Montgomery National Historic Trail (SEMO) to commemorate the events, people, and route of the 1965 Voting Rights March in Alabama. On November 12th, 1996, the SEMO trail was established as a unit of the National Park System. The plot of land, which is immediately adjacent to Highway 80 and the Selma to Montgomery march route, is now the site of the Lowndes Interpretive Center, which serves as a public interpretive center and recreational area. The facility was previously constructed and owned by ALDOT and used as a welcome center/rest stop before being acquired by the National Park Service in 2009.

Today, the historic march route is a component of the National Trail System, and is administered by the National Park Service. The route is also designated as a National Scenic Byway/All-American Road, awarded by the U.S. Department of Transportation. The Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT) is a key partner in interpreting and protecting this historic route, with all project funding provided through the Scenic Byways Program.

 
Aerial view of marchers on the Edmund Pettus Bridge on the third march attempt
Aerial view of marchers on the Edmund Pettus Bridge on the third march attempt (Alabama Department of Archives and History)

The March Route

The 54-mile trail follows the historic march by beginning at the Brown Chapel AME Church in Selma and crossing the Edmund Pettus Bridge. As they crossed the bridge, the nonviolent marchers were stopped and beaten by law enforcement officers in what came to be known as “Bloody Sunday” on March 7th, 1965. Outraged protesters from around the country joined the marchers for a subsequent five-day march that began in Selma on March 21st, 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 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, including providing food, water, sanitation, and other services for the marchers who camped out along the way. 25,000 marchers concluded the historic march in Montgomery on March 25th, with many notable speakers addressing the crowd at a concluding rally near the capitol building; Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. gave one of his most famous speeches at the rally. The Voting Rights Act was signed on August 6th, 1965.


Looking for more information? Explore the pages below to learn more about the programs at the Selma to Montgomery Trail!

 
A NPS Park Ranger talking with visitors during a trail tour

Guided Talks & Tours

Call or visit our Interpretive Centers to schedule your group for a guided talk or program.

Front view of the Lowndes Interpretative Center

Museum Collections

Learn more information about the various civil rights era objects and artifacts in our collection.

Please contact our Volunteer Coordinator to learn more about the trail volunteer opportunities.

Volunteers-In-Parks

Become a VIP and volunteer at our Interpretive Centers or along the SEMO Historic Trail.

Last updated: August 20, 2020

Contact the Park

Mailing Address:

7002 U.S. Highway 80 West
P.O. Box 595

Hayneville, AL 36040

Phone:

(334) 877-1983

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