“Selma is a place where we injected something very meaningful into our democracy. We opened up the political process and made it possible for hundreds and thousands and millions of people to come in and be participants.”
~ Rep. John Lewis talking about Selma, Alabama
This is Selma, Alabama, on a perfect October weekend. My visit to Selma was marked by surprises, and the first was just how photogenic the Edmund Pettus bridge is. This symbol of the civil rights movement soars 100 feet over the Alabama river and pulls at your gaze and your camera. (Above, the bridge in late afternoon.)
There’s another view of the bridge, and that’s what the marchers on Bloody Sunday saw as they walked towards the policemen on the other side. They marched for voting rights and were beaten to the ground for it.
There’s history, tragedy and triumph in Selma. The Pettus bridge is named for a native son, a Confederate general, U.S. Senator, and grand dragon of the Alabama KKK. He died in 1907 and his name placed on the bridge when completed in 1940. During Pettus’ time and after, life for Black citizens in Selma was marked by division, oppression and violence. Lynchings and racial terror were an everyday part of life for Black people.
The marchers on Bloody Sunday in March 1965 committed their lives to creating change.
President Obama Walked the Pettus Bridge
In 2015, to mark the 50th anniversary of Bloody Sunday, President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, their daughters Sasha and Malia, holding hands with Congressman John Lewis, marched across the bridge. Obama’s speech captures Selma’s place in civil rights and U.S. history.
“…there are places and moments in America where this nation’s destiny has been decided. Many are sites of war — Concord and Lexington, Appomattox, Gettysburg. Others are sites that symbolize the daring of America’s character — Independence Hall and Seneca Falls, Kitty Hawk and Cape Canaveral.
“Selma is such a place. In one afternoon 50 years ago, so much of our turbulent history — the stain of slavery and anguish of civil war; the yoke of segregation and tyranny of Jim Crow; the death of four little girls in Birmingham; and the dream of a Baptist preacher — all that history met on this bridge.”
~ President Barack Obama, March 7, 2015, at the 50th anniversary of the Selma to Montgomery marches.
Biscuits and History
Above, the view from the bridge, looking towards downtown Selma. Give nature a foothold and it will take over. There’s a rustic, rundown charm to Selma that gets under your skin. The more of its story that I learn, the more time I spend there, the more I want to see it succeed.
The visit to Selma happened because of biscuits. It began with a visit to Marion, a town about 30 minutes away, for Chef Scott Peacock’s Biscuit Experience. On that trip, I stayed at Reverie mansion, upstairs from the Biscuit Kitchen, in a bed crafted before automobiles roamed the earth.
Chef Scott is passionate about the Alabama Black Belt, the region south and west of Birmingham that’s known for rich farmland and turbulent history. As I packed my biscuits in my car, he told me my next trip to Alabama must include a stay in Selma.
Welcome to Selma
“When people come to Selma, they tend to come with preconceptions, it is almost impossible not to. What happened in Selma Changed Our World, for us living here is being reminded and defined by our very worst day, a day when humanity showed its best and worst, a day of Systemic Hate, a day that shows what humanity is capable of doing to one another.
“It is so very important or us to hold on to this World Changing Story, but at times it feels as if this burden is too heavy…So I ask you to come to Selma, who has held this story for the world, with an Open Heart and LOVE as your Intent.
“When we are LOVED and not shared we will HEAL and when we HEAL, WE WILL CHANGE THE WORLD AGAIN!”
~ AC Reeves, from the welcome letter at the Woolworth Lofts, Selma, Alabama.
Walking Around Downtown Selma
Following: more images from our walk around downtown Selma.
More from Selma and the Alabama Black Belt
The Light at the Woolworth Lofts in Selma, Alabama