I have been keenly interested lately in the key Alabama sites included in the U.S. Civil Rights Trail. I've written in the past about several sites in Birmingham. We took the grandchildren there a few years ago, and I saw what an impact it had on them. When I had an opportunity to take two granddaughters with me to Selma and Montgomery to explore more sites, I jumped at it. We made our way to Selma in the cold, pouring rain, and somehow I think that added to our understanding of what took place in that town.
EDMUND PETTUS BRIDGE
If you ever get a chance to walk across the Edmund Pettus Bridge, I urge you to do so. The actual Selma to Montgomery March required two unsuccessful starts before finally beginning in earnest with the third attempt.
Although African-Americans had been granted the right to vote by law, they were being prevented from registering over and over again. Registrar's offices would suddenly close when they showed up. An impossible literacy test would be administered, and the test giver could randomly fail the applicant. Applicants were told they had to have a sponsor. Police would be posted at the registration site and prevent them from entering. Frustration mounted. The galvanizing force, though, that stirred up hundreds of African-Americans was the brutal shooting and beating of Jimmie Lee Jackson, whose "crime" was tackling a state trooper who was beating his mother. Jimmie Lee died four days later.
On Sunday, March 7, 1965, about 1500 people, still dressed in their clothes from church, determined that they were going to March to Montgomery and petition the governor to allow them to register to vote. When they reached the top of the bridge, they looked down on a wall of police and state troopers, many on horseback, who were armed and ready to prevent them from going further. The marchers advanced. The police and troopers attacked with tear gas, clubs and guns and chased them all the way to Brown Chapel about 7 or 8 blocks away. No one was killed that day, but many were injured. So much so that it was referred to as Bloody Sunday and is still remembered as that to this day.
Granddaughters Penelope, Rosemary and I sat spellbound as our guide, Ann Clemons told us the story. Ann wasn't present on that day, but she was an extra when the scene was later made into the movie "Selma" which came out in 2014. Even though the tear gas used in the movie wasn't real, Ann described feeling all the emotions the people must have felt in 1965.
The Selma Interpretative Center, the Edmund Pettus Bridge and the Lowndes County Interpretative Center are a part of the National Park Service now, so visitors are able to get a wealth of information at those locations. I was 15 years old when the Selma March took place. I remember it vaguely, but for the most part, I was grossly uninformed. Fortunately, it's never too late to learn.
There are several cafes around Selma, but I can personally vouch for the Coffee Shoppe at 308 Broad Street, within walking distance of Edmund Pettus Bridge. It is open Monday through Friday from 6:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., on Saturday from 8:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. and is closed on Sunday. The granddaughters gave two thumbs up to the frozen hot chocolate and the taco soup, and I can attest to the quality of the panini sandwiches. Mocha, Espresso, Latte and Cappuccino are words found on the menu, along with several salads, muffins and scones. It has a neighborhood vibe, free wifi and friendly service.