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December 12, 2022 / Jim Fenton

Civil Rights Journey Day 7: Jackson to Selma

Edmund Pettus Bridge, Selma, Alabama

Monday, October 24, 2022

After a buffet breakfast at our hotel, we had an hour or so with Mike Espy, former Secretary of Agriculture, Congressman, and Senate candidate. Secretary Espy discussed the political climate in Mississippi in quite some detail, and made it yet more clear that Mississippi politics are more complicated than one might think, and civil rights is not a lost cause.

We then boarded our bus for the three-hour bus ride to Selma, Alabama. Selma today is a somewhat depressed town of about 18,000 having one of the highest murder rates in the state. In the 1960s, Selma was an important site for the civil rights movement. In 1965, attempts were made to march from here to the state capitol in Montgomery to demand voting rights. Initially this Freedom March was blocked by police and resulted in considerable injury to the protesters. Eventually a successful march was held following issuance of a court order.

Upon arrival, we visited the By the River Center for Humanity, a mixed-use community facility. They served us a delicious lunch which was followed by a talk by JoAnne Bland, one of the participants in the Freedom March. She shared with us some of her vision for Selma, and led us in a bit of singing and dancing as well.

We then walked across the famous Edmund Pettus Bridge, and visited the National Voting Rights Museum just across the river from Selma. The museum had artifacts and pictures from the Freedom March, as well as considerable material on subsequent visits to Selma by presidents, particularly Bill Clinton and Barack Obama.

After a short break at our hotel (the St. James hotel, recently renovated by Hilton), we took a short walk to The Revolt Selma, a new restaurant opened by a Black entrepreneur, for a buffet-style steak dinner.

This article is part of a series about our recent travels to the US South. To see the introductory article in the series, click here.

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