The next stop on our journey through the Deep South exploring the legacy of the struggle for civil rights is to a small place with a global reputation: Selma, Alabama. After making our way through Montgomery in the first episode of our video series, we're now stopping by this quiet town to learn more about its importance on the civil rights trail.
A quiet town located in the heart of Alabama's 'Black Belt' (originally named for the region's dark, high-quality soil, and subsequently associated with to the large population of African Americans enslaved to labour on that same soil), Selma's significance in the civil rights movement is huge. It was the starting point of the 50-mile march from Selma to Montgomery – led by Martin Luther King – on 7th March 1965 to protest the Jim Crow laws which prevented African Americans from registering to vote. What happened next was a shocking show of brutality by police officers now known as 'Bloody Sunday'. Police attacked the peaceful protestors as they marched over Edmund Pettus Bridge using tear gas billy clubs and horses while white onlookers cheered.
The march was forced back before it even left Selma, but the televised images of the brutality gained support for the cause and President Lyndon B Johnson promised to send the voting bill to Congress. Another march was organised later on 21st March, this time with 3,200 people departing for Montgomery, acquiring thousands more along the way, accompanied by the national guard.
The voting bill was successful, making history with the Voting Rights Act of 1965. It provided for federal oversight and enforcement of voting rights for all citizens, where patterns of under-representation showed discrimination against ethnic minorities.
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Book car hire in Alabama with Hertz.co.uk from £32 a day. For further road trip inspiration, head to the Hertz American Road Trip Planner and discover iconic and off-the-beaten track routes, downloadable maps and insider guides. For more information on the region visit the Deep South website.
Top image: Edmund Pettus Bridge © loneroc / Shutterstock