There’s nothing remarkable about the landscape, but remarkable things happened along U.S. Highway 80. On March 21, 1965 the official Selma to Montgomery March for voters’ rights began. By the time the 54-mile march reached the Alabama State Capital steps four days later, there were nearly 25,000 participants.
Until 1965, counties in Alabama often prevented African-Americans from registering to vote. Because of this, only 2 percent of the African-American population of Dallas County at that time was able to vote and 0 percent in Lowndes County. Civil rights activists began to protest in Selma in order to bring attention to this injustice. These protests were met by violence and death at the hands of the local sheriff’s department.
Five months after the march, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act which prohibits discrimination in voting practices or procedures because of race and color.
The history of what sparked the march, the violence that preceded it and the aftermath for some of the marchers are conveyed at the Lowndes County Interpretive Center operated by the National Park Service.
After watching a film about the historic events and walking through a well thought out museum, Park Ranger Anthony Bates explains the center is actually on the site of the original “Tent City”.
Bates says that in 1965 several Lowndes County African-American tenant farmer families were evicted from their homes by white land owners because they attempted to register and vote. Many weren’t able to find housing so they set up the make-shift tent city.
Outside are additional displays.
For more information about the Selma to Montgomery March and the interpretive center, check the website: http://www.nps.gov/semo/index.htm.