Once off the exit, I was struck by a National Park Service sign that announced the “Selma to Montgomery National Historical Trail.” This was it. The road those courageous men, women, and
children had hiked, risking all. I was overwhelmed and moved to tears—tears that fell intermittently during the entire drive to Selma.
“They were in their church clothes,” Wendy said. “And dress shoes.”
|Shoes worn by Juanita T. Williams
during the Selma to Montgomery March
After driving nearly an hour, my breath caught in my throat. The Edmund Pettus Bridge. The site of such brutality that the rest of the nation could no longer turn away in apathy.
The bridge’s sidewalk was surprisingly narrow. A thin metal rail provided the only barrier between me and the swirling waters of the Alabama River. My moderate fear of bridges kicked in and I insisted on walking on the road side. However, there was no shoulder between it and the cars, and my husband worried I would be struck by a passing vehicle. They were moving at a pretty good clip. Finally, we compromised with me walking behind him, a foot or so away from the road, as we continued to hold hands.
Reviewing the films with that in mind, I saw that they walked in twos, careful not to step into the road. I know they wanted to follow all laws, hoping to prevent excuses, it turns out, the authorities did not need.
“As they crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge on March 7, they were met by a column of State Troopers and local volunteer officers of the local sheriff’s department who blocked their path.
|Reproduction of MLK’s
Birmingham jail cell
What was then Haisten’s Mattress and Awning Company is now the National Voting Rights Museum and Institute. Its collections feature the history of the nonviolence movement as a whole, including the works of Gandhi and Mother Teresa. A replica of Martin Luther King’s cell in the Birmingham jail moved us, but what struck us most was the exhibit that ran throughout the museum. The footprints of Foot Soldiers for the movement.
|Shoes of civil rights workers|
Two weeks following Bloody Sunday there were not 600 marchers ready to cross Edmund Pettus Bridge. There were 25,000. And with a court order, they completed that march to Montgomery—five months before President Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act.
And I was humbled to be there.
Photo of shoes from http://www.smithsonianlegacies.si.edu/objectdescription.cfm?ID=242