This past weekend, our country commemorated the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights march from Selma to Montgomery.
The First Family went to Selma, Alabama. President Obama spoke at the foot of the Edmund Pettus Bridge about the importance of the Voting Rights Act.
And they all walked across the bridge, along with John Lewis and former president George W. Bush. Sunday was the anniversary of Bloody Sunday, when marchers were attacked by state troopers.
Two days later, Martin Luther King, Jr. led a march to the bridge on what is now known as Turnaround Tuesday. They prayed and turned around. The third march, less than two weeks later, was successful. With federal protection, the organized group marched for five days to Montgomery.
When they reached Montgomery, Governor George Wallace didn’t receive them, but the marchers and the cause galvanized the world. I read and listened to a lot of news coverage of the 50th anniversary march but not one outlet mentioned that Selma to Montgomery National Historic Trail is a national park.
I was in Selma in September, as part of my research into all the national parks of the Southeast. The small town was quiet but the downtown park visitor center was open, ready to greet me and interpret the importance of the Selma to Montgomery National Historic Trail. As I said in the following letter to the editor in the Asheville Citizen-Times, the National Park Service will continue to protect the route after all the speeches and attention on Selma is over. Here’s the letter:
Thanks for the continuing coverage of the historic Selma march. I hope that in some coverage of Selma, you’ll mention that the Selma to Montgomery route is a national historic trail, managed by the National Park Service: www.nps.gov/semo. I was in Selma in September to research my book “Forests, Alligators, Battlefields” that will come out next year for the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service. I’m visiting all the national park units in the Southeast. I stopped at the camps that hosted the marchers as well as two visitor centers. After all the 50th anniversary publicity is over, the National Park Service will keep preserving, protecting and interpreting the route.