Alabama was the stage for a number of the most significant events and home to many individuals who shaped the course of the Civil Rights Movement in America. The 50th anniversary of the Selma to Montgomery March will occur in 2015.
In anticipation of the date, several important civil rights sites are getting ready. Dexter Avenue, the street leading to the State Capitol and the end point of the march is undergoing a $6.6 million dollar streetscape project to improve green space and crosswalks to make the historic street more pedestrian friendly. Work should be completed in January 2015.
The city of Montgomery is also marking the route protesters took during the last day of march from the City of St. Jude, a Roman Catholic social-service organization, to the State Capitol Building. This important route was the place where the largest number of people marched, some 25,000. More than one million dollars are being spent on new signage, trees, flowers, sidewalks and images of marchers along the route. Montgomery will install signs and paint footsteps along the route by March of 2015 with the slogan, “The Dream Marches On.”
A listing of historic places in downtown Montgomery will be completed by 2015. The public may use this information as a self-guided walking or driving tour. It is also a resource for guides leading group tours.
Several new historic markers were placed in downtown Montgomery recently, to describe the city’s role in the slave trade prior to the American Civil War. The markers join those already in place at historical civil rights sites.
The Museum of Alabama has opened at the Alabama Department of Archives and History. The museum has been named the Attraction of the Year by the state tourism department and includes historical artifacts and displays, including those from the Civil Rights period.
The Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church and Parsonage, where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., preached and lived, are both planning for increased visitation. Last year a “Lighting the Way” commemorative gaslight was placed near the steps of the church in honor of King. Future plans include adding a Dr. King statue facing the Civil Rights Memorial that bears words from his “I Have a Dream” speech.
Other civil rights museums in Montgomery that will be expecting increased visitation are the Freedom Rides Museum and the Rosa Parks Museum.
In Selma, two civil rights museums sit on either side of the Edmund Pettus Bridge, where the Selma to Montgomery marchers were turned away twice before their successful journey to Montgomery. Those museums and the U.S. Park Service interpretative center along the historic Selma to Montgomery route showcase the history and importance of the event.
Special Events 2015
March 1, 2015
Gospel Concert – Selma
To kick off events leading to the 50th anniversary of the Bridge Crossing Jubilee, a special Sunday gospel concert is being planned in Selma.
March 4 -7, 2015
Play – Jimmy Lee – Marion
Jimmy Lee, the play, memorializes the legacy of Jimmie Lee Jackson, one of the Civil Rights Movement’s most beloved martyrs. Jimmie Lee Jackson’s death in Marion, Alabama sparked the Selma to Montgomery March, which led to Bloody Sunday and ultimately, passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. Jimmy Lee is a series of vignettes portraying the tension in Marion
March 5-9, 2015
50th Anniversary Selma to Montgomery March – Selma
The Bridge Crossing Jubilee marks “Bloody Sunday”, the first attempt by voting rights marchers to cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma only to be turned back by Alabama Troopers.
The Jubilee events start on Thursday March 5th, with the Bridge Crossing reenactment on Sunday, March 8th. Dozens of different events are will be held in Selma during the 50th Anniversary including Journeys for the Soul, Voices from the March on March 9th.
March 8, 2015
Concert – Montgomery
To honor the “historic Selma to Montgomery march, a music concert has been set for Montgomery. Tentative location is on the historic Alabama State University campus.
March 9, 2015
Journeys for the Soul, Voices from the March – Selma
Joanne Bland, one of the “Bloody Sunday” marchers will speak of the brutal beatings of fellow marchers that took place on that historic day. Bland, who had been jailed more than 13 times by the time she was 11 years old will give her compelling personal story of civil rights activism. Event will be held in the auditorium on the campus of Concordia College Alabama in Selma.
March 21, 2015
The City of St. Jude 5k Walk-Run – Montgomery
It was on the grounds of the City of St. Jude on March 24, 1965, where Harry Belafonte, Sammy Davis Jr., and others entertained the more than 25,000 weary marchers resting at campsite 4 in what was called the “Stars for Freedom” rally. The next morning, the march continued to its end point at the state capitol. The 5k walk-run route is along that same historic route and celebrates the final leg of the Selma to Montgomery Voting Rights March.