Selma-to-Montgomery March Camp Tops List of Endangered Sites

Birmingham, Ala. – The historic voting rights march from Selma to Montgomery in 1965 didn’t happen in just one day: participants spent four nights camping along the nearly 55-mile (89-kilometer) route through Alabama, sleeping in tents and fighting white supremacist attacks Near the farm buildings under the watch of guards to stop.

Now threatened by decades of weather and wear, the campsites used by those marchers are among the most endangered historic places in the country, according to a new assessment by a conservation group. According to the nonprofit National Trust for Historic Preservation, along with 10 other locations in nine states, the sites are at risk of being noticed or lost immediately.

Three of the campsites are privately owned, the rural area along US 80, which connects Selma and the capital city, and the fourth is the town of St. Jude, a Roman Catholic complex where thousands of people chase the Rev. Martin Luther the night before. King Jr. at the Alabama Capitol to demonstrate voting rights for black people on March 25, 1965.

March Route looks different today than it did 56 years ago – what was a two-lane road is now four-lane, with additional traffic and new construction. Leaving details of the camp land and conservation to the families of local officials, the trust is shedding light on the sites and others at a time when voting rights and racial justice are again a national issue.

Paul Edmondson, president of the Washington-based organization, said, “These 11 places celebrate the interconnectedness of American culture and embrace it as a multicultural fabric that, when put together, reveals our true identity as a people.” runs.” annual location. Other places on the 2021 list include:

– Trujillo Adobe, remains of an early Latino settlement dating back to about 160 years ago in Riverside, California.

– Summit Tunnels 6 and 7 and Summit Camp Site in Truckee, California, tell the story of Chinese railroad workers who built the Transcontinental Railroad in the 1860s.

– Georgia B. Williams Nursing Home, in Camilla, Georgia, was once the state’s only Black-owned birthplace for African American women.

– The Boston Harbor Islands, archaeological and historical sites on 34 islands just off the coast of Boston.

– Morningstar Tabernacle Number 88 of the Order of Moses Cemetery and Hall, a historic Black settlement located in the late 1800s in Cabin John, Maryland.

– Home of Sarah Elizabeth Ray, a black woman and activist who began a legal battle after being denied entry to an isolated yacht in Detroit in 1945.

– Riverside Hotel, which housed black blues musicians and others during the Jim Crow era in Clarksdale, Mississippi.

– Pine Grove Elementary Shoe L, created in 1917 for black children by philanthropist Julius Rosenwald in Cumberland, Maryland.

Threat filling station, which caters to black travelers on Route 66 and the family farm in Luther, Oklahoma.

– The Olzato Trading Post was built in 1921 and is one of the few Navajo trading posts remaining in the vicinity of San Juan County, Utah.

The Selma-to-Montgomery march began two weeks later when Alabama State troops defeated marchers attempting to leave Selma on a day known as “Bloody Sunday”. Sites in Selma and the Way of Montgomery are now part of the Selma-to-Montgomery National Historic Trail.

Under the watch of members of the Alabama National Guard, the marchers first stopped about 7 miles east of Selma on land owned by David Hall, a black farmer who risked harassment from white neighbors upset about the march. A photo of marchers showed they had gathered around a fire made in an old metal drum for warmth, and Hall’s granddaughter Devin Hall said visitors still stayed.

“Sometimes we come out and there’s a whole yard of bike riders, people who stop and want a tour,” said Hall, who splits time between the family land and California. “Sometimes they actually ask if they can spend the night.”

The next rainy night they stayed at Rosie Steele’s estate, then on land owned by Robert Gardner, where Tuskegee University students supplied dinner supplies and marchers slept on donated swimming pool air mattresses, of which Many went bad overnight. Gardner’s daughter, Cheryl Gardner Davis, was 4 at the time and still remembers the crowds and noises.

A white neighbor threatened her father to welcome the marchers, she said, and for years the family remained silent about the experience.

“I remember my father telling us that we can’t go anywhere alone, that we always have to have an adult with us. They said the FBI was keeping an eye on us if we saw a car on the side of the road,” Davis said. “It was a little scary.”

Dozens of marchers spent the night en route, and by the time the marchers reached the city of Montgomery, their numbers had grown rapidly.

While the families who owned the camps had little contact for decades, plans are underway in 1965 to preserve the existing homes at the Hall and Gardner sites and perhaps turn them into educational spaces, said Philip Howard, a Birmingham-area consultant. doing work. Project with Conservation Fund.

On the final night of the march, protesters camping in the town of St. Jude, about 3 miles (4.83 kilometers) from Alabama’s Capitol, were entertained by stars including Harry Belafonte; Tony Bennett; Peter, Paul and Mary; Sammy Davis Jr. and Joan Baez before the final leg of the tour. The chapel there remains the same as it was then.

Today near the Capitol, a stone historical marker commemorates the events of 1965, when King addressed an estimated 25,000 people in late March. Plain steel signs identify the camps used by marchers along the way, but there is little else to indicate their importance.


Reeves is a member of AP’s Race and Ethnicity team. Follow him on Twitter:


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