Selma to Montgomery National Historic Trail (Alabama)

Selma to Montgomery National Historic Trail (Alabama)

Voting Rights March: 1965 Voting Rights March: 1965

From the National Park Service

The Selma to Montgomery National Historic Trail was established by Congress in 1996, to commemorate the events, people, and route of the 1965 Voting Rights March in Alabama. The March route is a component of the National Trails System, and is administered by the National Park Service (NPS). The route is also designated as a National Scenic Byway/All-American Road, awarded by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT). Additionally, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) is a key partner in interpreting and protecting this historic route; with the majority of project funding provided through the Scenic Byways Program.

SEMO is the shortest of the 23 historic and scenic trails in the National Trails System. The National Trails System Act institutes a national system of recreation, scenic, and historic trails. Historic trails are extended routes that follow nationally-significant, original routes of travel as closely as possible.

The 54-mile trail follows the historic voting rights march by beginning at the Brown Chapel A.M.E. Church in Selma, and crossing the Edmond Pettus Bridge. On March 7, 1965, as non-violent marchers crossed the bridge, they were tear- gassed, beaten, and their processional stopped by law enforcement officers. This display of violence, heaped upon non-violent protesters was captured by the news media and broadcasted worldwide. This event came to be known as "Bloody Sunday." Outraged protesters from across the country joined the marchers for a subsequent five-day march that began in Selma on March 21, 1965, this time with state and federal law enforcement protection.

The marchers traveled along U.S. Highway 80 in Dallas County, continued through Lowndes County and Montgomery County, and ended the five day trek at the Alabama State Capitol in Montgomery. The Southern Christian leadership Conference (SCLC) and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) organized the logistics for the march-providing food, water, sanitation, and other services for the marchers, who camped out along the way. Twenty-five thousand marchers concluded the historic march in Montgomery on March 25th with many notable speakers who addressed the crowd at a concluding rally near the capitol building. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered one of his most notable speeches at the rally. As a result of this historic event, the Voting Rights Act was passed on May 26, 1965.

Historians view the 1965 Selma to Montgomery Voting Rights March as one of the last great grassroot campaigns for human rights and the summit of the modern civil rights movement that originated in the 1950s. The March and complimentary events brought the issues associated with voting rights to the forefront of the United States political agenda and raised the nation's consciousness about the struggle of African-Americans for equal rights.


The Purpose of the Selma to Montgomery Trail is that of the following:

  • Commemoration of the events, people, and route of the Selma to Montgomery Voting Rights March of 1965, as a reminder of the right and responsibility of all Americans to participate fully in the election process and  the maintenance of vigilance in protecting the right to vote.

  • The identification, preservation, and protection of the historic route, and resources that inform the world about the Selma to Montgomery Voting Rights March of 1965.

  • The interpretation and documentation of the story of the Selma to Montgomery Voting Rights March of 1965, including its antecedents, and aftermath, in the context of the larger human and civil rights movement.

  • The enhancement and development of broad partnerships between the National Park Service, state and local governments, as well as various citizen groups, to achieve the Trail's purpose.
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