The Selma to Montgomery National Voting Rights Trail was established by Congress in 1996 to commemorate the events, people, and route of the 1965 Voting Rights March in Alabama. The route is also designated as a National Scenic Byway/All-American Road.
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 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 in Marion, AL, where Jimmie Lee Jackson was shot by an Alabama State Trooper on February 18, 1965 and died February 26 in Selma. Mr. Jackson’s death was among the catalyst that lead to the Selma to Montgomery March in 1965. After departing Marion, visitors can follow the marked Selma to Montgomery National Historic Trail Route Signs to The City of Selma and visit the Selma Interpretive Center, located at the intersection of Water Ave. and Broad St. Here you can learn about the city’s role in the Civil Rights Movement and the sites made famous that still exist today. You’ll depart Selma via 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.