Today, June 13, 2023, Classrooms Without Borders and our intimate group of 23 traveled from Montgomery, the seat of power in Alabama, to Selma, Alabama, the center of another important seat of power with the famous Voting Rights March that occurred March 7, 1965 to March 21, 1965. The first stop was the Lowndes County Interpretive Center. While there, we learned about the grassroots movement and “foot soldiers” of the movement. Those unknown, ordinary men, women, and children who marched simply for a right we all take for granted: the right to vote.
The first thought I was struck with was that we were driving on a bus that would be the route, in the opposite direction, that those brave people took 58 years ago. Our next stop was the National Voting Rights Museum, which stands right outside the infamous Edmund Pettus Bridge in view. This museum was filled with important stories of the foot soldiers there that day. At the entrance of the museum, Sam Walker, a participant of the last leg of the March in the sixth grade, had Alabama Voter Registration forms. To this day, he encourages the very necessary right that all Americans are entitled to: the right to vote.
The first National Voting Rights Museum and Institute
After this, we visited several historical buildings including the Boynton and Jackson Houses. Both were major locations for the grassroots movement of the Civil Rights Movement. It was important for the teachers to see these places. These men and women met in homes and churches where they could congregate and plan. We next met with Joanne Bland, who was eleven years old when she participated in the Selma March. Her testimony was powerful. Why do we need to march for rights we already have? Once she realized the injustice of being unable to sit at the lunch counter, she got involved. She reiterated we are all puzzle pieces in the struggle for human rights and our voices must be heard. Scream until someone hears you! This is a lesson for all people and for our classrooms. She realized that those people were marching for one of the most basic rights of all: the right to vote.
Amelia Boynton Residence
The Jackson Residence
We crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge like those men and women 58 years ago. Following this, our group visited the churches of the grassroots movement where the planning occurred and where marchers sought refuge while the police and Clark pulled them from safety. After this, we visited the Live Oak Confederate Cemetery where graves proudly displayed the flag of the Confederacy. It seemed as if the trees were weeping at the injustice of the fact that these people were proud of their racist and hateful history. The fact that this cemetery was so close to the Tabernacle Church is astonishing. Hatred and racism is alive and well and the desire to deny peoples’ rights still exists: the right to vote.
The Edmund Pettus Bridge
Our final visit was to the Viola Liuzzo Memorial. She was murdered after answering the call of Martin Luther King, Jr. This memorial is a testament to the point of today: we are all a puzzle piece in the struggle that is still ongoing. We all must encourage the youth to fight for their rights including: the right to vote.
Viola Liuzzo Memorial with a poignant reminder: to vote
“A voteless people is a hopeless people”
Alabama Voter Registration Form with Joanne Bland’s Foot Soldiers Park Card