The Edmund Pettus Bridge earned infamy in 1965 as the site of a brutal attack by Alabama State Troopers on peaceful Blacks marching for voting rights.
Who was Edmund Pettus?
He was a prominent resident of Selma, a Confederate Brigadier General during the Civil War (1861-65). In 1871, he swore in Congressional testimony that he didn’t know anything about the Ku Klux Klan in Alabama, but would be a Grand Dragon six years later. He served in the US Senate from 1897 to 1907, “thoroughly dedicated to white supremacy.” In 1940, his grandson championed federal funding for a new bridge in Selma, to be named after his grandfather when it was completed. At the bridge’s dedication, a Selma newspaper described Pettus as a man who fought “negro dominance with magnificent strength, physical and moral courage, and brilliant intellect.”
Why is a white supremicist’s name still on an iconic bridge during the Civil Rights movement in the 1960’s?
Alabama law makes it difficult to change or remove Confederate monuments.
What’s the right thing to do now?
The right thing to do is remove this white supremacist’s name from the bridge now famous for the physical and moral courage of those, like John Lewis, who faced down white supremacy and the harm it always leaves in its wake.
Source: “How the bridge that John Lewis crossed came to be named for a white supremacist,” by Charles Lane, in The Washington Post 7.27.20