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. Pettus was a prominent resident of Selma, and a life-long white supremacist.
He was a Confederate Brigadier General during the Civil War (1861-65). In 1871, he probably lied to Congress when he said he didn’t know anything about the Ku Klux Klan in Alabama. He served in the US Senate from 1897 to 1907, “thoroughly dedicated to white supremacy.” In 1940 when the bridge that bore his name was dedicated, a Selma newspaper described Pettus as a man who fought “negro dominance with magnificent strength, physical and moral courage, and brilliant intellect.”
Alabama law makes it difficult to change or remove Confederate monuments. The rightful defiance is to fight for the removal of 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