‘Bloody Sunday’ Made History, But Did It Change Selma?

By Carla Murphy Mar 11, 2015

Today marks the 50th anniversary of the unsolved murder of white Boston minister James Reeb, an attack captured in Ava DuVernay’s film, "Selma." Less than a week later in his address to Congress, President Lyndon Johnson referenced Reeb’s death, which, ultimately, helped to purchase passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. But what did Reeb’s and others’ sacrifice purchase for the town of Selma? The anniversary of Bloody Sunday drew tens of thousands to the small Alabama town last week. But as national media camped out at Edmund Pettus Bridge, Facing South’s Chris Kromm went on a walkabout of modern-day Selma that dramatically demonstrates, he says, "the conflicting legacy of the 1960s civil rights movement." Says Kromm:

In the late 1800s, Dallas County where Selma is located was the fourth-richest area in the country — wealth enjoyed exclusively by the white elite. Today the county has the highest poverty rate in the state, nearly 37 percent, emblematic of the ongoing struggles in the South’s Black Belt region. …

In 1965, Selma was about half-white; today only 18 percent of residents are. Many affluent whites live near the Selma Country Club, located just west of downtown and the Edmund Pettus Bridge. Gay Talese of The New York Times remembers watching country club members "hiss at at the television" during the marches in 1965. When I visited, everyone on the grounds was white. The Los Angeles Times reports that the club today doesn’t have a single black member.

Read the rest at Facing South. And check out columnist Leonard Pitt’s latest on this weekend’s "carnival atmosphere detracting from the seriousness" of Selma.