We drove to Selma in the morning (December 28) and I have to say that Selma—bless its heart—was such an empty little town. And I say that as someone who was born in a town with a population that is now only approaching 4000 people (and who grew up in a town of (in 2000) less than 10,000 people). It made me quite sad to see how the city has been neglected. It felt almost like we were in a ghost town.
But you don't have to take my word for it (because I'm not the only one who felt this way).
Selma has a population of 17,000, but how those 17,000 live there is beyond me. It seemed like every other building was empty (and half the empty buildings seemed to be falling apart). With so many businesses that had clearly been closed—for years—I couldn't figure out where people were working! The answer is, perhaps, that they're not, since Selma boasts the highest unemployment rate in the state of Alabama (though, honestly, 8% doesn't seem like that high to me...but I imagine those that are employed are technically underemployed).
To be fair, all we did was stop by the Selma Interpretive Center, walk the bridge, visit a park, and drive past Brown Chapel AME. But even that left me wondering where...how...do people get food here?!
We saw an abandoned Piggly Wiggly outside of Selma that kind of confirmed my suspicion that the town is in a bit of a food desert. Here are some views of potential grocery stores (from Google Maps's Street View):
Anyway...we all made it safely to the bridge and then back across the bridge (thanks, in so small part, to having such a great big person-to-little person ratio).
Here are some pictures Rachel took on the way across the bridge.
The buildings right on the river were beautiful. I always think that. And it's really something I've only seen in Europe before. But I also can't help but think about how unwise that is because rivers are known for things like...flooding...and riverbanks are known for things like...crumbling. We could certainly see some evidence of crumbling going on and some of these buildings looked like they were just about ready to go for a swim.
Many of the interpretive centers we visited had whiteboards up questioning the name of the bridge (asking people whether they thought it should be changed and what they would name it if it was renamed). I imagine it will be renamed in the future, as there are many petitions to do so, including one to rename it after John Lewis. My question would be how a renaming might change the look of the bridge, since it's rather iconic with Pettus' name proudly splashed across the front tie—and it seems both fitting that Pettus' name be tied to Bloody Sunday and shameful that a Confederate general would be honoured in this way in the first place (Confederates were—and I say this as someone with multiple ancestors who served in the Confederate army—on the wrong side of history; did they want what they thought was best for
themselves the country? Sure. But, like, that doesn't mean they deserve a participation trophy). John Lewis actually spoke out against renaming the bridge in his—or anyone else's—honour.
Most recently (in April 2022), a bill put forth to amend the name of the bridge to be the Edmund Pettus-Foot Soldiers Bridge passed the senate but ultimately failed in the house. I actually like that idea quite a bit—to keep the name Edmund Pettus for historical reasons, but to amend (and honour) the bridge with the history of Civil Rights Foot Soldiers. Too bad it didn't pass! Still, as I said earlier, I think that the name will eventually change for the better.
Anyway, here we are making our way across the bridge:
Our next stop was the Lowndes Interpretive Center, which was very well done. Even the people working at the Selma Interpretive Center urged us to go to the Lowndes center because "it's so much better than this museum." They weren't lying! It was pretty great!
Phoebe missed most of the museum:
Here she is saying, "Who was napping? Not me!!"
Benjamin and Alexander had a good time filling out their junior ranger books. Zoë didn't want to do her junior ranger booklet. She just wanted to go home...until it came time to do the junior ranger pledge and get a badge and then she wished she had been filling things out. Fortunately, it took the rangers a little bit of time to find their supplies, so Zoë chose 7 quick activities to do and raced to get them done in time to take her pledge (in which she promised to vote when she turned 18).
Here's Alexander exploring Tent City, where several families lived (for multiple years!) after being kicked out of their tenements following the Freedom March:
I'm including it because I think this stage of literacy development is so interesting. He wrote bison, lake, mountain, and arrow from left to right. But he wrote tree from right to left. Both ways make perfect sense to him right now.
Rachel asked him why he wrote tree backwards and he denied having done so.
"T-R-E-E. Tree," he said, pointing to each of the letters sequentially...backwards.
Just that word, though. The rest he wrote left to right.
And it's weird because it's not even like that is the word he wrote first. No. He did wrote things in the order they're listed in the information above the emblem: lake, bison, mountain, tree, arrowhead. So he wrote it second to last!
Here's Benjamin taking his oath:
He was having a real clueless moment and his swearing in ceremony went a little like this:
"Repeat after me: I, [state your name]..."
"I, state your name..."
"No. Where I say [state your name], you say your name, okay?"
"Let's try this again. Repeat after me: I, [state your name]..."
"I, state your name..."
"No. Remember, you're going to say your name there. You're going to just say I and then say your name. Ready? Repeat after me: I, [state your name]..."
"I, state your name..."
"Benjamin," I intervened. "When he says, 'I, [state your name],' you're going to say, "I, Benjamin,' because that's your name. Got it? I, Benjamin..."
"Okay. Here we go. Repeat after me: I, [state your name]..."
Benjamin looked over at me. I mouthed, "BENJAMIN."
Two thumbs way, way up from Mom! He did it!
Here he is showing off everything he got:
These rangers were so excited to have kids finish the program, they lavished the children with gifts. They got badges from all three interpretive centers (there's one in Selma, one in Lowndes, and one in Montgomery), they got these frisbee ring things, they got paper hats, they got colouring books, they got pencils, they got rulers...did I miss anything? Probably. They had that entire goodie bag stuffed with good stuff.
They even brought out a hat to put on Phoebe and gave her a frisbee ring, too!
Here's Zoë taking her oath. Having watched Benjamin butcher his oath, she managed to execute things quite smoothly.
"I, Zoë..." she said on the very first try.
|You can see Zoë already has her mask on! Masks are required inside (and with good reason) which I appreciated because the museum is intended to be visited in a number of hours rather than a number of minutes, and which nobody else seemed to mind.|
|Our county is in this picture|
It was very sobering.
Phoebe, on the other hand, was so glad to be outside in the fresh air. She was cute and silly and so tired of museums already. Here she is sucking on Rachel's hoodie tie (much to Rachel's consternation):