Selma To Montgomery Interpretive Center At Alabama State University
On July 21, 2014, Selma to Montgomery National Historic Trail Superintendent Sandra Taylor and Alabama State University President Gwendolyn E. Boyd signed documents as Alabama State University entered into a memorandum of understanding with the National Park Service. As part of the agreement, an Interpretive Center will be built on the campus of ASU to commemorate the people, events, and route connected with the 1965 march from Selma to Montgomery.
The Selma to Montgomery National Historic Trail begins at the foot of the Edmund Pettus Bridge with the Selma Voting Rights Interpretive Center. Selma’s Interpretive Center serves as the first point of contact for visitors and tourists. The Lowndes Interpretive Center in White Hall marks the halfway point of the route and is strategically placed near “Tent City,” a settlement where Black sharecroppers lived in tents after being evicted by White landowners for voter registration activities in 1965. The Montgomery Interpretive Center at ASU will be the third and final center along the historic trail. The ASU site will have interactive exhibits, documents, and artifacts focusing on Montgomery’s and ASU’s role in the Selma to Montgomery Voting Rights March.
The campus of ASU and the adjacent neighborhood of Centennial Hill became the center of events surrounding the Selma to Montgomery Voting Rights March as they took place in Montgomery. This important neighborhood is home to the Ben Moore Hotel, where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his aides lodged when they came to Montgomery to organize the March. Across the street, the Jackson Street Baptist Church provided a haven for student activists from all over the country who converged on Montgomery to protest for African Americans’ right to vote. The church also served as Montgomery headquarters of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) as it directed voting rights activities in Montgomery after “Bloody Sunday” on March 7. A few doors down on Jackson Street, the Regal Café provided meals for March volunteers and a venue for March-related planning sessions. Viola Liuzzo, a civil rights activist and the only white female to die as a result of involvement in the 1965 Voting Rights Campaign, attended activities at the Regal Café just before she was slain by members of the Ku Klux Klan on March 25, 1965.
ASU students were directly involved in local demonstrations as part of the larger voting rights campaign in Alabama during the two weeks after “Bloody Sunday.” The intersection of Jackson and High Streets, two blocks from campus, is also of note in the Selma-to-Montgomery campaign. Student confrontations with Montgomery police occurred at that intersection during a march from the Alabama State College campus to the state capitol on March 15. Another voting rights clash between student protestors and local law enforcement officials occurred at the intersection of Washington and Decatur Streets on March 16. On March 24, the day before the march ended at the state capital, ASU alumnus and SCLC aide Rev. Richard Boone led almost a thousand Alabama State College students up Jackson Street as they made their way across town to meet the Selma to Montgomery marchers before they arrived at the City of St. Jude.
Less than a mile away from Jackson Street, a historic groundbreaking ceremony for the establishment of the Montgomery Interpretive Center was held on September 4, 2014. The event took place in the area designated for the Interpretive Center, in front of the new ASU Stadium, on the corner of Harris Way and University Drive. Construction of the new Selma-to-Montgomery Interpretive Center is expected to start this year.