Selma’s Edmund Pettus Bridge was initially named after Pettus, a Confederate general and reputed Ku Klux Klan leader, in 1940. Then in the 1960s, it became a powerful symbol of the ongoing civil rights movement. Marchers, including the late great John Lewis, led a peaceful protest across the bridge and were met with violent resistance from law enforcement on the day known as “Bloody Sunday.”
According to a report by the Associated Press, Alabama lawmakers on Tuesday advanced legislation that would alter the name of Selma’s Edmund Pettus Bridge. In a 22-3 Senate vote, the official name would be changed to the “Edmund W. Pettus-Foot Soldiers Bridge.” However, the lettering on the famous bridge would remain unaltered, and “Foot Soldiers” would be on a separate sign.
State Sen. Malika Sanders-Fortier does not want to change the entire name of the bridge to preserve what it represents.
“Not a single letter would be touched. It would stay intact in its historical context. And at the same time... honor the history that is there and the history that came out of it,” said state Sen. Malika Sanders-Fortier, a Democrat from Selma.
There have been petitions to change the bridge’s name over time, but those have been equally met with opposition. Lewis and Democratic U.S. Rep. Terri Sewell stated in an opinion that “changing the name of the Bridge would compromise the historical integrity of the voting rights movement.”
Sewell changed her mind slightly, saying that if the bridge was renamed, it should be for John Lewis and left up to the townspeople.
“While I believe the historical significance of the bridge transcends the man for which it was named, I also acknowledge that in this moment everything must be on the table, and that includes renaming the bridge,” Sewell said in a statement.