Legislation was introduced on Martin Luther King Jr. Day that would allow voters to change the name of the historical Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Ala.
According to NBC News, the legislation was announced by Democratic State Senator Malika Sanders-Fortier. Sanders-Fortier released a statement saying that the legislation is meant “to give local people the ability to influence removing the name of Edmund Pettus’s name from the bridge and let the people of Selma, including the foot soldiers who risked their lives on the bridge, decide what it should be named.”
The bridge is currently named after a Confederate general who was also the head of the Alabama chapter of the Ku Klux Klan. I feel like the Venn diagram of Confederate generals and KKK leaders was a circle. Those dudes were really trying to be the Bo Jackson of racism, goddamn.
The bridge was most notably the sight of the “Bloody Sunday” protests in 1965, which aimed to help Black voters in southern states who still usd voter intimidation tactics, poll taxes and “literacy” tests to deny voting rights.
The late Rep. John Lewis, then the 25-year-old leader of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, helped organize a march of over 600 people that was meant to go from Selma to the state’s capital. They were met with overwhelming brutality from the police force, because if there is one thing white people have always hated, it’s Black people voting.
The march was successful, despite the human cost, as the horrific images of the events spurred the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
As the death of George Floyd placed a spotlight on just how many fucking things in this country are named after Confederate assholes, discussion on changing the name of the bridge began anew. A similar bill was introduced in Selma five years ago by state Senator Hank Sanders, Malika’s father, but didn’t have enough support to go to a vote. State Rep. Prince Chestnut is expected to come out in support of the bill.
There is already public support for renaming the bridge after Lewis. Last summer, political strategist Michael Starr Hopkins launched a petition to rename the bridge after Lewis. Within days it received 99,000 of the 150,000 signatures needed.
“Sen. Sanders-Fortier has changed the course of history,” Hopkins told NBC News. “Her deep commitment to healing Selma and belief in truth and reconciliation is the kind of leadership that could be a model for cities around the country. On behalf of the John Lewis Bridge Project, we look forward to continuing to work with Sen. Fortier to ensure the bill’s passage.”