Alabama Senate Votes to Rename Selma’s Edmund Pettus Bridge

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Thousands of people walk across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Ala., during the 50th anniversary commemoration of the Selma-to-Montgomery civil rights march March 8, 2015.

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

The historic Edmund Pettus Bridge, known for its significance during the civil rights movement as the site of Bloody Sunday and the starting point of the Selma-to-Montgomery march, could be getting a new name following a vote Wednesday by the Alabama Senate, the Montgomery Adviser reports.

Democratic state Sen. Hank Sanders of Selma sponsored the resolution, which calls for the bridge to be renamed the Journey to Freedom Bridge, according to the news site. Students UNITE, a grassroots movement, reportedly prompted the resolution, collecting some 180,000 signatures on a Change.org petition calling for the iconic structure to be renamed.

The bridge was named for Edmund Winston Pettus, a former Confederate general during the Civil War as well as a grand dragon of the Alabama Ku Klux Klan.

Sanders declared that Pettus’ affiliation with the white supremacist organization was reason enough to take his name off the bridge.

“There are many things in our society to change that are more significant than the name of a bridge, but removing this vestige of the past will serve as a parallel to the ongoing journey towards equal rights, fair representation and open opportunity,” the resolution stated.
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According to Sanders, there was some discussion about whether to name the bridge after individuals who were on the bridge on Bloody Sunday, such as Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) and activist Amelia Boynton, both of whom were assaulted on the bridge by law enforcement. However, those pressing for the change thought that the name Journey to Freedom better expressed the sentiments of the movement.

“They resolved among themselves that the bridge stood for freedom,” Sanders said, according to the Advertiser.

The state’s House of Representatives, as well as Gov. Robert Bentley, still need to sign off on the resolution for it to go forward. Even then, it is unclear whether the resolution would bind the Alabama Department of Transportation to rename the structure, which was declared a national historic landmark in 2013.

Read more at the Montgomery Advertiser.

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