Getty Images/PhotoAlto

Edmund Pettus Bridge


Few sites are as iconic to the American Civil Rights movement as the Pettus Bridge. On March 7, 1965, a crowd prepared to march to Montgomery to demonstrate against the murder of a local black activist by police during a demonstration for voting rights. As those activists gathered into a crowd, the news cameras of the media were trained on the bridge and a line of state troopers and their dogs, who proceeded to lay into the nonviolent marchers.

When the scene was broadcast on national television later that night, it marked one of the first times anyone outside the South had witnessed the violent response to non-violent protests. Booted policemen used night sticks and attack dogs on peaceful marchers while whites waving Confederate flags jeered from the sidelines. Shock and outrage was widespread, and support for the movement grew. Martin Luther King arrived swiftly to Selma and after another aborted attempt due to the threat of violence, helped lead what became 8000 people on a four-day, 54-mile march to Montgomery, culminating with a classic speech on the capitol steps. Soon after, President Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Today the bridge is just that – a bridge over the Alabama River used primarily for vehicular traffic. Check out the local NPS sites for more history and interpretation.

Lonely Planet's must-see attractions

Nearby Alabama attractions

1. Selma Interpretive Center

0.12 MILES

This museum, near the north side of the Pettus Bridge, has a small interpretive center that fleshes out the history and narrative of the Jim Crow South,…

2. Riverfront Park


This small, pleasant park is a good spot for a walk and to take in views of the Alabama River and Pettus Bridge.

3. National Voting Rights Museum


This museum, located near the foot of the Edmund Pettus Bridge, tells the tale of the Selma to Montgomery march, and includes exhibits on women's suffrage…

5. Brown Chapel

0.54 MILES

When the red-brick, twin-towered Brown Chapel was built by black builder AJ Farley in 1908, congregants could not have guessed that their church would…

6. Mishkan Israel

0.56 MILES

This enormous red-brick synagogue once housed a thriving local Jewish community. Many of the members of said community have left the South, but…

7. Old Cahawba Archaeological Park

7.69 MILES

This eerie ghost town, faded by time and jungly overgrowth, was once the capital of Alabama. By the 20th century, Cahawba was abandoned, and today its…

8. Lowndes County Interpretive Center

19.31 MILES

Marking the rough halfway point on the marching route between Selma and Montgomery, this center presents small, solid exhibitions that delve into the…