Recently I signed a Change.org petition to rename the Edmund Pettus Bridge, a National Historic Landmark in Selma, AL, after the late Congressman John Lewis and I encourage you to join me. John Lewis marched across the span on March 7, 1965, as a young civil rights activist, in an effort to take a message of freedom to the segregationist Alabama Governor, George C. Wallace in Montgomery.
Why is Congressman Lewis deserving of this honor? He was marching with hundreds of others to advocate for voting rights and shed his blood on that bridge, suffering a fractured skull after Alabama state troopers armed with gas canisters and nightsticks were ordered by Gov. Wallace to brutally disperse what he ruled was an illegal march. That day came to be known as ‘Bloody Sunday’ and helped raise national awareness of the Civil Rights movement.
Days later U.S. District Judge Frank M. Johnson Jr. overturned Governor Wallace’s order and ruled demonstrators could complete their march. They left Selma on Sunday, March 21st with 3,200 people – and arrived in Montgomery on Thursday, March 25th 25,000 strong according to the National Parks Service. Gov. Wallace, who had vowed “segregation forever” during his 1963 inaugural and served four terms as Alabama governor, refused to meet with them.
John Lewis was at the forefront of both marches and walked with the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. when they left Selma the second time. It is not an overstatement to say that their peaceful actions laid the groundwork that led to the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. I can think of no greater honor than renaming the bridge that played such a memorable role in our history after a man who never stopped fighting for justice.
The Edmund Pettus Bridge has long been a symbol of the momentous changes that took place in Alabama, America, and around the world and it should be named after someone as deserving as Congressman Lewis who was subjected to more than 40 arrests and suffered many physical attacks and serious injuries over his lifetime of advocacy. Despite all of this John Lewis remained a devoted advocate of the philosophy of nonviolence which is a philosophy we should all continue to embrace.
The petition which is addressed to current Alabama Governor Kay Ivey can be signed here: https://www.change.org/p/governor-of-alabama-rename-the-edmund-pettus-bridge-after-rep-john-lewis