Inside The Museum Preserving Selma, Alabama's Complicated HistoryHistorians in the News
tags: museums, civil rights, Selma
The history of Selma, Alabama, is often defined as a long and tumultuous struggle over the future of civil rights in America. On March 7, 1965, civil rights demonstrators marching from Selma to the state capitol in Montgomery were met with brutal force by state police. On horseback and armed with teargas and batons, officers attacked the civilians as they crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge, a city landmark named after a former grand dragon of the Ku Klux Klan. This moment in US history propelled the civil rights movement into the national spotlight and helped to pave the way for the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
One hundred years earlier, Selma was one of the last Confederate strongholds during the the Civil War and a munitions supplier of the South's war effort. On April 2, 1865, approximately 13,000 Union soldiers overtook the city during the Battle of Selma, effectively debilitating the Confederate army in the final days of the war. Today, Selma remains a quiet town, rich in American history. Following a trend of economic decline in the late 20th century, the city has made efforts to boost its tourism to help rejuvenate its economy.
One museum helping to preserve and share this history is the Old Depot Museum in downtown Selma, located on grounds that once housed the Naval foundry that was destroyed by the Union army in 1865. The museum's collections are wide and eclectic — items like the emergency room log from "Bloody Sunday" and recently unearthed negatives of one of the last survivors of the transatlantic slave trade are on display by curator Beth Spivey.
BuzzFeed News spoke with Spivey on the history of Old Depot Museum and its efforts to preserve the stories of Selma.
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