Today, on the third Monday of January, we take a holiday to observe the life and legacy of Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr. It is a fitting coincidence that today StoryCorps Griot arrives at Tuskegee University from Selma, Alabama; we travel from the site of one of the fiercest battles in the long struggle for the right to be counted as equal citizens to an institution established to develop responsible citizens who would make remarkable contributions to American life.
The Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama was the site of one of the most significant protests in American history. The incident, known as “Bloody Sunday” emblazoned the Edmund Pettus Bridge as an indelible image of violent American oppression. Bloody Sunday sparked national attention on racial discrimination in voting, eventually leading to the passage of the National Voting Rights Act of 1965.
Summer Smiley in front of her restaurant, Gone Country.
StoryCorps Griot spent the week in Selma, Alabama. Selma is a charming city with a long and rich history. As we crossed the Alabama River on the Edmund Pettus Bridge into Selma, one of the first things I noticed was the number of small independent businesses lining Broad Street. Selma has suffered the same economic hardships as communities throughout the South and across the country, but somehow these businesses have hung on. Within the first ten blocks or so are four independently owned pharmacies alone. I have never seen so many mom and pop drug stores so close to one another. The ability of these small businesses to survive is a wonderful testament to American perseverance, ingenuity and community. StoryCorps Griot is proud to have the opportunity to visit Selma. We were set up at the Selma Dallas County Public Library, and could not have had a better host. Selma native Tina Smiley of the National Parks Service helped coordinate outreach so her community would have an opportunity to share their stories.