AL Senate Votes to Change Name of Bridge with KKK Name

The Edmund Pettus bridge in Selma, Alabama is famous for being the spot of the most important march of the civil rights movement, which is made particularly ironic because Pettus was a Grand Dragon of the KKK. The Alabama Senate has voted to change that, but it still may not happen.

Fifty years after the events of Bloody Sunday transpired on the Edmund Pettus Bridge — a bridge named after a former Ku Klux Klan leader — the Alabama Senate voted on a resolution to change the landmark’s name.

Ever since civil rights activists marched on Selma in 1965, the bridge has remained a symbol of white supremacy in a town that was once embroiled in a fight for (and against) African Americans’ enfranchisement. After a multiracial group of student activists launched a campaign to change the name of the bridge — Pettus was a Confederate general, a United States senator and the Grand Dragon of the Alabama KKK — Sen. Hank Sanders (D-Selma) sponsored a resolution to rename the site the Journey to Freedom Bridge. On Wednesday, the Senate voted in favor of doing so, but push-back from the House leaves the name’s fate uncertain.

“Edmund Pettus will forever be remembered for the enforcement of laws that prevented African Americans from equal access to education, jobs, political representation, and other benefits of American citizenship,” the resolution says. “50 years after Bloody Sunday and other marches, Selma’s young people gathered over 180,000 signatures over a period of two months in support of renaming the bridge, and this new generation of young people believes that the current name of the bridge is a symbol of the past that must be changed.”…

Still, many Alabama lawmakers remain unmoved and reluctant to change. According to House Rules Chairman Mac McCutcheon (R-Huntsville), members of the House think the name is inextricably linked to the historic monument, and, therefore, shouldn’t be renamed. McCutcheon says the resolution will not be brought to the House floor before Thursday, when the legislative session is expected to end.

The same excuse always used for injustice: Tradition! Being traditional is utterly irrelevant to the question of whether something is right or wrong.

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  • eric

    I’m glad they want to change it but…Journey to Freedom? Aren’t there any civil rights activists or activist groups from Selma they want to honor?

  • theschwa

    “Mac McCutcheon (R-Huntsville)”

    He had an “R”?? I am glad I was sitting down when I read this bombshell. Next, you will tell me he is white! And Christian!!

  • moarscienceplz

    I support the new name, but the wingnuts have so thoroughly debased the word “freedom” that it still leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

  • Modusoperandi

    Typical Democrats, trying to bury their own sordid history! Thankfully, Republicans won’t let them forget the history that they remember fondly for some reason!

  • bushrat

    I’m actually against changing the name, because I suspect that when it is changed, the right wingers will claim victory and try to white-wash the terrible history of the place. It should stand as a stark reminder that racism and intolerance need to be squashed where ever they are found. Besides, the proposed new name is terrible.

  • ianeymeaney

    Simple solution: change the name of the bridge and name something else for him. How does the Edmund Pettus Memorial Garbage Dump sound?

  • chuck c

    members of the House think the name is inextricably linked to the historic monument

    So… take the monument down, too. Then there’s no inconsistency.

  • Hatchetfish

    I’m with bushrat here. Much like the reasoning for preservation of concentration camps. The fact that Alabama government once named a bridge for an arch-bigot shouldn’t be swept under a rug.

    And yes, the proposed new name is terrible bland meaningless new-speak.

  • theDukedog7 .

    We should most assuredly remove the name of all KKK’ers from public sites. Hugo Black’s name should be removed from Supreme Court cases, particularly from the Everson decision, which Kleagle Black wrote, which inserted the Klan motto “separation of church and state” in to constitutional law. Robert Byrd’s name should also be removed from every building in West Virginia.

    We should also remove the names of all politicians who collaborated with segregationists and KKK’ers. That would entail removing the name of every Democrat who held public office up through the 1970’s–Wilson, FDR, Truman, JFK, LBJ and the countless little collaborators who kissed the sheets. They all slept with the KKK, cut backroom deals, slapped backs, returned favors with the guys in the hoods. That’s what being a Democrat means.

    The KKK was the enforcement arm of the Democratic party in the South and in many areas of the North for a century.

    But no need to associate the Democrats with racism now: everything magically changed in 1964. Just a miracle .

  • carpenterman

    Why do we name things like bridges, anyway? They don’t get mail, they don’t come when they’re called. It’s kind of a strange custom, when you think about it.

    But yes, if we do need a name for this bridge, “Freedom Bridge” sucks.

  • Electric Shaman

    @Dukedog #9

    Cool story dude. For the next draft, try adding some ninjas or aliens.

  • sigurd jorsalfar

    bushrat, how about “The Edmund Pettus was a Racist Piece of Shit Memorial Bridge?”

  • Hatchetfish

    I like it, sigurd. Better yet, “Edmund Pettus and the Fuckers who Looked up to Him Were Racist Pieces of Shit” Bridge?

  • llewelly


    We should most assuredly remove the name of all KKK’ers from public sites. Hugo Black’s name should be removed from Supreme Court cases …

    Remembering who made a decision is a necessary part of legal history, even if they should not be held in esteem, and even if some of their decisions were vile. That is completely different from memorializing a vile someone by naming a bridge they had nothing to do with after them. The name of the bridge has nothing to do with recording history accurately. Some of Black’s decisions certainly deserve severe criticism, but that does not mean his name should be removed from the record. It is entirely dishonest of you to misrepresent the removal of a name from a bridge as being akin to removal of name from documents of legal history.

    … inserted the Klan motto “separation of church and state” in to constitutional law …

    As has been pointed out to you before, the phrase originated in an 1802 Thomas Jefferson letter, and the concept itself is older. Jefferson was, yes, a slaveholder, and should not be held in high esteem, but that does not imply that every idea associated with him was wrong. Furthermore, the Klan was not founded until 63 years later, so you know it was dishonest of you to pretend it was a “Klan motto” .

    Furthermore, while Black was Klan member, and did some vile things, eventually, he did have a change of heart on the matter. That cannot be said of Pettus.

    As a senator, Black filibustered an anti-lynching bill.[71] However, during his tenure on the bench, Black established a record more sympathetic to the civil rights movement. He joined the majority in Shelley v. Kraemer (1948), which invalidated the judicial enforcement of racially restrictive covenants. Similarly, he was part of the unanimous Brown v. Board of Education (1954) Court that struck down racial segregation in public schools. Black remained determined to desegregate the South and would call for the Supreme Court to adopt a position of “immediate desegregation” in 1969’s Alexander v. Holmes County Board of Education.

    But, if people want to remove Black’s name from monuments and buildings and what not – I don’t care. I am also not fond of having anything named after any of those democratic presidents you are so fond despising. But I do not agree that they are awful enough to make it worth changing, except, perhaps, in the case of Wilson.

    But no need to associate the Democrats with racism now: everything magically changed in 1964. Just a miracle .

    As has been explained to you many times, it was in fact a shift which took place over the course of decades. It is a huge misrepresentation to pretend it happened in a single year, or that it was “magical”.

  • lorn

    Events on the Edmond Pettus bridge are considered by many to be the point where America took notice of the civil rights movement and the violence and hate behind the resistance to it. This moral victory and turning point would have greatly troubled Edmond Pettus if he were alive. It is a victory against the Clan and racism in general. The bridge now stands as a monument to the defeat of racism and everything that Grand Dragon Pettus stood for. This is the place where Edmond Pettus, and all his ilk, got their ideologically bigoted, white supremacist butts kicked.

    Changing the name will eventually lead to remembering MLK but forgetting the bloody, violent, socially and politically entrenched resistance MLK faced. Super-villains make superheroes. The face off between the ideology of MLK and people like Edmund Pettus makes it clear who was right, who was wrong, and who won the battle.

    Keep the name just as it is because the name is, in a nutshell everything you need to know about the struggle. It is the moment before a great battle frozen in time. The name conjures the scene. The two sides are lined up, police with clubs, teargas, and dogs on one side, a line of determined non-violent protesters on the other. We know the marchers will bleed, and suffer, and get maimed. They will also win.

    Besides, the idea of Edmond Pettus spinning in his grave knowing his name is associated with the singularly most important defeat of his ideology, a defeat documented by national media, makes me smile. Keep the name.