9 stops on a Selma to Montgomery National Historic Trail road trip

Trace the route of famous civil rights marches on this 54-mile route through central Alabama

The Alabama State Capitol. | Photo: Alexandra Charitan

The 54-mile Selma to Montgomery National Historic Trail was ‏‏‎established by Congress in 1996 to commemorate the 1965 Voting Rights March from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama. Led by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the participants—committed to King’s non-violent ways—began at the Brown Chapel AME Church in Selma. As they crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge on March 7, 1965, marchers were beaten on a day that has become known as “Bloody Sunday.” The 5-day march that followed included 25,000 marchers and ended near the Montgomery capitol building on March 25th.

a red brick and white church with two towers, one of which is wrapped in scaffolding
Brown Chapel AME. | Photo: Alexandra Charitan

1. Brown Chapel AME

The Selma to Montgomery National Historic Trail officially starts at the Selma Interpretive Center, but marchers technically started up the street at the Brown Chapel AME. Stop by to see the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. bust and memorial outside and then head to the trail’s official starting point, the Selma Interpretive Center.

Selma Interpretive Center in historic downtown Selma is part of the Selma to Montgomery National Historic Trail with the National Park Service.
Selma Interpretive Center in historic downtown Selma, Alabama. | Photo: JNix / Shutterstock.com

2. Selma Interpretive Center

The Selma Interpretive Center helps frame the next 54 miles; visitors can learn more about the marches from Selma to Montgomery and the resulting passage of the Voting Rights Act.

a steel arch bridge over a four lane road with selma in the background
The Edmund Pettus Bridge. | Photo: Alexandra Charitan

3. Edmund Pettus Bridge

The most famous spot along the trail is the Edmund Pettus Bridge. The bridge became a rallying cry for the Civil Rights movement after armed police and townspeople attacked non-violent marchers (including John Lewis) on March 7, 1965. Photos showing the horrible violence that took place on the bridge, on what would be known as “Bloody Sunday,” would propel the voter registration movement forward and led to the eventual passing of the Voting Rights Act.

a black and white photo enlarged on a wall of civil rights marchers next to a quote by john lewis
National Voting Rights Museum. | Photo: Alexandra Charitan

4. National Voting Rights Museum

Before heading out of Selma, stop at the National Voting Rights Museum located in the Historic District at the foot of the Edmund Pettus Bridge. The museum features multiple exhibits and specially-designed tours to celebrate the ongoing struggle for equal voting rights in the U.S.

5. Lowndes Interpretive Center

After crossing the Edmund Pettus Bridge, travel nearly half-way to Montgomery before stopping at the Lowndes Interpretive Center. Located near “Tent City,” a settlement on Black-owned property near Route 80 in Lowndes County where marchers rested, the center features powerful stories from people involved in the historic events.

a three story white building with columns and a central dome flying two flags with a long granite staircase flanked by trees
Alabama State Capitol. | Photo: Alexandra Charitan

6. Alabama State Capitol

Follow signs around town to stay on the actual march route until you reach the steps of the Alabama State Capitol, where the original march concluded on March 25, 1965.

7. Dexter Parsonage Museum

While not part of the official trail, Montgomery has plenty of historically-significant sites and museums. At the Dexter Parsonage Museum, visitors can see the residence where Dr. King and his family lived between 1954 and 1960.

A blue bike rack in Montgomery, Alabama
A bike rack in Montgomery, Alabama. | Photo: Alexandra Charitan

8. Civil Rights Memorial Center

The Civil Rights Memorial Center, located across the street from the Southern Poverty Law Center, is dedicated to the lives lost during the Civil Rights Movement. Created by Maya Lin—the designer of Washington, D.C.’s Vietnam War Memorial—the Civil Rights Memorial also features names engraved into black granite.

Exterior of the Freedom Rides Museum in downtown Montgomery housed in the old Greyhound station renovated back to its 1951 appearance.
The Freedom Rides Museum in downtown Montgomery, Alabama. | Photo: JNix / Shutterstock.com

9. Freedom Rides Museum

The Freedom Rides Museum is located in a historic Greyhound bus station-turned-museum and showcases the bravery of the 21 “Freedom Riders” who were challenging the practice of segregated travel through the South. Although they did not begin or end their journey in Montgomery, they stepped off the bus on May 20, 1961, prepared to meet a violent mob.