Edmund Pettus Bridge
To cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge into Selma, Alabama is to symbolically share in the momentous and tragic events of the Voting Rights Struggles that changed America by providing all of the citizens of its democratic society the right to vote.
A national landmark, named for Edmund Winston Pettus—a Confederate brigadier general and U.S. Senator—the Edmund Pettus Bridge is one of the top historic destinations for tourists in the State of Alabama with visitors from all over the world coming to Selma to cross the historic bridge that spans the Alabama River along U.S. Highway 80 into downtown Selma.
As part of a National Historic Trail, the Edmund Pettus Bridge traces the historic route of the Selma to Montgomery March in addition to being the focal point as a historic site of the Voting Rights struggles of the era of Civil Rights events and Bloody Sunday, when—on March 7, 1965—armed officers attacked some 600 peaceful civil rights marchers, forcing them back across the bridge with billy clubs and tear gas. The clash was broadcasted on national TV, creating a wave of support from citizens all across America that led to the U.S. Voting Rights Act of 1965.
Designed by Henson K. Stephenson and erected in 1939, the Edmund Pettus Bridge—a steel through arch construction—spans over the Alabama River on U.S. Highway 80 into Selma and features Art Deco design elements on the railings and at the bottom of the arch supports.
* Total length: 1,248.1 ft.
* Deck width: 42.3 ft.
* Length of largest span: 250.0 ft.
* Vertical clearance above deck: 15.3 ft.
* Average daily traffic—as of 2007—17, 950
The bridge’s historical marker is located on a terrace on the northwest corner of Business 80 and Water Street, and there is a Memorial Park on the northeast corner of the bridge. There is also a boardwalk below the construct of the bridge that meanders through a dense forest into a staging area where public concerts, civic and religious ceremonies, and historical anniversary celebrations are held
The National Voting Rights Museum---a permanent memorial to the struggle to obtain voting rights for African Americans—is located on the northwest corner of the bridge and there are several other historic attractions within walking distance of the bridge, including the Brown Chapel A.M.E. and the George Washington Carver Homes, where the historic marches from Selma to Montgomery began.
Old Selma (Swing) Bridge and Bridge Tender's House
The Pettus Bridge replaced the Old Selma (Swing) bridge, though the remains of the Swing—rotating--Bridge can still be viewed on the northern abutment of the Pettus Bridge.
The original Bridge Tender’s House—once used as a furnished residence and manual operation center of the Swing Bridge, allowing steam boat passage—still stands at the end of Washington Street and it has been preserved and is currently being used as a bed and breakfast cottage.
Annual Bridge Crossing Jubilee
The annual pilgrimage across the Edmund Pettus Bridge pays homage to the participants who died while trying to safeguard the voting, civil, and human rights of all of America’s citizens, by commemorating the Selma to Montgomery March, Bloody Sunday, and the Voting Rights Act with an annual celebration held during the third full weekend in March.
Edmund Pettus Bridge
U.S. Hwy. 80 at Alabama River entering Selma.
Open year round
No fee to cross, open to all traffic
Directions: Selma is located 42 miles west of Montgomery, 80 miles south of Birmingham, and 178 miles southwest of Atlanta, Georgia. Take U.S. Highway 80 into Selma, Alabama—located at the junction of U.S. 80 and state highway 22.