Selma, 50 Years After March, Remains a City Divided

Matthew Teague, Los Angeles Times, March 6, 2015

In preparation for the weekend’s goings-on, Selma city workers put up barricades downtown, outside Carter Drug.

In the 1960s, the drugstore served as a catalyst for the civil rights movement because its soda counter would not serve black customers. As the workers set up metal railings for crowd control, a white-haired former city councilman, Glenn Sexton, stepped from the drugstore and surveyed the scene from the sidewalk.

The outside world–presidents, civil rights legends, celebrities and tens of thousands of visitors–would arrive shortly to remember the civil rights marchers who were tear-gassed and beaten 50 years ago this weekend, by club-wielding officers on the Edmund Pettus Bridge, just to Sexton’s right.

In 2000, during his time on the City Council, Sexton and two other council members used city funds to help pay for a statue of Nathan Bedford Forrest, a Confederate general and the first grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan.

“It’s going to be nothing but a nigger street party,” Sexton said, using an epithet still heard on the streets here. He went on to describe participants in the march–both the one in 1965 and a reenactment this Sunday–with a torrent of vulgarities.


And while people on the extremes stay at war, the majority in this city of about 20,000 residents are suffering. Dallas County ranked as the poorest in the state last year, with unemployment at 10.2%. Forty percent of families in Selma live below the poverty line, and violent crime is five times that in other towns around Alabama.

The town’s infrastructure is crumbling, literally. Workers tried this week to paint and cover broken-down buildings, but the blight is pervasive. The house once owned by now-centenarian activist Amelia Boynton Robinson–the place where organizers planned the original march–is boarded up.

White residents have fled the city. Selma, evenly divided in 1965, is now 80% black, and housing projects crop up where cotton mills once sat. Selma’s white residents live in an ever-shrinking quarter where antique churches are immaculately preserved and Spanish moss drapes from magnolia trees.

A group of Selma residents calling themselves the Friends of Forrest has erected a billboard welcoming visitors to town, ahead of the civil rights jubilee. The sign at the foot of the Edmund Pettus Bridge, on the route President Obama’s motorcade will probably take from Montgomery, features Forrest on horseback, with a quote urging his men to frighten their foes: “Keep the skeer on ’em.”


Forrest’s most passionate friend in Selma is Pat Godwin, known here as the Wizardess, who calls the 1965 voting rights march “the mother of all orgies,” and tells telephone callers in a chipper voice, “We can’t take your call right now, there’s a war going on!”

Her most vociferous opponent is Rose Sanders, a Harvard-educated lawyer who has waged civil rights cases and who, some residents here say, has made a cottage industry of Selma’s division.


The Rev. Jesse Jackson sat nearby on a wicker sofa, watching Sanders and her volunteers work.

“People coming to Selma in a celebration mood should be in a protest mood,” he said.

Sanders agreed. “Sixty percent of Selma’s children live in poverty,” she told him.

Jackson nodded. “People assume there is a correlation between political power and economic power,” he said. But a black power structure–mayor, city council, police force–is not enough.

“You change the political power, and the white business owners just move outside the city. So you have power over a doughnut hole. We need help to climb out of the doughnut hole,” he said.

He went on to describe a plan in which the government would intervene to stop people from relocating their businesses. “It’s the only way,” Jackson said.


The acrimony between white and black Selma is neatly captured at the monument Sexton helped erect to Forrest, which describes him as “defender of Selma, wizard of the saddle, untutored genius, the first with the most.” A bronze bust of Forrest sat on top of the monument until someone stole it a few years ago.

The Friends of Forrest said Sanders was behind the theft. She accused them of staging a fake theft to win sympathy.

Now beside the monument there sits a funereal wreath, decorated with black lace and pearls, and bearing a laminated letter by Godwin titled: “Retraction of Reference to Rose Sanders as a ‘Domestic Terrorist’ in the Previous Essay Titled ‘The Day Justice Died In Alabama,’ to the Extent that the Use of Said Term May Be Perceived as Having Implied Commission of Any Unlawful Activity or the Commission of Any Criminal Offense By Rose Sanders.”

The letter carries on from there. The dispute over Nathan Bedford Forrest’s missing head has lasted longer than the Civil War itself.

On Friday, Godwin visited the site, where she and her supporters sometimes spend the night to defend the monument.

“She thinks she has defeated me and Gen. Forrest,” she said of Sanders. “She has not!”


Selma’s founders called it the Queen City of the Black Belt, and the name itself means “throne,” taken from “Songs of Selma” by 18th century Scottish poet James Macpherson. What remains of that throne, now, is at Selma Country Club, across the street from the spot where Nathan Bedford Forrest’s bronze head disappeared.

Christina Siddens, general manager of the club, balked recently when asked whether it has a whites-only policy.

“No, that’s not exactly true,” she said. “We don’t . . . . I mean. Look, I just sort of work here.”

So Selma Country Club has black members?

“No,” she said. “We don’t.”

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  • Selma is Bell Curve City. This past weekend in Selma was nothing more than a block party and a bacchanal. So of course the LAT would focus on a billboard and a statue.

    • John Smith

      They need oversimplification that their readers can comprehend – progressives are all about symbolism, which is much easier to digest than fact.

  • Steve_in_Vermont

    So they want the government to stop business people from relocating their stores. Will this be an amendment to the civil rights bill? Will we require any business considering a move to file a “Community Impact Study” describing how such a move won’t adversely affect the community? Talk about desperation.

    • Speedy Steve

      My sentiments exactly. There were more black businesses and black PhD’s in the 1950s. Maybe Je$$e should be telling his posse of freaks to get degrees and open their own businesses. Something tells me that will be too much to ask.

      • Samuel Hathaway

        Why waste 10 years going to school when you have the entire weight of the federal leviathan to come crushing down on white business owners, to bleed what little financial life is left in these business owners?

        • Beloved Comrade

          Far easier to extort from businesses than to actually open and operate a business. Blacks like Jackson and Sharpton have made a living out of extortion knowing the feds, media and courts have their back.

      • Koriel

        I’m not refuting you but its still hard to believe. We have way more negroes in this country now than in the ’50’s.

    • Samuel Hathaway

      Of course, as you know, the point is to coerce business owners to capitulate to their own humiliation by forcing them to go out of business and to shut down. Given the current hostile racial climate, business owners can’t take anymore risks with the shoplifting, the vandalism, the bullying over being sued over not hiring enough nigras, not to mention the assorted local fees and taxes.

      Spiteful hate and revenge is what Je$$e Jackson is all about. Not about keeping the local economy viable for the greater good of Selma.

  • 1stworlder

    The best part is that Selma had no active movie theatre to play the movie Selma in, they had to open up a shuttered one.

    • Katherine McChesney

      I read that they gave passes to watch the propaganda.

      • Samuel Hathaway

        A lady in my sunday school class actually saw this junk and told how wonderful it is. typically I don’t reply to such clap-trap in such a polite, dignified setting, but if I hear it again, I’m going to set the record straight… as nicely and diplomatically as I can.

        • Mark Hillyard

          My mom was a writer for a local newspaper, she did the social and religious page. One article featured a well to do black lady and dear ole’ mom was not yet indoctrinated back in 70’s, she addressed the black lady as a negress. It was kinda interesting to watch how she was made to comply to PC verbiage back then. I didn’t have much of a position pro or con on them because I’d only seen a few blacks back then. It wasn’t until I’d lived with them in the Army for a while and my opinion changed drastically. People would avoid me because I was so full of outrage and hatred, I couldn’t even stand to watch them on tv and got into fights over it all. This was Just south of SF, CA.

  • Absolutely love the billboard, especially the quote. it shows that Alabama whites may be under federal occupation, but they’re not taking that occupation seriously. I can’t wait to move there later this year. I’m hoping there are some resisters I can hook up with.

    • Samuel Hathaway

      Yes, the Billboard with General Lee is a nice, direct slap in the faces at the federal government and the nigras they breast feed.

      • John Smith

        *General Forrest.

  • WR_the_realist

    He went on to describe a plan in which the government would intervene to
    stop people from relocating their businesses. “It’s the only way,”
    Jackson said.

    The totalitarians never quit, do they? Imagine you have a business, now losing money as the affluent customers have moved away and suffering from theft and vandalism due to the diversity that remains. Now Jesse Jackson’s government tells you that you must stay in a place that will bankrupt you if it doesn’t kill you first.

    The left is evil.

    • Speedy Steve

      .. and mentally ill.

    • FozzieT

      “It’s the only way,” Jackson said. Sounds to me like the Rev just admitted that he believes blacks are incapable of building the sort of businesses and communities as Whites. He’s saying that the only possible way to keep things afloat in Selma is to force White businesses to stay, because obviously blacks are incapable of replicating White achievements.

      • Jeff

        I’d be interested in knowing exactly what kind of mechanism “da goot revruund” has in mind to compel people into staying. Will it be at gunpoint? Will it be confiscation if the owners insist on relocation? What exactly does he mean? Will black businesses be exempt? Enquiring minds want to know.

        • Ethan Allen

          Federal statute is the mechanism. It would be made a violation of the civil rights act for any person owning a business in a majority-black area to relocate that business to a non-majority-black area. Congress would enact this law under its Commerce Clause authority and anyone violating the statute would be subject to ruinous fines and maybe even jail time.

        • Blackfish

          Subsidies to black business owners paid for by taxpayers – aka white people.

    • John Smith

      Burn it down so that it is of no use to the enemy.

    • KevinPhillipsBong

      Even the stupidest of dogs knows to scratch at his ticks. Only whites laud the invisible virtues of our parasites.

  • libertarian1234

    “We need (financial) help to climb out of the doughnut hole,”

    Your people always need “help,” Jesse. But what good is giving them money? They can’t even start up businesses in their own communities, so immigrants have to come in and provide outlets for them. And they’re hated for it and their businesses are often looted and burned to the ground.

    What you mean, Jesse, is that they need “help” every day of the year in the form of cash, housing, and nice cars.

    When they don’t get “help,” they wind up like Selma and Detroit. And it’s always because of racism, never incompetence.

    But they’re so arrogant they want to run everything themselves, as long as the money is provided to them to cover their misappropriations, thefts, and gross incompetence.

    • Blackfish

      The city can only support so many hair braiding salons and store front churches.

  • listenupbub

    Meanwhile, the writers from this LA times are living among affluent whites and Asians…

  • Bon, From the Land of Babble

    What exactly was won by blacks in Selma since the Civil Rights movement?

    Selma now has black leaders in positions of power: mayor, police chief, district attorney, six out of eight city council members, four out of five school board members.

    It is also extremely dysfunctional, as is every other black-run city in the former U.S.

    “You change the political power, and the white business owners just move outside the city….

    He went on to describe a plan in which the government would intervene to stop people from relocating their businesses. “It’s the only way,” Jackson said.

    That’s a great way to get White businesses to either remain in or relocate to your city. What is it about majority black cities that causes White business owners to flee? High crime rates? Threats of riots and looting? Unrelenting shoplifting? Screams of discrimination and racism against your business?

    The once-bustling downtown sports more empty storefronts than actual businesses.

    Hey Jesse – why don’t you encourage some “brilliant” black entrepreneurs to step forward and open a few businesses in Selma?

    • Speedy Steve

      Yup. They’ve not put 2 and 2 together yet. They keep coming up with “racism.”

    • MBlanc46

      Jesse ought to be able to invest some of those Budweiser millions in black businesses in Selma.

      • Bon, From the Land of Babble

        I was thinking old Calypso Louis could open a bean pie factory there.

  • dd121

    Blacks are always the problem, never the answer.

    • John Smith

      Rule .303 is the answer….

    • Blackfish

      Unless the question is “Did you see the guy who did this to you??”

  • MBlanc46

    How can anyone be surprised at this? This is what happens to places when blacks take control of them. You’d think that even old Jesse would be able to see it.

    • Young Werther

      ha ha Jesse Knows!

  • AndrewInterrupted

    Time for a column title like:

    Black America: Biting the hand that feeds.

    • Alexandra1973

      Biting the hand that feeds, then demanding more!

  • Young Werther

    The writer of this article must have been absolutely giddy with happiness at the opportunity to point out the predicament of Selma. Pat is standing up for *her* beliefs and feelings but the communist/marxists have never been big on *INDIVIDUAL FREEDOM*…that is why they hate this Republic more than an old European Monarchy. Wonder if he got a picture of Bush while he was there…ha ha ha.

    • Beloved Comrade

      Bush was airbrushed out of the actual march over the bridge.

      Shameful Media Bias: ‘New York Times’ Crops George W. Bush Out of Selma Celebration Photo

      http //wizbangblog com/2015/03/08/shameful-media-bias-new-york-times-crops-george-w-bush-out-of-selma-celebration-photo/

      • Young Werther

        I am sure it was the last place he wanted to be anyway…just showing up to make his son look good enough to get some PC votes.

        • Beloved Comrade

          Actually, it was the Bush fils not pere that was airbrushed out (son, not father).

          Maybe it was for Jeb’s sake.

          • Young Werther

            Right…what we need; another liberal capitalist, ha.

          • Young Werther

            What I mean is that makes sense…

  • Young Werther

    BTW Los Angeles has a statue of Lenin too.

    • John Smith

      Hadn’t heard about that one, but a quick search shows it.

      • Young Werther

        See what I mean…

  • Lee_CPA

    Selma is now 80% black, the violent crime rate is FIVE TIMES that of other Alabama towns, the infrastructure in crumbling, the blight is pervasive, but yet, the small section of town that whites live in contains antique churches that are immaculately preserved.
    Yes, we see that dichotomy all across this country – and the world.
    And yet, there are white people in this country who have succumbed to the pathology of cultural marxism who can’t wait until whites are a minority. Even though there is not a single, solitary example of a town that is majority black that does not exhibit the same dysfunction and low quality of life standards that Selma has.
    I fear for my grandchildren….

    • Samuel Hathaway

      Whites, being white, just naturally preserve whatever they can. The churches that are immaculately preserved have probably been maintained by a few families over the years. I can’t help but imagine sweet little old white ladies like the Baldwin Sisters on the Waltons are the types that are in charge of the upkeep.

      • Beloved Comrade

        They’re also fodder for roving criminal blacks who seek out elderly and handicapped whites to attack.

        It is they I fear for.

    • Beloved Comrade

      Take a wild guess as to which part of town supplies 99% of Selma’s tax base.

      That would be reason enough for any White to move out of there.

  • John Smith

    “He went on to describe a plan in which the government would intervene to
    stop people from relocating their businesses. “It’s the only way,”
    Jackson said.”

    WTF? This stupid congoid thinks that Soviet-style economics are the answer?

    Shut up and keep paying, YT.

  • Jeff

    Here’s something I don’t quite understand. The white residents of selma live in their own quarter of the city? They maintain their own infrastructure and keep out undesirables? They have a country club exclusive to themselves? How does 20% of a population without access to civic power manage to maintain their position?

    If there’s anything remarkable about selma, the ability of these people to persevere in spite of the full force and might of the federal government has to be it. I wouldn’t have believed this would be possible in this day and age, but apparently it is. Astounding actually.

    • Beloved Comrade

      I strongly suspect that White part of town has been targeted for massive Section 8 apartments to “diversify” its zip code. The feds are going to make sure every last bastion of “Whiteness” is destroyed. It dilutes the conservative base and destroys White areas of the country, a win-win for them.

    • Mark Hillyard

      The powers in Selma have probably figured out where the paycheck comes from and don’t want to chase them out. Just a guess.

  • Kit Ingoldby

    ”He went on to describe a plan in which the government would intervene to stop people from relocating their businesses. “It’s the only way,” Jackson said.”

    Forcing people to stay in a place and work for you. There’s a word for that. ‘Slavery.’

  • Enoch_Power

    Selma sounds like a micro version of Detroit. So sad.

  • slobotnavich

    Wow, what a shocker! Who ever would have guessed that black political control would fail to produce a drop in crime rates, government corruption, family disfunctionality, improved education, brighter employment prospects, and a Whole New Era of prosperity, racial harmony, and black achievement. This calls for a massive and comprehensive federally-funded study to get at the “root causes” of this odd and inexplicable phenomenon.

  • Whirlwinder

    Quit bitchin’ Jesse! You got what you wanted, now live with it.