SELMA, Ala. (CBS46) -- The steel arch that hovers over the Alabama river, separates Selma from a neighboring town.

But it’s the racial divide that’s made the Edmund Pettus Bridge historic; becoming the backdrop of a relentless movement.

On Bloody Sunday, hundreds of protestors fighting for the right to vote were trampled and beaten.

Leading the pack, was Congressman John Lewis.

In the wake of his passing, more than 400 thousand people have signed a petition to replace the name Pettus with Lewis.

However, not everyone who lives in the city of Selma is on board.

“The citizens of Selma were not necessarily approached when this petition first started,” said Selma native Collins Pettaway III.

Pettaway said the renaming of the historic landmark, should be a decision amongst locals.

“If Selma wants it as the John Lewis bridge, I think that’s also a discussion too…however I do believe they were people here that organized before John Lewis came in there was also organizing going on after John Lewis left,” said Pettaway.

“I really don’t think it would do our people justice, to have one name; we would have to honor all foot soldiers,” said Martina West who lives in Selma.

West wants the name changed to “Foot soldier bridge." However, Pettaway believes the Pettus name, is symbolic.

“Instead of being recognized for whoever he was as a U.S. Senator for Alabama with the confederacy, he is now known and his name is not attached to voting rights to civil rights to voting equity to freedom,” said Pettaway.

“We can’t have it,” said West “he was a confederate leader … no we should not be honoring him."

Historic documents show he was also part of the Ku Klux Klan.

West said the name makes her cringe, because her grandfather was on the bridge on Bloody Sunday and was chased.

55 years later, West and many others believe it’s time for change.

“We’re always open for conversation, the important thing is that Selma is in the conversation,” said Pettaway.

Copyright 2020 WGCL-TV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.


Recommended for you

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.