Last Sunday, more than eight thousand of us started on a mighty walk from Selma, Alabama… They told us we wouldn’t get here. And there were those who said that we would get here only over their dead bodies, but all the world today knows that we are here and we are standing before the forces of power in the state of Alabama saying, 'We ain’t goin’ let nobody turn us around’… - Martin Luther King Jr.
The brisk cold air warmed with the rising sun as it cast its golden rays over the quiet town of Selma, AL. Within a few short hours, the still streets would come alive as hundreds of bicyclists from all across the nation arrived to begin their ride to Montgomery.
The ride was the Selma 55 - a commemoration of the Selma to Montgomery Voters Rights March of 1965 and also a celebration of Black joy. While the Voters Rights March of 1965 is a painful reminder of the systemic racism and white supremacy that Black Americans endure throughout their daily lives, this event unified Black cyclists from across the nation to celebrate the boundless joy that is always present in group rides.
Prior to the event, every registrant was given a packet stuffed full with documents providing context to the history of the Selma to Montgomery Voters Rights March of 1965. Copies of tests given to Black citizens, that were systematically designed to prohibit them from voting, were included to showcase the active voter suppression that occurred in many states. For example, In 1965, despite making up over half of the population in Selma, only 2.1% of Black citizens in the voting age were registered to vote. While the Black community in Selma tried, on multiple occasions, to register. They were either turned away, arrested, or, in some cases, assaulted by the local police or posse men.
In addition, accounts from the first two attempts to march to Montgomery were also included in their packets. The first attempt, infamously known as Bloody Sunday played out on national television. Americans watched the chilling images as more than 500 peaceful activists were met by state police who bludgeoned, tear gassed, and brutally assaulted numerous marchers
The event also hosted a ride the day before the event, which took participants around Montgomery, AL to a number of historic sites, monuments, and museums that further detailed the fight for Civil Rights that occurred in Alabama. The event also hosted a ride the day before the event, which took participants around Montgomery, AL to a number of historic sites, monuments, and museums that further detailed the fight for Civil Rights that occurred in Alabama.
On March 25, 1965, Martin Luther King Jr. stood outside the Alabama State Courthouse in Montgomery and delivered his powerful “How Long, Not Long” address to a crowd of more than 25,000 civil rights demonstrators. In this address he proclaimed,
Today I want to tell the city of Selma, today I want to say to the state of Alabama, today I want to say to the people of America and the nations of the world, that we are not about to turn around. We are on the move now. Yes, we are on the move and no wave of racism can stop us… We are moving to the land of freedom.
With that same vigor, over 550 bicyclists departed Selma and began their journey to Montgomery.
The atmosphere throughout the ride was ecstatic. Smiles, laughter and hugs were ubiquitous along with the constant uplifting encouragement from the community.
A bicyclist stops for a moment to pray at mile marker 100 on highway 80 - known to surrounding communities as the "Prayer Mile."
Three aid stations were set up along the route to keep riders fueled and hydrated throughout the day.
Rounding the Court Square Fountain, riders catch a glimpse of the finish - the Alabama State Capitol.
Bells ring and spectators cheer as riders arrive at the steps of the Capitol building.
The Selma55 ride was an excellent commemoration of the strength and courage of those involved in Voter’s Rights Marches of 1965 and the Civil Rights Movement of the 20th century. It provoked one to question the normalcy of today while connecting numerous individuals across the nation to amplify and celebrate Black joy. All together, the Selma 55 created a truly remarkable and unforgettable experience.
PeopleForBikes Content + Design Coordinator