The Brown Chapel AME Church was the starting point for the Selma to Montgomery march of 1965.
Both the building and the vast majority of the members played a huge pivotal role in perhaps the most historic march not only in US history—but human history.
It was because of these efforts that the 1965 voting Act was formerly passed by congress and signed into law by Lyndon B. Johnson.
The Brown Chapel AME Church, again the starting point for this historic march, was also the major meeting place for the SCLC.
The SCLC (the Southern Christina Leadership Conference) met at this historic and beautiful church, for three months in 1965, prior to the march.
However, to make sure history is correct; there was another nearby church, the First Baptist Church that acted as the main headquarters for the leaders and organizers.
The major leadership in the beginning stages of this movement was the SNCC, which was also known as the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee.
Brown Chapel AME Church, even back then, had very imposing twin towers as well as Romanesque Revival styling.
These features alone made this church of God an imposing force.
Built in 1908 by an extremely talented African American builder, Mr. A.J. Farley, it acted as a starting place on the morning of March 7th, 1965.
Despite a ban on the protesters by the Governor of Alabama, George Wallace, approximately 600 African American protesters gathered outside of the church.
Their goal was to march from Selma Alabama to the state capital in Montgomery. Leading the march was Hosea Williams of the SCLC, and John Lewis from the SNCC.
However, this march did not last very long as they were confronted on the Edmund Pettus Bridge, which was only 6 blocks from the Brown Chapel AME Church.
Once confronted, mounted troopers ordered the marchers to disperse.
However, they stood their ground and were quickly attacked by Billy clubs and tear gas and forced to abandon their efforts—at least for now.
John Lewis’s skull was fractured while other protesters fell, and while all this was occurring, white onlookers cheered the attacks.
It went down in history as “Bloody Sunday” and eventually turned the tide of history.
It is very important to note that to this date the Brown Chapel AME Church is not a museum or an attraction.
Instead, it is still a vibrant and very active church to this day. However, with this and the following marches, all of their efforts paid off as these protesters eventfully changed history forever.
In addition to being added to the Alabama Register of Landmarks and Heritage on June 16th 1976, on February 4th, 1982, the church was declared a National Historic Landmark.
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