Protestors Petition to Rename Alabama’s Edmund Pettus Bridge in Honor of John Lewis

James Kirkikis /

A petition to rename Selma’s bridge after the civil rights legend has already amassed over 460,000 signatures.

After the recent passing of longtime congressman and civil rights hero John Lewis, legislators face pressure to rename Selma’s infamous “Bloody Sunday” bridge. A petition to rename the bridge after Lewis has already amassed over 460,000 signatures. The Edmund Pettus Bridge, or “Bloody Sunday Bridge,” was the site of a historic 1965 voting rights march spearheaded by John Lewis. Lewis led an estimated 600 civil rights marchers across the bridge to commemorate the death of Jimmie Lee Jackson, an innocent Black man who was unjustifiably shot by local police. The march was also inspired by discriminatory laws that continued to bar many black people in the South from exercising their 15th amendment. Despite the benign nature of the protest, John Lewis and fellow peaceful protestors were met by heavily armed state troopers and were brutally beaten with clubs. The gory attack resulted in the hospitalization of 17 marchers, and the fracturing of Lewis’ skull. 

This tragic event galvanized the civil rights movement and played a pivotal role in promoting the visibility of the African American struggle in the civic sphere. Despite notable progress since 1965, we continue to see innocent Black Americans being senselessly beaten by law enforcement and denied their basic human rights. The bridge’s name currently commemorates Edmund Pettus, a Confederate general and leader of the Ku Klux Klan in Alabama.   

As we continue to grapple with ingrained racism and strive to reach for racial equity, we are forced to engage in a difficult, divisive national dialogue regarding historic monuments, names, and emblems that celebrate the Confederacy. We are forced to reexamine their significance and how their preservation shapes the world we walk today. Amid Black Lives Matter, a movement dedicated to integrity, introspection, and improvement, we finally see the much-anticipated removal of many Confederate monuments.  

The public rallies in support of renaming the bridge and honoring the memory of John Lewis.

Only time will tell if the “Bloody Sunday” bridge will shed its Confederate namesake. We hope John Lewis’ passing will serve as an inspiration to the Black Lives Matter movement and push us, as a nation, to continue combating racism.