A Bicentennial History
Publication Year: 2017
Comprehensive, thoroughly researched, and nonpartisan, Fitts’s pleasantly accessible history addresses every major issue, movement, and trend from the city’s settlement in 1815 to the end of the twentieth century. Its commerce, institutions, governance, as well as its evolving racial, religious, and class composition are all treated with candor and depth. Selma’s transformative role within the state and the nation is fully explored, and most notable is a nuanced and complex discussion of race relations from the rise of the civil rights era to modern times.
Historians, scholars, and Alabamians will find great use for this updated and fully developed exploration of Selma’s rich, complex, and significant history.
Published by: The University of Alabama Press
Title Page, Copyright, Dedication
List of Illustrations
The Selma City Council commissioned the original version of Selma, Queen City of the Black Belt way back in 1988, in hopes that the city would have an up-to-date history in time for the 125th anniversary of the Battle of Selma and the 25th anniversary of Bloody Sunday and the Selma-to-Montgomery March. The council entrusted...
1. Selma in Pioneer Days: “Moore’s Bluff ” Strives to Make the Big Time, 1819–1845
On March 16, 1819, two men appeared at the Federal Land Office in Cahawba to purchase some land in the Alabama Territory. Between them, William Rufus King and Dr. George Phillips bought 460 acres on the Alabama River. The original land grant describes the purchase as “the fractional Section West of...
2. The Queen City Grows As Storm Clouds Gather, 1844–1861
During the sixteen years prior to the Civil War, Selma went through a period of dramatic growth. The amount of cotton received at Selma for shipment down the Alabama River doubled between 1840 and 1850 and doubled again by 1860. In that year Dallas County produced 63,410 bales of cotton, more than any other county...
3. Secession and Civil War: Selma, Arsenal of the Confederacy
“We are not fighting for slavery,” Jefferson Davis told a Yankee reporter in July of 1864. “We are fighting for Independence, and that, or extermination, we will have.” White southerners have been making the same argument ever since. They point out that most Confederate soldiers were not slaveholders, that Gen. Robert...
4. Rebuilding and Reconstruction: Selma Rises from the Ashes, 1865–1880
Selmians slowly began building new lives for themselves and their city after the war’s destruction ceased. Institutions as well as buildings had been lost in the conflict. Both Selma banks went out of business after the war because their holdings consisted largely of Confederate money, which was now worthless. The city itself...
5. The Queen City Resumes Her Throne: Selma, 1880–1912
When Abraham Lincoln was assassinated, few white Selmians outside the Todd family felt much grief. In fact, the Chattanooga Rebel (then being published in Selma) rejoiced that Lincoln “had gone to answer before the bar of God for the innocent blood he has permitted to be shed, in his efforts to enslave a free and heroic people”...
6. The Decline of the Cotton Kingdom: Selma, 1912–1939
In the early 1910s, before the coming of the boll weevil and the outbreak of
World War I, Selma’s life was rather untroubled. However, the decades that followed
brought striking changes in the Queen City of the Black Belt.
Among the notable events were the great flood of 1916, Alabama’s entry into...
7. World War II and After: Selma, 1939–1963
In some respects, World War II had greater impact on Selma and Dallas County than any other conflict since the War between the States. In large part this was because, in 1941, an air force training base was established here. The base provided an enormous boost to the city’s economy, making it possible for Selma to grow and...
8. Selma, Birthplace of Equal Voting Rights: The Queen City in Crisis, 1963–1968
“Selma stands on the threshold of what is probably the most important era in its history since the Civil War,” proclaimed the Selma Times-Journal on March 20, 1964. “This is not because Joe T. Smitherman has been duly elected mayor; nor, that Chris Heinz will no longer serve that office after his term expires. But, simply...
9. The Queen City Recovers Its Poise: Selma, 1968–1988
On August 11, 1979, the National Funeral Directors and Morticians met in Selma
to dedicate a monument to Martin Luther King Jr. outside Brown Chapel. One of
the main speakers at the ceremony turned out to be Selma’s former mayor, Joseph
T. Smitherman, who was not on the original
“You remember me?” Smitherman...
10. More Bridges to Cross: Selma, 1989–2008
In January 1990 the Alabama River reached its highest level since 1961, overflowing its banks and flooding portions of east Selma. Elmwood, the city’s second oldest cemetery, presented a striking and grisly spectacle; a number of recently buried coffins emerged from the mud and were seen bobbing about on top of the waves...
Epilogue: What Bridges Lie Ahead?
Selma’s history did not come to a close with the mayoral election of 2000 or with that of 2008. An era seemed to be ending as the decade went on. Earl Goodwin died in 2003, and Rev. J. D. Hunter passed the same year. Ed Moss died in early 2005 and Joe Smitherman later that same year. Smitherman’s death prompted one...
Page Count: 379
Illustrations: 199 B&W figures
Publication Year: 2017
OCLC Number: 971613801
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Selma