The Black Belt Nature and Heritage Trail: The Black Belt is named for the rich black soil that grew superior cotton during the 19th century. The collapse of the plantation economy during the Civil War left a legacy of “soul food” cooking, art fashioned from found materials, vast stretches of pristine river bottom land and, most recently, the Civil Rights Movement.
The Central Loop begins in Selma, a city steeped in Black Belt cultural heritage. As you enter Selma, you are retracing the course of some of the landmark events in our nation’s history. A city that proudly promotes its history, from long before the Civil War Battle of Selma through the turbulent Voting Rights era, and looks towards the completion of the Interpretive Center on the nation’s only dually designated National Historic Trail and All-American Road. In downtown Selma, you’ll find the Edmund Pettus Bridge. On March 7, 1965, this bridge gained international attention when Voting Rights activists began a march from Selma to Montgomery to protest discrimination against African-Americans. When marchers crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge, they were attacked by state troopers and the sheriff’s posse. Mounted officers rode into the crowd, beating, kicking and tear-gassing the demonstrators. Televised internationally, the events of “Bloody Sunday” spotlighted the depth of racial intolerance. On March 21, under federal protection, marchers again crossed the Pettus Bridge. Five days later they reached Montgomery, where a crowd of 25,000 joined them en route to the state capitol.