Rep. John Lewis just made his final trip across the bridge where he famously marched for civil rights
A six-day memorial ceremony honoring Rep. John Lewis, a celebrated leader in the fight for Black civil rights in America, is well underway. And as part of that celebration, on Sunday, the lawmaker made his final journey across the Selma, Alabama bridge where he led one of the country’s most infamous marches for civil rights.
News stations showed video coverage of Lewis’ casket, carried in a horse-drawn carriage, making its final journey across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma. The bridge is famous for the march Lewis famously led there in 1965, which ended when Alabama State Troopers brutally beat him and other civil rights activists with clubs. The day of that march is now known as Bloody Sunday, and was a pivotal moment that shocked the nation and helped lead to the passing of the landmark 1965 Voting Rights Act.
As Lewis was drawn across the bridge, it was covered in red rose petals to represent the blood that was shed there. Onlookers lined the edges of the bridge to pay their final respects to Lewis.
The bridge is named after a Confederate general and Ku Klux Klan leader. Following Rep. Lewis’ death from pancreatic cancer on July 17, calls to rename the bridge — which have been ongoing for years — were revived, and a petition calling to name the bridge after Lewis has received nearly half a million signatures. Ava DuVernay, who directed the movie Selma based on Lewis’ historic march, has signed the petition.
But residents of Selma and Alabama lawmakers are largely fiercely opposed to changing the name of the bridge. Some say the city will lose out on tourism if the bridge is given a new name. Others say it isn’t fair to name it after Lewis, when local civil rights activists fought in Selma for years before he arrived there in the 1960s. As that discussion is ongoing, the bridge remains named after someone who was praised in the late 1960s for fighting against Black political power, even as Black citizens had been granted the right to vote.
Lewis’ memorial will continue throughout this week, with events in his home state of Alabama before he lies in state in Washington. His funeral will be held on Thursday at Atlanta’s historic Ebenezer Baptist Church, which the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. once led.