Selma, Alabama

From Academic Kids

Selma is a city in Alabama located on the banks of the Alabama River in Dallas County, Alabama, of which it is the county seat. As of the last census, the population of the city is 20,512. The city is known for the Selma to Montgomery marches, three civil rights marches that began in this city.



As of the censusTemplate:GR of 2000, there are 20,512 people, 8,196 households, and 5,343 families residing in the city. The population density is 571.4/km² (1,479.6/mi²). There are 9,264 housing units at an average density of 258.1/km² (668.3/mi²). The racial makeup of the city is 28.77% White, 69.68% Black or African American, 0.10% Native American, 0.56% Asian, 0.01% Pacific Islander, 0.22% from other races, and 0.66% from two or more races. 0.67% of the population are Hispanic or Latino of any race.

There are 8,196 households out of which 30.3% have children under the age of 18 living with them, 34.2% are married couples living together, 27.2% have a female householder with no husband present, and 34.8% are non-families. 32.6% of all households are made up of individuals and 14.6% have someone living alone who is 65 years of age or older. The average household size is 2.44 and the average family size is 3.10.

In the city the population is spread out with 27.3% under the age of 18, 9.7% from 18 to 24, 24.9% from 25 to 44, 21.8% from 45 to 64, and 16.3% who are 65 years of age or older. The median age is 36 years. For every 100 females there are 78.2 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there are 72.0 males.

The median income for a household in the city is $21,261, and the median income for a family is $28,345. Males have a median income of $29,769 versus $18,129 for females. The per capita income for the city is $13,369. 31.7% of the population and 26.9% of families are below the poverty line. Out of the total population, 41.8% of those under the age of 18 and 28.0% of those 65 and older are living below the poverty line.


Selma is located at Template:Coor dmsTemplate:GR.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 37.4 km² (14.4 mi²). 35.9 km² (13.9 mi²) of it is land and 1.5 km² (0.6 mi²) of it is water. The total area is 4.02% water.

The ZIP codes for Selma are 36701 and 36703. 36702 is a ZIP code used only for P.O. Boxes, but 36701 is a standard ZIP code.


Native American lore states that Selma is built where Chief Tuskaloosa met with explorer DeSoto. The site was officially recorded in 1732 as Ecor Bienville, then later as the Moore's Bluff settlement. In 1820, Selma (meaning "high seat" or "throne") was incorporated. It was planned and named by future Vice President of the United States William R. King.
Missing image

During the Civil War, it was one of the South's main military manufacturing centers, producing tons of supplies and munitions, and turning out Confederate warships such as the Ironclad warship Tennessee. Resulting in the Battle of Selma. Union General J. H. Wilson's troops destroyed Selma's army arsenal and factories, and much of the city, in a fiery, bloody siege.

Selma during the Civil War

Importance of Selma to the Confederacy

Because of it's central location, production facilities and rail connections, the advantages of Selma as a site for production of Cartridge (weaponry), saltpetre, powder, shot and shell, rifles, cannon and steam rams soon became apparent to the Confederacy. By 1863, just about every war material was manufactured within the limits of Selma, employing at least ten thousand people. The hull was laid for at least one Confederate ironclad, the Tennessee, and millions of dollars worth of army supplies were accumulated and distributed from Selma.

Previous attempts on Selma

The capacities and importance of Selma, in its relation to the Confederate movement, had been notorious in the North, and too great to be overlooked by the Federal authorities, as early as 1862. But to reach it with a Federal force baffled the ingenuity of the federal Generals. As the place grew in importance, the greater the necessity to reach it with a Federal force. Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman first made an effort to reach it, but after advancing as far as Meridian, within one hundred and seven miles, retreated to the Mississippi River; Gen. Benjamin Grierson, with a cavalry force from Memphis, was intercepted and returned; Gen. Rousseau made a dash in the direction of Selma, but was mislead by his guides and struck the railroad forty miles east of Montgomery, Alabama.

Battle of Selma

Main article: Battle of Selma

On March 30, Wilson detached Gen. John T. Croxton's Brigade to destroy all Confederate property at Tuscaloosa, Alabama. After capturing a Confederate courier who carried dispatches from Forrest describing the strengths and dispositions of his scattered forces, Wilson also sent a brigade to destroy the bridge across the Cahaba River at Centreville. This action effectively cut off most of Forrest's reinforcements. Then began a running fight that did not end until after the fall of Selma.

Missing image
Battle of Selma Map

On the afternoon of April 1, after skirmishing all morning, Wilson's advanced guard ran into Forrest's line of battle at Ebenezer Church, where the Randolph Road intersected the main Selma road. Here Forrest had hoped to bring his entire force to bear on Wilson. However delays caused by flooding plus earlier contact with the enemy enabled Forrest to muster less than 2,000 men, a large number of whom were not veterans but militia consisting of old men and young boys.

The outnumbered and outgunned Confederates fought bravely for more than an hour as more Union Cavalry and Artillery deployed on the field. Forrest himself was wounded in a charge by a saber-swinging Yankee Captain who he killed with his revolver. Finally, a mounted Federal charge with carbines blazing broke the Confederate militia causing Forrest to be flanked on his right. He was forced to retreat under severe pressure.

Early the next morning Forrest arrived at Selma, "horse and rider covered in blood." He advised Gen. Richard Taylor, departmental commander, to leave the city. Taylor did so after giving Forrest command of the defense.

Missing image
Nathan B. Forrest

Selma was protected by three miles of fortifications which ran in a semi-circle around the city. They were anchored on the north and south by the Alabama River. The works had been built two years earlier, and while neglected for the most part since, were still formidable. They were 8 to 12 feet high, 15 feet thick at the base, with a ditch 4 feet wide and 5 feet deep along the front. In front of this was a picket fence of heavy posts planted in the ground, 5 feet high, and sharpened at the top. At prominent positions, earthen forts were built with artillery in position to cover the ground over which an assault would have to be made.

Forrest's defenders consisted of his Tennessee escort company, McCullough's Missouri Regiment, Crossland's Kentucky Brigade, Roddey's Alabama Brigade, Armstrong's Mississippi Brigade, Gen. Dan Adam's state reserves, and the citizens of Selma who were "volunteered" to man the works. Altogether this force numbered less than 4,000, only half of who were dependable. The Selma fortifications were built to be defended by 20,000 men. Forrest's soldiers had to stand 10 to 12 feet apart in the works.

Wilson's force arrived in front of the Selma fortifications at 2 pm. He had placed Gen. Eli Long's Division across the Summerfield Road with the Chicago Board of Trade Battery in support. He had Gen. Emory Upton's Division placed across the Range Line Road with Battery I, 4th US Artillery in support. Altogether Wilson had 9,000 troops available for the assault.

The Federal commander's plan was for Upton to send in a 300 man detachment after dark to cross the swamp on the Confederate right; enter the works, and begin a flanking movement toward the center moving along the line of fortifications. Then a single gun from Upton's artillery would signal the attack by the entire Federal Corps.

At 5 pm, however, Gen. Long's ammunition train in the rear was attacked by advance elements of Forrest's scattered forces coming toward Selma. Both Long and Upton had positioned significant numbers of troops in their rear for just such an event. However, Long decided to commence his assault against the Selma fortifications to neutralize the enemy attack in his rear.

Long's troops attacked in a single rank in three main lines, dismounted with Spencers carbines blazing, supported by their own artillery fire. The Confederates replied with heavy small arms and artillery fire of their own. The Southern artillery, in one of the many ironies of the Civil War, only had solid shot on hand, while just a short distance away was and arsenal which produced tons of canister, a highly effective anti-personnel ammunition.

Missing image
Battle of Selma Reenactment

The Federals suffered many casualties (including General Long himself) but not enough to break up the attack. Once the Yankees reached the works, there was vicious hand-to-hand fighting. Many soldiers were struck down with clubbed muskets. But the Yankees kept pouring into the works. In less than 30 minutes, Long's men had captured the works protecting the Summerfield Road.

Meanwhile, General Upton, observing Long's success, ordered his division forward. The story was much the same for his men as on Long's front. Soon, US flags could be seen waving over the works from Range Line Road to Summerfield Road.

After the outer works fell, General Wilson himself led the 4th US Cavalry Regiment in a mounted charge down the Range Line Road toward the unfinished inner line of works. The retreating Confederate forces, upon reaching the inner works, all allied and poured a devastating fire into the charging Yankee column. This broke up the charge and sent General Wilson sprawling to the ground when his favorite horse was wounded. He quickly remounted his stricken mount and ordered a dismounted assault by several regiments.

Mixed units of Confederate troops had also occupied the Selma railroad depot and the adjoining banks of the railroad bed to make a stand next to the Plantersville Road (present day Broad Street). The fighting there was heavy, but by 7 pm the superior numbers of Union troops had managed to flank the Southern positions causing them to abandon the depot as well as the inner line of works.

In the darkness, the Yankees rounded up hundreds of prisoners, but hundreds more escaped down the Burnsville Road, including Generals Forrest, Armstrong, and Roddey. To the west, many Confederate soldiers fought the pursuing Yankees all the way down to the eastern side of Valley Creek. They escaped in the darkness by swimming across the Alabama River near the mouth of Valley Creek (where the present day Battle of Selma Reenactment is held.)

The Yankees looted the city that night while many businesses and private residences were burned. They spent the next week destroying the arsenal and naval foundry. Then they left Selma heading to Montgomery and then Columbus and Macon, Georgia, and the end of the war.

Civil rights

The Selma-to-Montgomery March for voting rights ended three weeks--and three events--that represented the political and emotional peak of the modern civil rights movement.
Missing image
Marchers crossing Edmund Pettus Bridge
On "Bloody Sunday," March 7, 1965, some 600 civil rights marchers headed east out of Selma on U.S. Route 80. They got only as far as the Edmund Pettus Bridge six blocks away, where state and local lawmen attacked them with billy clubs and tear gas and drove them back into Selma. Two days later on March 9, Martin Luther King, Jr., led a "symbolic" march to the bridge. Then civil rights leaders sought court protection for a third, full-scale march from Selma to the state capitol in Montgomery. Federal District Court Judge Frank M. Johnson, Jr., weighed the right of mobility against the right to march and ruled in favor of the demonstrators.
Missing image
SNCC leader John Lewis arrested at the Edmund Pettus Bridge
"The law is clear that the right to petition one's government for the redress of grievances may be exercised in large groups...," said Judge Johnson, "and these rights may be exercised by marching, even along public highways."
Missing image
Alabama Police confront the Selma Marchers
On Sunday, March 21, about 3,200 marchers set out for Montgomery, walking 12 miles a day and sleeping in fields. By the time they reached the capitol on Thursday, March 25, they were 25,000-strong. Less than five months after the last of the three marches, President Lyndon Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act of 1965--the best possible redress of grievances. Martin Luther King, Jr. led the group on a symbolic walk 2 days later to bring awareness to the situation.

After appealing to a Federal judge, permission was granted for the march which began with 2500 and ended with 25,000 people marching the 50 miles to Montgomery.


Selma was designated the Butterfly Capital of the World by the state legislature in an effort to stimulate the return of the butterflies in gardens around the city.

Tourism and museums

Selma boasts the state's largest historic district, over 1,250 structures. Excellent places to find the rich history of the city are Sturdivant Hall Museum, National Voting Rights Museum, Historic Water Avenue, Martin Luther King Jr. Street Historic Walking Tour, Old Depot Museum, Old Town Historic District, Smitherman Historic Building, Sturdivant Hall Museum, National Voting Rights Museum, Old Live Oak Cemetery and the Heritage Village. The arts and museums of the city include the Mira's Avon Fan Club House, Performing Arts Centre, Selma Art Guld Gallery, and the Sigel Gallery.

Some of the local attractions are the Paul M. Grist State Park, Old Cahawba Archaeological Park, and the Edmund Windwon Pettus Bridge.


  • Valley Grande
  • Selmont

City government

Mayor James Perkins, Jr. 1145 First Avenue Selma, AL 36701 Home - 875-9785 Work - 874-2100

George Patrick Evans President, Selma City Council P. 0. Box 903 Selma, AL 36702 Home - 875-1583 Work - 875-3440 e-mail -


Ward I - Councilman Glenn Sexton Selma, AL 3670169 105 Pinehaardt Drive Home - 875-1069 Work - 875-7001

Ward 2 - Councilwoman Rita Sims Franklin 1904 Tippett Drive, P. 0. Box 1058 Selma, AL 36701 Home - 872-1616

Ward 3 - Councilwoman Jean T. Martin 727 Pettus Street Selma, AL 36701 Home - 874-9482 Work - 874-2197

Ward 4 - Councilwoman Nancy G. Sewell 705 King Lane Selma, AL 36701 Home - 875-2481 Work - 874-1694

Ward 5 - Councilman Samuel Randolph 1111 5th Avenue Selma, AL 36701 Home - 875-8952 e-mail -

Ward 6 - Councilman Benny L. Tucker 2021 Eugene Avenue Selma, AL 36703 Home - 872-1433 Ward 7 - Councilwoman Bennie Ruth Crenshaw 1803 Summerfield Road Selma, AL 36701 Home - 875-7099

Ward 8 - Councilman James (Jim) Durry 210 Dedman Street Selma, AL 36703 Home - 877-3721

Missing image
Edmund Windwon Pettus Bridge

Major employers

Institutions of higher education

External links

Template:Mapit-US-cityscalede:Selma (Alabama)


Academic Kids Menu

  • Art and Cultures
    • Art (
    • Architecture (
    • Cultures (
    • Music (
    • Musical Instruments (
  • Biographies (
  • Clipart (
  • Geography (
    • Countries of the World (
    • Maps (
    • Flags (
    • Continents (
  • History (
    • Ancient Civilizations (
    • Industrial Revolution (
    • Middle Ages (
    • Prehistory (
    • Renaissance (
    • Timelines (
    • United States (
    • Wars (
    • World History (
  • Human Body (
  • Mathematics (
  • Reference (
  • Science (
    • Animals (
    • Aviation (
    • Dinosaurs (
    • Earth (
    • Inventions (
    • Physical Science (
    • Plants (
    • Scientists (
  • Social Studies (
    • Anthropology (
    • Economics (
    • Government (
    • Religion (
    • Holidays (
  • Space and Astronomy
    • Solar System (
    • Planets (
  • Sports (
  • Timelines (
  • Weather (
  • US States (


  • Home Page (
  • Contact Us (

  • Clip Art (
Personal tools