Vice President Joe Biden walks arm in arm with U.S. Reps. Terri Sewell and John Lewis while crossing the Edmund Pettus Bridge during the bridge crossing jubilee in Selma, Ala. on Sunday March 3, 2013.
(Photo: Mickey Welsh, The Montgomery, Ala., Advertiser)
Alvin Benn, The (Montgomery, Ala.) Advertiser
SELMA, Ala. -- The Edmund Pettus Bridge was designated a National Historic Landmark on Monday -- a week after thousands crossed it to commemorate "Bloody Sunday" and the subsequent successful march from Selma to Montgomery 48 years ago.
Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar and National Park Service Director Jonathan Jarvis announced the latest honor bestowed on the span crossing the Alabama River.
The bridge is one of 13 new national historic landmarks including the site of a Kentucky training center for black soldiers during the Civil War and the house where anti-slavery advocate Harriet Beecher Stowe lived in Connecticut.
The joint announcement in Washington mentioned the Pettus Bridge first, citing a violent incident on March 7, 1965, when Alabama law enforcement officers routed 600 black marchers seeking to walk to Montgomery to press for equal voting rights.
The two federal officials noted that the bridge violence led to passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, saying it is considered to be "the single most effective piece of civil rights legislation ever passed by the U.S. Congress."
Vice President Joe Biden led the annual symbolic march across the bridge earlier this month. President Bill Clinton did the same thing in 2000. President Barack Obama crossed it in 2007 while still a U.S. senator.
Alabama's role in the civil rights and voting rights movements continues to attract thousands of visitors each year, and the director of the state department of tourism and travel said Monday's announcement is likely "to bring even more" to examine historic locations.
"There are a lot of cultural tourists who attempt to visit all national landmarks, just as there are people who visit all state capitals in their travels," said Lee Sentell.
Other Alabama locations that have been honored as historic sites in the past include Tuskegee Institute, Fort Toulouse in Wetumpka and Saturn 5 test structures at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville.
Sentell said the special designation of the Pettus bridge, which was named for a Confederate general when it was built in 1940, was "overdue" and commended the staff of the Alabama Historical Commission "for doing such a wonderful job to help make this a reality."
Salazar noted that the selected sites "will tell the story of America and the contributions that all people from all walks of life have made as we strive for a more perfect union."
Jarvis said locations linking the Civil War and civil rights movements recognize the "accomplishments of women, African Americans and Latinos."
"These sites highlight the mosaic of our nation's historic past," said Jarvis, adding that the sites will "educate and inspire Americans through their country's rich and complex history."
The 13 historic sites are the latest in a long list of American treasures. Currently, there are 2,540 designated national landmarks.