On the day President Barack Obama gave a speech to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Selma’s “Bloody Sunday,” a billboard near the Edmund Pettus Bridge welcomed the POTUS to Alabama. Another paid homage to KKK founder Nathan Bedford Forrest. Many say the Klu Klux Klan sign is a stark reminder that race relations in America are still in need of dialogue and repair, according to a Daily Mail report.
The KKK billboard, at a glance, appears benign in its message to visitors. The prominent words invited tourists to “Visit Selma’s War Between the States Historic Sites.” However, upon closer inspection, the image of Confederate General Forrest in full military regalia sitting upon a horse comes into view. Underneath the Klan Grand Wizard founder‘s image are the words, “Keep the Skeer on ‘Em,” his rallying cry to strike fear into the hearts of enemies, specifically blacks.
— Maverick™ (@spooney35) March 7, 2015
The Klan billboard at the Selma bridge was erected by Friends Of Forrest, Inc., and local, Pat Goodwin, a “wizardress.” In wake of the public’s outcry from the sign’s installation, Goodwin, who referred to the historic Selma march as “the mother of all orgies,” vowed not to remove the Klan sign.
Saturday, thousands gathered at the foot of the bridge, ironically, named after Edmund Winston Pettus, a Grand Dragon of the KKK and general of the confederacy during the American Civil War. However, the billboard that is creating a firestorm around the world, was kept out of view by national networks that carried coverage of the celebration to mark the 50th anniversary of the Selma bridge march across the Alabama River.
Goodwin, still defiant hours ahead of the president’s arrival, made a statement to the New York Daily News. In his opinion, the Ku Klux Klan billboard was meant to remind visitors of the rich heritage of the group’s contribution to history during the 19th century.
“That billboard was put there with positive intent to ask people who come to Selma to explore and enjoy our 19th century history. Does it say anything in the Constitution where a certain faction of people cannot be offended? I’m offended by all these people walking around with their pants hanging around their knees.”
The Selma march was led by then 25-year-old John Lewis. Along with several hundred peaceful protestors, he began the walk to Montgomery to rally the government to uphold the Constitution that gives all Americans — blacks included — the right to vote.
At the foot of the Edmund Pettus Bridge, the marchers were met by a large assembly of Alabama State Police officers, a “sea of blue,” according to Lewis’ recollection of that day 50 years ago. And without provocation, the marchers were attacked by police with clubs and other means, even as the protesters fled on foot. The horrific images were broadcast live all over the country and would become known as “Bloody Sunday.”
Two additional marches led by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. took place and tens of thousands joined in. This time, they were joined by the “full force of the military,” thanks to President Lyndon B. Johnson, who eventually signed into law the Voters Rights Act of 1965.
Saturday, President Obama acknowledged the leaps and bounds that the actions of foot soldiers have undertaken to erase the status quo of the ’60s. However, he reminded Americans that the work heroes put into place decades ago is far from over.
The KKK billboard in Selma is an ominous reminder, many suggest.
[Photo credit: Hulton Archives/Getty Images]