Petition: Selma Bridge Shouldn't Honor KKK Leader
Student group says Edmund Pettus Bridge must be renamed
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 3, 2015 6:48 PM CST
In this March 21, 1965, photo, civil rights marchers cross the Alabama River on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Ala.   (AP Photo/File)
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(Newser) – The Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Ala., occupies a huge place in civil rights history—site of the "Bloody Sunday" beatings 50 years ago as protesters walked to Montgomery. Now a student group is calling attention to a less-well-known fact about the bridge: It's named for a man who once served as grand dragon of Alabama's Ku Klux Klan, reports Al.com. The group's online petition at Change.org calls on the city, the state, and the National Park Service to rename the span, stating, "How could a landmark that holds so much significance for the civil rights movement be named after a man who not only supported slavery, but held one of the highest positions within the Ku Klux Klan?"

Pettus the man served as a US senator and as a Confederate general in the Civil War. He also led the state KKK in 1877, according to an online state database, reports the AP. The news service quotes one historian who says he's found no definitive evidence that Pettus was in fact a KKK leader, but the historian says Pettus was at the very least a "strong white supremacist." President Obama will speak from the bridge Saturday to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the "Bloody Sunday" march.