City of Selma, Alabama
Dear Mayor Evans and City Council Members,
I recently visited Selma, while in your area for a speaking engagement.
I had heard of the beauty of your city, and knew it was steeped in rich history, especially in regards to the War Between the States. I have Confederate ancestors, a keen interest in the war, and like many Southerners, enjoy visiting sites and locations across the South. I was anxious to explore the history of the Battle of Selma, and its defense by the Confederate General, Nathan Bedford Forrest.
I was, to say the least, VERY disappointed in what I found, which was a town almost completely void of ANY vestiges of the events which took place there, and apparently ashamed of its rich Confederate history. The only traces were found in the Smitherton House/Museum, which had excellent and informative displays inside and a wonderful guide who was very knowledgeable and helpful.
Anxious to see the Confederate monument in Old Live Oak Cemetery, imagine my shock and dismay when I arrived to find the once picturesque cemetery now decaying from neglect. I have seen neglected cemeteries before, but never imagined I would find this one, under the care of the city, in such poor condition. In searching for the final resting place of General William Hardee, I came across slabs that had tire tracks on them. It seems that cemetery employees actually run their tractors RIGHT OVER the tombstones!!!
The Confederate monument in the cemetery is breathtaking, and should be a showcase for the city. Instead, I found that efforts by private citizens to make improvements to the monument, including adding handicapped access, had actually been BLOCKED by City Council when their building permit was revoked after attacks from local Civil Rights leaders. Instead of being a focal point for the city, the Confederate section stands in disarray, with construction halted, caution tape surrounding the area, and the memory of our Confederate dead desecrated by the same City they fought so gallantly to defend.
I find it ironic that a city that wants so much to present itself as the jewel of the civil rights movement, now openly discriminates against those of us with Confederate heritage. I felt completely unwelcomed and unwanted in your city. Perhaps that is the goal of the administration, but when I drive through the city, carefully avoiding the traffic cones that mark the spots where man hole covers have been stolen, and sadly view the boarded up mansions and decaying properties, I wonder why Selma has chosen to disenfranchise a large group of people, who otherwise might visit, bringing much needed revenue into the city?
This is especially poignant as we are commemorating the Sesquicentennial of the War Between the States. A renewed interest has increased tourism and revenue in many Southern cities. Sadly, if the situation does not change, Selma will not be one of them. I most certainly would NOT recommend Selma as a destination location for those interested in Southern history and heritage.
Thank you for your time and attention.