Bridging Selma

Bloody Sunday’s Youngest Marcher Urges Youth Vote

Bloody Sunday’s Youngest Marcher Urges Youth Vote

A black wreath hangs on the front door. Sheyann Webb Christburg is the youngest Freedom Fighter to participate in the Bloody Sunday march across Selma’s Edmund Pettus Bridge 50 years ago. She buried her father last week and is in town cleaning out his home. A self-proclaimed “daddy’s girl,” she remembers vividly, just how much her father opposed her participation in the march. However, her mind was made up. She was determined to join the fight for freedom at only eight-years old. While playing with her friend, Rachael, at the historic Brown’s Chapel Church close to the projects where her family lived, she had her first encounter with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. “A man said to us, ‘Do you little girls know who that man is?’” Christburg says. “‘That’s Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’” As soon as King saw the girls, he came over and talked to them, asking them about themselves. Christburg remembers that when he turned to go into the meeting, the other man told them they had to leave but Dr. King told them to come with him. Christburg sits in her dining room, the bright white table cloth matches her smile as she begins to talk about the man who reached her like no other that day. “He grabbed us by our hands and took us into the church with him,” Christburg says. “Then, as they were preparing to have this meeting, Dr. King went and got two chairs and sat them in the back of that room and he asked us to have a seat and he continued to talk to us. It...
African American Confederates

African American Confederates

Bill Harris and Barbara Marthall H.K. Edgerton, embraces the pre-war south, at a ceremony honoring Confederate soldiers. “I’m a racist…but what we are not is bigots,,” said Gary Johnson Bill Harris and Barbara Marthal stand out in a crowd. Especially the crowd at the 150th Anniversary Battle of Selma reenactment. It’s not just because they’re an interracial couple, even though in the middle of two-thousand costumed, gun-toting Union and Confederate soldiers, they’re worth a second glance. It’s not even because Marthal, a black woman, tends to show up in full period dress— embroidered straw hat and hoop skirt included. Self-proclaimed historians, Harris and Marthal go to Civil War reenactments all summer long hoping to catch an eye or an ear to tell their truth—the truth of black Confederate soldiers. Marthal is the author of a children’s book Fighting for Freedom: A Documented Story, which she wrote hoping it would supplement public school history lessons on the Civil War. “Fighting for Freedom” is the true story of Richard T. Davis, a young Confederate soldier and his slave—and friend—Handy Davis Crudup. The surprising story of their long-lasting friendship, despite their roles as slave and master, is accompanied by historical documents. These are important and neglected stories, they say, and there are many like them out there. Marthal recommends that black people look up H.K. Edgerton, a black proponent of a view of Civil War history who argues that the Confederate army was made up of both African-American and white volunteers. Edgerton is the former president of the Asheville, North Carolina chapter of the NAACP. In 1998, he was suspended from the...
Civil War Redux

Civil War Redux

Reenactors march to the battlefield at the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Selma on Saturday, April 25, 2015. Photo by Maya Gilmore Reenactors pose as settlers during the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Selma on April 25, 2015. Photo by Maya Gilmore Reenactors line up on their horses right before combat begins at the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Selma on Saturday, April 24, 2015. Photo by Maya Gilmore Fake remains are loaded into a bloody trunk at the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Selma on Saturday, April 25, 2015. Photo by Maya Gilmore A Reenactor walks away from the women’s tea at the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Selma on Saturday, April 25, 2015. Photo by Maya Gilmore As reenactors enter the fairgrounds for the 150th celebration of the Battle of Selma, they are welcomed by a giant booth filled with collectables, books, brochures, and other readings. At first glance, it looks like the registration table—but it’s not. As visitors study the booth’s tables they will notice book titles including “The White Identity, the Social Conscious in the 21st Century,” and “The Authentic History of the Ku Klux Klan.” The literature on the table sets the tone for the organization. The Friends of Forrest, an organization that celebrates a notorious Civil War general, is trying to raise $54,000 for a replacement bust of General Nathan Bedford Forrest that will be placed in Selma’s Live Oak Cemetery. Forrest was a Lieutenant general in the Confederate Calvary and his military career was focused in the mid-South where he led the Confederate troops in the Battle...