Commentary: Walking toward justice on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

This column appears every other week in Foster’s Daily Democrat and the Tuskegee News. This week Guy Trammell, an African American man from Tuskegee, Ala., and Amy Miller, a white woman from South Berwick, Maine, write about the recent visit of 10 South Berwick residents to Tuskegee to march together across the historic bridge in Selma.

By Amy Miller

The power, the richness of the day was not in the walk or on the Edmund Pettus Bridge or even hearing Kamala Harris speak. The power was in the moments before and after.

It was there when 17 of us sang together Sunday morning in Selma’s Ebenezer Missionary Church, once the home to the Rev. Frederick Reese, who first invited MLK to join the march over the Selma bridge. It was in sharing dinner at the Bonefish restaurant in Montgomery after the walk. The power came from sweating together under the noonday sun and in buying Bloody Sunday Jubilee T-shirts from the local vendors.

Guy Trammell Jr. and Amy Miller
Guy Trammell Jr. and Amy Miller

The idea was to walk together for voting rights, for racial justice, for a better America. And walk we did, with thousands of other Americans. Ten South Berwick residents walked with seven residents of Tuskegee across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in honor of the 59th anniversary of Bloody Sunday.

When you are marching beside someone - someone who has become a friend - who was not allowed to swim in the same pool as the white children who lived down the road, when you are walking over the bridge with someone whose mother was stopped from voting or whose friend was killed trying to register voters, this country’s racism touches you in a new way. When the person you are marching with, your host, is the same person you say good night to in your PJs, have coffee with in the morning, and trust to navigate for you on the road to Selma, the pain of our country’s racism is in your home.

When South Berwick asked Tuskegee to be our sister city we believed a small step toward progress might come from more talk, more listening and less fear. We thought this relationship could lead to better understanding in our mostly white town of what it means to be Black in America.

We believed, and still believe, as Lyndon B. Johnson said, “Their cause must be our cause too.”

As Johnson said in his speech in the wake of the Bloody Sunday attacks on people walking simply for the right to vote in our Democracy, “It is not just negroes, but really it is all of us who must overcome the crippling legacy of bigotry and injustice. And we shall overcome.”

The speech in 1965 was well-received. The White House reportedly received 1,436 telegrams supporting Johnson and 82 against him. A poll found 76% of Americans in favor of the proposed Voting Rights Act, and 16% against it.

Fifty-nine years later we are still marching and stubbornly hopeful. We are still fighting efforts to strip down voting rights.  Together we will continue to walk forward. And together we will vote.

By Guy Trammell Jr.

In 1901, President Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt caused national controversy by having Booker T. Washington to dinner. The Biloxi Daily Herald stated: “The most damnable outrage which has ever been perpetrated by any citizen of the United States was committed by the president when he invited a negro to dine with him at the white house.”

During that period, any time Tuskegee Institute hosted white philanthropists, white Tuskegee Board of Trustees members or other white friends and associates, they were watched. Local racially prejudiced whites would “just happen to visit” the campus. These curious (purely nosy) inspectors would peer through dining hall windows to see if whites were eating next to Blacks. At one point, plans were made to construct a below ground, no windows dining room to address this problem, though the plans were cancelled.

Recently Tuskegee hosted an incredible group of 10 from our Common Ground-Sister City, South Berwick family. We, both white and Black, fellowshipped together, conversed together, toured together, attended church together, marched in the 2024 Selma bridge crossing together, and yes, we “broke bread” together many times. I’m sure the early Tuskegee white “inspectors” would have had heart attacks viewing our disgraceful actions!

We had an excellent training for local youth workers at the TEARS Youth Home by David, the first person I met from Maine, who has an extensive background in youth programs. This was followed by walking and driving tours of Tuskegee.

This was a great time for sharing our history. Mike, a South Berwick engineer and architect, was thrilled to examine the Tuskegee University Chapel designed by Paul Rudolph in 1969.  Mike shared his college memories of Rudolph as a teacher.

In Selma’s crowd, we enjoyed talking with people about our Sister City relationship. Encouraged by Selma’s large attendance of high school and college youth, Amy, Mike and I were excited to join Tuskegee WUBZ Radio’s D.J. Booty Rush, encouraging people to vote in the Super Tuesday election as an extension of our 2020 “Together We Vote!” project.

Common Ground grows as we talk and get to know each other because together we are stronger.

Concerning Booker T. Washington dining at the White House, the Broad Axe newspaper in St. Paul, Minn., on October 24, 1901, read: “It is a pity that the South should presume to take exceptions to the fact that President Roosevelt invited a man of brains to his table, and that the objections rest solely on the fact that he is black.

“It is not Washington who is black - it is his skin. His brains are not black. His work is not black. His morals are not black. His reputation is not black. His manhood is of the highest type and if he was not fit to dine at the table of the President, then there are very few white men who would be fit.”

Amy and Guy can be reached at

This article originally appeared on Portsmouth Herald: Commentary: Walking toward justice on Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma