Robert Gardner Farm
This is the location of the third campsite used by the participants of the Selma to Montgomery March after their third day of marching on March 23, 1965. Prior to the march the activists and their leaders prearranged locations for the marchers to rest overnight during their 54 mile trek. Robert Gardner was the third sympathetic landowner to welcome the marchers to spend the night on his farm after David Hall and Rosie Steele. Although they were three days into their walk, the marchers still had two days left until they reached the Alabama State Capitol in Montgomery. The kindness of Hall, Steele, and Gardner allowed the marchers to prepare themselves mentally and physically to continue their fight for voting rights. Like the other campsites, this farm is located along Highway 80 and is part of the Selma to Montgomery National Historic Trail.
Backstory and Context
Between March 21-25, 1965, voting rights activists in Alabama had embarked on their third march of the month. The first march ended when violence erupted at the Edmund Pettus Bridge on March 7 as the activists attempted to cross it; the activists attempted to cross the bridge a second time on March 9 but the marchers were blocked by the police once again. The distribution of news footage of the violence that occurred on March 7 and the report that someone had killed a minister after the second march, turned national attention to the voting rights struggle. After the violence of the first two attempted marches, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. called on the nation to come to Alabama to support their cause. In response, thousands of people, black and white, came to Alabama to participate in the march.
Along with the prearranged campsites, the marchers were guaranteed federal protection as they began this third march. After the violence of the other two marches, King saw a need to seek assistance from the federal government if he wanted the marchers to make it to Montgomery. In exchange for protection, the federal government would only allow a certain number of marchers to enter Montgomery. King made this one concession. This time the marchers crossed the Edmund Pettus bridge and were concluding day three of the march when they arrived at the Gardner Farm after travelling approximately between 10 and 12 miles that day. The following night the marchers would stay at the City of St. Jude. Robert Gardner’s farm, as well as the other campsites can be located along Highway 80 to this day.
On day five of the march, the limited number of marches made it to Montgomery after walking a total of 54 miles from Selma. On the steps of the capital, Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his “How Long, Not Long” speech in which he recalled the African American’s struggles throughout history. Months later on August 6 President Johnson passed the Voting Rights Act of 1965. These two achievements signified a shift in the African American’s history from a one of struggle to one of victory.
"Selma to Montgomery National Historic Trail Alabama." nps.gov. Accessed on November 15, 2017. https://www.nps.gov/nr/travel/cultural_diversity/Selma_to_Montgomery_National_Historic_Trail.html