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Brush with history: Mural to be dedicated in Selma has Youngstown ties

The mural consists of eight aluminum panels of impressionism art depicting people and events in the 1960s civil rights history of Selma.
Selma mural 03022020
(Image courtesy of Mahoning Valley Sojourn to the Past)

YOUNGSTOWN — A mural funded by Mahoning Valley Sojourn to the Past that depicts civil rights events in Selma, Ala., in the 1960s will be dedicated at noon March 14 in the historic district, one block from the Edmond Pettus Bridge, the site of Bloody Sunday.

Youngstown Early College graduates and current Youngstown State University students Brittany Bailey, Lekeila Houser, Jasmine Macklin and Kira Walker will join Derrick McDowell and Penny Wells, executive director of Mahoning Valley Sojourn to the Past, at the dedication. Sojourn to the Past students travel to Selma each spring as part of their journey to civil rights sites in the South.

The mural, which consists of eight aluminum panels of impressionism art depicting people and events in the 1960s civil rights history of Selma, is on the side of the Selma Welcoming Center on Broad St.

The panels depict:

  • Patricia Blalock, a library director who integrated the Selma Public Library without a court order or demonstration and hired the first African American librarian.
  • John Lewis and Hosea Williams, who led 600 citizens across the Edmond Pettus Bridge in March 1965. They expected to be arrested, not attacked.
  • Amelia Boynton, leader of the Dallas County Voters League, who was beaten unconscious on the Edmond Pettus Bridge on Bloody Sunday.
  • Jimmy Webb, who at 16 years old in 1965, led a group of teenagers to the court house steps to pray a few days after Bloody Sunday and was confronted by a deputy sheriff. Webb responded using the Principles of Nonviolence.
  • The Rev. James Reeb, a Unitarian minister who answered Martin Luther King Jr.’s call for people of faith to come to Selma and was severely beaten two days after Bloody Sunday. He died several days later.
  • Viola Liuzzo, who came to Selma from Detroit after Bloody Sunday. She was shuttling marchers between Montgomery and Selma in her car and was shot in the head and killed by the Ku Klux Klan while driving.
  • Passage of the Voting Rights Act in August, 1965, which resulted in African Americans being able to register to vote for the first time.
  • The 50th Anniversary of Bloody Sunday in March 2015 — President Barack Obama walks across the Edmond Pettus Bridge with Amelia Boynton Robinson in a wheelchair beside him.

Funds for the mural were raised through an anonymous donation, which paid for half of the mural, and donations from Youngstown citizens, who contributed much of the remaining costs at an event at the Tyler Historical Center in February where Joanne Bland, co-founder and former director of the National Civil Rights Museum in Selma, Ala., spoke and the documentary “After Selma” was shown.