As the South Grows: On Fertile Soil

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From her desk at the Selma Center for Nonviolence, Truth & Reconciliation, Executive Director Ainka Jackson can see the Edmund Pettus Bridge stretched across the Alabama River. The bridge carries Highway 80 from Selma upstream to Montgomery across farms so fertile that King Cotton and stolen labor once made Selma the wealthiest city in Alabama. Now, it is among the poorest. In 1965, the bridge was the site of widely broadcasted and morally electrifying moments in the Civil Rights Movement, making it a lasting symbol of the power of nonviolent resistance to oppression. Now Selma suffers from one of the highest crime rates in the country for a city its size.

The Selma Center for Nonviolence, Truth & Reconciliation is going to change that. Its leaders are heirs of the legacy Civil Rights Movement leaders left in Selma. The center trains community organizers, develops young leaders and hosts community conversations about Selma’s path toward what Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. called “the beloved community.”

How can Selma build economic prosperity that is shared by all and not by just a few? How can the rural Black Belt build enough collective power to pursue its own destiny, instead of being dictated to by corporations and political machines hundreds of miles away? These are the questions Jackson, the Center and leaders across the South are trying to answer together.

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April 2017

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Ryan Schlegel, Stephanie Peng



Field/Sector Learning and Evaluation 
Strategy and Evaluation

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