Kathryn Tucker Windham, one of Selma’s renowned storytellers, used to tell ­
people she was twice blessed. The line came from a poem by Jan Struther:
“She was twice blessed. She was happy; She knew it.” In writing this history,
I have been twice blessed. Countless ­ people have helped me along the way,
offering guidance, a home-­cooked meal, a thoughtful rewrite, a memory, or
a willing ear to listen to yet one more story about Selma. This book would
not be without their outpouring of love and support.
I fell in love with Selma over a decade ­ ago, as a second-­year student
at the University of Wisconsin–­ M adison who went south on a civil rights
bus trip. It was the “I Was ­ T here” wall at the National Voting Rights Mu-
seum and Institute on ­ W ater Ave­nue that first got me. As I walked through
the museum’s front door, to the left was a wall plastered with hundreds
of Post-it notes. On ­ these two-­by-­ t wo-­inch pieces of paper, participants in
the voting rights campaign of 1965 had written one sentence about their
contribution: “I cooked food for the marchers,” “I marched from Selma to
Montgomery,” and even “I was a state trooper on Bloody Sunday.” ­Later
that day, Joanne Bland, the museum’s director, guided our tour bus around
Selma, narrating the street corners and buildings with her own stories of
the movement. The week I spent organ­izing the museum’s archives and
learning about the unnamed ­ people who made the movement happen
changed the direction of my life.
I owe my beginnings as a historian to a warm and brilliant community
of scholars at the University of Wisconsin–­ M adison. On that first trip to
Selma, Steve Kantrowitz let me tag along with him and Danielle McGuire
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