The Decline of Selma by Riley Ries

Having grown up in a small, rural town and having spent a great deal of time in other small, much more rural towns, over the course of my lifetime I have witnessed first-hand the effects of urbanization to American communities. In the past half century, as the cost of living has risen, as new employment and lifestyle opportunities have surfaced to replace traditional ones, small communities have simply dried up. Families have moved away from the homes where their families had resided for decades because their once thriving communities lost businesses and other sources of employment and economic prosperity as a result of other families leaving en masse. For example, the once thriving town of Garrison, Iowa has been reduced to little more than a collection of houses, a volunteer fire department, and a seed supplier as a result of its once thriving community disappearing. This same cause and effect can be observed in the decline of Selma, Alabama over the last fifty years. Following the Civil Rights Movement, the Craig Air Force Base and the mills of Selma were forced to close due to rising costs which out-weighed the benefits of their existence. As a result, the community lost thousands of jobs, thousands of sources of livelihood for hundreds of families. With these jobs, left all of the money that they indirectly contributed to Selma Buildingsthe local economy, which in turn forced local businesses to close and move to other more prosperous regions of Alabama and the United States. Many of these businesses were owned by white members of the community, thus this mass exodus of whites from Selma, and many other southern black towns and cities, has been dubbed “white flight.” Thus Selma, a once thriving and beautiful river town, today appears dilapidated and run down. If it weren’t for the constant bustle of cars across the Edmund Pettus Bridge, one could look at some of the city’s buildings and mistake it for a completely abandoned city. In fact, the bridge, a major landmark of the Civil Rights Movement, is really the town’s only source of notoriety, the only thing which distinguishes it from other American cities, the only thing which provides incentive for outsiders to visit the city. If the city wants to survive, wants to avoid suffering the same fate as many other small communities in the United States, it needs to provide more incentive not only for tourists to come the city, but also for families and job seekers. If the city of Selma were to rejuvenate its buildings, infrastructure, and business, they could easily capitalize on tourism in addition to that which comes to see the Edmund Pettus Bridge. This in turn could provide the spark needed to bring more permanent residents to the dying city, who with them could bring larger, more stable industry. Selma, Alabama is a beautiful soutSt. James Hotelhern town, with a history that is rich and truly unique. However, if its people want to preserve the city and its heritage, they must look past their iconic bridge and look towards their once beautiful city and realize the potential it has for a prosperous future.



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