But just this week, a billboard was erected within sight of the historic location in memory of a Ku Klux Klan founder Nathan Bedford Forrest.
It has prompted outrage in the Alabama city as many claim it demonstrates underlying racial tensions that linger half a century after the march.
The sign, bearing a portrait of Forrest on horseback and a Confederate flag, stands at the foot of Edmund Pettus Bridge - which is named after a former KKK Grand Wizard.
On the reverse, it reads: 'SelmaPostHerald.com welcomes President Barack Obama And You To Selma.'
Beneath his image, Forrest's rallying cry urging men to frighten their enemies is printed: 'Keep the skeer [scare] on 'em!' Forrest was the first Grand Wizard of the KKK soon after the anti-black group formed in Tennessee in 1866.
According to Andrew Ward, author of the Civil War account River Run Red, Forrest was part of an off-shoot of the clan that opted for violence when they found black people would not voluntarily return to a state of slavery.
'In the spring of 1867,' Ward writes, 'Forrest and his dragoons launched a campaign of midnight parades; "ghost" masquerades; and "whipping" and even "killing Negro voters and white Republicans, to scare blacks off voting and running for office."'
WHO WAS NATHAN BEDFORD FORREST?
Forrest was one of the richest men in the South before America's Civil War. He owned a cotton plantation and numerous slaves, trafficked via his own slave-trading business in Memphis. During the war he was hailed as a 'brilliant strategist' for leading 1,600 Confederate soldiers to attack Fort Pillow in Tennessee. After winning the battle, he selected 200 black soldiers to be slaughtered. All white soldiers were allowed to surrender and survive.
When the war ended, he joined the KKK and became its first leader.
The tribute was erected by the group Friends Of Forrest, run by 'wizardess' Pat Goodwin, who refers to the Selma march as 'the mother of all orgies,' according to the LA Times.
With hours until the Bloody Sunday commemorations begin in Selma, people have taken to social media in outrage at the billboard. One Twitter user wrote: 'Disgusting! Take the billboard down immediately.'
Another said: 'That billboard has to come DOWN. Despicable!'
In a statement to the New York Daily News, Goodwin said: 'That billboard was put there with positive intent to ask people who come to Selma to explore and enjoy our 19th century history.
'Does it say anything in the Constitution where a certain faction of people cannot be offended.'I'm offended by all these people walking around with their pants hanging around their knees.'
During a speech at at South Carolina's Benedict College on Friday, the President also hinted at what he will speak about on Edmund Pettus Bridge tomorrow, which is the 50th anniversary of the 1965 Selma-to-Montgomery march.
He said the commemoration is as much about stirring young people to change as it is about honoring past legends - and about 'the courage of ordinary people doing extraordinary things'.
'Selma is not just about commemorating the past, it's about honoring the legends who helped change this country through your actions today, in the here and now,' Obama said.
'Selma is about the courage of ordinary people doing extraordinary things because they believe they can change the country, they can shape our nation's destiny.
'Selma's about each of us asking ourselves what we can do to make America better. And historically, it's been young people like you who help lead that march.'
He added: 'It was young people who stubbornly insisted on justice', noting that one of the most famous leaders of the Selma march - now Georgia Rep. John Lewis - was just 23 at the time.
'[They] stubbornly refused to accept the world as it is that transformed not just the country but transformed the world,' he concluded.
The visit was Obama's first to South Carolina as President. South Dakota and Utah are now the only states he has not traveled to while in office.
In a radio interview broadcast earlier today, Obama said improving civil rights and liberties with police is an area that 'requires collective action and mobilization'.
Date Posted: Saturday, March 7th, 2015 , Total Page Views: 1374
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