SELMA, Ala. (AP) — Preservation work has begun on the historic Brown Chapel AME Church, the 113-year-old Selma church that played a pivotal role in the fight for voting rights.
Gov. Kay Ivey, U.S. Rep. Terri Sewell and other officials attended the groundbreaking ceremony Thursday in Selma, The Selma Times-Journal reported. The National Park Service has provided a $1.3 million grant for the church’s restorations and repairs.
Brown Chapel was built in 1908. The restoration work will include electrical work, roof work and cupola repairs.
Sewell said the grant will “ensure that America’s story lives on.”
“This church is a part of America’s history,” Sewell said.
The church and its members played key roles in the marches that helped lead to the passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. The church was the site of preparations for a 1965 march that became known as Bloody Sunday after marchers were beaten on Selma’s Edmund Pettus Bridge. The event galvanized support for the passage of the Voting Rights Act.
The church was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1997, and it is still in use today.
“Bloody Sunday began right here on the steps of this church,” the governor said. She said the church played a key role in the “long march toward the equality” and is a reminder of the bravery of men and women who fought for equal rights.
“The love of Brown Chapel AME Church will forever be shared by our state to the world, to be a representative of doing the right thing even when it can be dangerous,” Ivey said
Ninth Episcopal District Presiding Prelate Bishop Harry Seawright said Brown Chapel remains the standard bearer for the district.
“I call Brown Chapel the mother of our 285 churches,” Seawright said. “It represents the Civil Rights movement.”