The Queen City – unofficially

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, January 24, 2006

The Selma Times-Journal

Like most U.S. cities, Selma has its share of catchy nicknames – hip and traditional.

“Most people I know abbreviate it after the first three letters,” said resident Anthony Hill. “The S-E-L…Sel-Town.”

“I always thought it was the Queen City,” said Joanne Bland, director of the National Voting Rights Museum and Institute. “That’s what I read in the history books.”

The Queen City is deemed as Selma’s unofficial, but official nickname. The city’s official Web site, www.selmaalabama.com, refers to Selma as the “Queen City of the Black Belt” – citing its prominent role in history.

In 1819, future U.S. Vice President William Rufus King and Dr. George Phillips bought 460 acres of land along the Alabama River known as Moore’s Bluff. They renamed the land Selma – meaning high seat or throne – after the royal fortress described in William MacPherson’s Songs of Ossian, according to the 1989 Alston Fitts book, “Selma: Queen City of the Black Belt.”

The city’s royal stature was evident during the Civil War era due it its west central location, railroad connections, production facilities and booming economy. The area was home to rich soil that made Dallas County the “leading cotton producing county in the state,” Fitts said.

The author and historian said he used Queen City in the book’s title to emphasize Selma’s “dominant role in the area.”

Fitts mentioned other nicknames Selma has acquired over the years, including Arsenal of the Confederacy, the Central City, the Athens of Alabama and Birthplace of the Voting Rights Movement. He believes Queen City is the safe and obvious choice for Selma’s nickname, saying Arsenal of the Confederacy or Birthplace of the Voting Rights Movement may offend some.

Selma shares the Queen City with Manchester, N.H., Charlotte N.C., and Buffalo N.Y.

Although Bland knows Selma’s nickname, she sees no point in using it.

“I don’t refer to it as the Queen City because the significance of Selma is the word itself,” she said. “Selma is international – everybody knows the word.”