Council’s show of support for Jubilee leaves door open for return of Battle of Selma

Published 9:11 pm Monday, February 19, 2018

A show of support from the Selma City Council last week may have opened the door for a return of the Battle of Selma, which was one of the city’s biggest attractions before being cancelled in 2017 and 2018.

The council voted last week to accept $5,000 from the Jubilee and pledged to pay the bill for the cost of city services. Councilman Michael Johnson, who made the motion during last week’s council meeting, included the Battle of Selma.

“What we do toward the Jubilee, we’ll be doing the same thing toward the Battle of Selma to get that back in the city of Selma and get that back in rotation every year,” Johnson said in an interview last week.

Johnson said the council is looking at using funds allocated for the Brown YMCA, which is funded by the city’s lodging tax, or $17,500 that is budgeted for tourism in Selma Mayor Darrio Melton’s proposed budget.

James Hammonds, president of the April 1865 Society, Inc., which puts on the battle, said he would like to give it another try, but he would like to know how much money the city would contribute.

“At that point, I’d have to take it to my board and say, ‘Okay, can we afford this?’ And then us vote and go one way or another,” he said Monday. “I think they would want to try at least. I cannot speak for all of those folks, but I can speak for myself.

Hammonds said the April 1865 Society took over organizing the battle in 2009.

“When Mayor [George] Evans asked us to take up the mantle of leadership in the Battle of Selma after it had been cancelled by the last group, we had about three months to do it, and we were able to put on one that wasn’t the biggest one in the world, but we were able to do it,” Hammonds said.

But after being cancelled the last two years, Hammonds said it may be a tough effort to bring back.

“It’s a whole lot easier to do that than it is to let it go dead for two years and then try to bring it back. All this is on the assumption on reenactors not having a bad taste in their mouth because they kind of know what went on here,” he said.

Hammonds said reenactors have a schedule they follow, and many of them that once took part in the Battle of Selma maybe have moved on.

“Once you take yourself out of the schedule, people do other things,” Hammonds said. “That’s just life.”

The battle was first cancelled in 2017. Battle organizers were handed a $22,000 bill in January of 2017, just three months out from the event charging for city services. That left organizers with one option: calling off the battle. It was cancelled again in 2018 for the same reason.

Whether there will be a Battle of Selma in 2019 is still an unanswered question, but Hammonds said it is something he is willing to give a chance.