The Society’s purpose is the preservation and celebration of Selma and Dallas County’s heritage. It has been in existence since 1971 and has been a 501c(3) non-profit organization since 1974. The Society is self-funded and has approximately 400 members. Membership is open to all, regardless of race, gender or creed.
The Society conducts several very important fund-raising events each year that promote tourism in Selma, including an annual Pilgrimage (37 years), Riverfront Market Day, and the Kenan’s Mill Festival. We also own and operate three historic properties: Heritage Village, the Foundry, and Kenan’s Mill.
The Society (& its subcommittee Riverfront Market Authority) has assisted the City of Selma with enumerable projects over the last 41 years, including but not limited to:
- St. James Hotel – funds for purchase and rehabilitation ($37,000 +) & elevator purchase
- Bienville building (next to the St. James) – funds to purchase ($50,000)
- Historic district survey – provided funds for an update
- Live Oak Cemetery – established a restoration fund for repairs
- Old Town and Riverview Districts – provided matching funds for street signs
- Water Avenue, Sturdivant Hall, Old Live Oak Cemetery, the Old Town Historic District – we nominated these and other local properties to the National Register of Historic Places.
- Public Library & Depot Museum – purchased historic maps and collections
The Society has saved several of the city’s endangered properties and put them back onto the tax rolls, including, but not limited to Grace Hall, the Bridge Tender’s House, and the original Dallas Academy on Mabry Street. We are currently trying to do the same for homes in the Riverview District and on Washington Street.
The Society encourages others to preserve Selma’s historic structures through a plaque program, annual pilgrimages, and charitable contributions. The Temple Mishkan Israel, Brown Chapel AME Church, Old Cahawba Park, and the First Baptist Church on Martin Luther King Street, among others, have received Society funds to help with preservation projects. Community organizations, like the Black Belt African Genealogical & Historical Society, and the Riverview Neighborhood Association, and the Tale Tellin’ Festival were created and/or nurtured within the Society’s administrative framework.