The marchers are long gone from Selma, Ala. The poverty persists.

On March 7, 1965, civil rights marchers were viciously beaten by Alabama state troopers as they protested for the right to vote in Selma, Ala. The nightmarish images of Bloody Sunday, as it came to be known, were broadcast around the world and proved to be a turning point in the fight for civil rights. Just months later, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act, a landmark bill that prohibited racial discrimination in voting.

But winning the right to vote wasn’t enough to spare Selma from the social and economic ills that have driven the community and others like it across small-town America into desperation. Five decades later, the town that made history has seemingly been left behind by it. Stung by the loss of jobs and industry, Selma is one of the poorest communities in the country, its neighborhoods scarred by horrific blight. More than 41 percent of the town lives below the poverty level, according to the U.S. Census, more than three times the national average. The share of children under 18 living in poverty is nearly 60 percent.

The state of affairs in Selma is perhaps a testament to the unfulfilled promise of Martin Luther King Jr., who had shifted his focus to the struggles of the poor and of rural America in the final months of his life. King called his new movement the Poor People’s Campaign, and he envisioned people of all races uniting to demand a living wage and better access to education and health care. He also wanted to pressure state and federal leaders into doing more to encourage economic development in rural America—not just by creating jobs but also ensuring that communities had access to basic amenities like grocery stores and hospitals.

Fifty years after King’s assassination, a new Poor People’s Campaign recently launched. One of its first rallies was held in Selma.

Text and photography by Holly Bailey/Yahoo News

Read more of Holly’s story from Selma >>>

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<p>A sign advertising “prayer mile” on Highway 80 outside Selma, Ala., the route taken by participants in the 1965 Selma to Montgomery freedom march. (Photo: Holly Bailey/Yahoo News) </p>
Poverty stricken Selma, Alabama

A sign advertising “prayer mile” on Highway 80 outside Selma, Ala., the route taken by participants in the 1965 Selma to Montgomery freedom march. (Photo: Holly Bailey/Yahoo News)

<p>Selma, Ala. (Photo: Holly Bailey/Yahoo News) </p>
Poverty stricken Selma, Alabama

Selma, Ala. (Photo: Holly Bailey/Yahoo News)

<p>An empty building in downtown Selma, Ala. (Photo: Holly Bailey/Yahoo News) </p>
Poverty stricken Selma, Alabama

An empty building in downtown Selma, Ala. (Photo: Holly Bailey/Yahoo News)

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<p>A home in Selma, Ala., where roughly 41 percent of the population lives below the poverty level. (Photo: Holly Bailey/Yahoo News) </p>
Poverty stricken Selma, Alabama

A home in Selma, Ala., where roughly 41 percent of the population lives below the poverty level. (Photo: Holly Bailey/Yahoo News)

<p>Selma, Ala. (Photo: Holly Bailey/Yahoo News) </p>
Poverty stricken Selma, Alabama

Selma, Ala. (Photo: Holly Bailey/Yahoo News)

<p>Selma, Ala. (Photo: Holly Bailey/Yahoo News) </p>
Poverty stricken Selma, Alabama

Selma, Ala. (Photo: Holly Bailey/Yahoo News)

<p>Selma, Ala. (Photo: Holly Bailey/Yahoo News) </p>
Poverty stricken Selma, Alabama

Selma, Ala. (Photo: Holly Bailey/Yahoo News)

<p>The Edmund Pettus Bridge in downtown Selma, Ala., where voting rights marchers were attacked by law endorsement on Bloody Sunday in 1965. (Photo: Holly Bailey/Yahoo News) </p>
Poverty stricken Selma, Alabama

The Edmund Pettus Bridge in downtown Selma, Ala., where voting rights marchers were attacked by law endorsement on Bloody Sunday in 1965. (Photo: Holly Bailey/Yahoo News)

<p>An abandoned home in Selma, Ala., where roughly 41 percent of the population lives below the poverty level. (Photo: Holly Bailey/Yahoo News) </p>
Poverty stricken Selma, Alabama

An abandoned home in Selma, Ala., where roughly 41 percent of the population lives below the poverty level. (Photo: Holly Bailey/Yahoo News)

<p>Boys walk down an alley behind abandoned businesses in downtown Selma, Ala. (Photo: Holly Bailey/Yahoo News) </p>
Poverty stricken Selma, Alabama

Boys walk down an alley behind abandoned businesses in downtown Selma, Ala. (Photo: Holly Bailey/Yahoo News)

<p>An empty storefront in downtown Selma, Ala. (Photo: Holly Bailey/Yahoo News) </p>
Poverty stricken Selma, Alabama

An empty storefront in downtown Selma, Ala. (Photo: Holly Bailey/Yahoo News)

<p>A cat sits on the gravesite of a Confederate soldier in a cemetary in Selma, Ala. (Photo: Holly Bailey/Yahoo News) </p>
Poverty stricken Selma, Alabama

A cat sits on the gravesite of a Confederate soldier in a cemetary in Selma, Ala. (Photo: Holly Bailey/Yahoo News)

<p>Selma, Ala. (Photo: Holly Bailey/Yahoo News) </p>
Poverty stricken Selma, Alabama

Selma, Ala. (Photo: Holly Bailey/Yahoo News)

<p>A gas station converted into a church in Selma, Ala. (Photo: Holly Bailey/Yahoo News) </p>
Poverty stricken Selma, Alabama

A gas station converted into a church in Selma, Ala. (Photo: Holly Bailey/Yahoo News)

<p>Selma, Ala. (Photo: Holly Bailey/Yahoo News) </p>
Poverty stricken Selma, Alabama

Selma, Ala. (Photo: Holly Bailey/Yahoo News)

<p>Mannequins in a store window in downtown Selma, Ala., where many storefronts are empty. (Photo: Holly Bailey/Yahoo News) </p>
Poverty stricken Selma, Alabama

Mannequins in a store window in downtown Selma, Ala., where many storefronts are empty. (Photo: Holly Bailey/Yahoo News)

<p>A statue of a ghost on display in downtown Selma, Ala. (Photo: Holly Bailey/Yahoo News) </p>
Poverty stricken Selma, Alabama

A statue of a ghost on display in downtown Selma, Ala. (Photo: Holly Bailey/Yahoo News)

<p>An abandoned building in Selma, Ala. (Photo: Holly Bailey/Yahoo News) </p>
Poverty stricken Selma, Alabama

An abandoned building in Selma, Ala. (Photo: Holly Bailey/Yahoo News)

<p>A hamburger is painted on the side of a boarded-up restaurant in downtown Selma, Ala. (Photo: Holly Bailey/Yahoo News) </p>
Poverty stricken Selma, Alabama

A hamburger is painted on the side of a boarded-up restaurant in downtown Selma, Ala. (Photo: Holly Bailey/Yahoo News)

<p>An abandoned church in Selma, Ala., where roughly 41 percent of the population lives below the poverty level. (Photo: Holly Bailey/Yahoo News) </p>
Poverty stricken Selma, Alabama

An abandoned church in Selma, Ala., where roughly 41 percent of the population lives below the poverty level. (Photo: Holly Bailey/Yahoo News)

<p>A handmade sign for a beauty salon in Selma, Ala. (Photo: Holly Bailey/Yahoo News) </p>
Poverty stricken Selma, Alabama

A handmade sign for a beauty salon in Selma, Ala. (Photo: Holly Bailey/Yahoo News)

<p>Selma, Ala. (Photo: Holly Bailey/Yahoo News) </p>
Poverty stricken Selma, Alabama

Selma, Ala. (Photo: Holly Bailey/Yahoo News)

<p>A boarded-up storefront in downtown Selma, Ala., where roughly 41 percent of the population lives below the poverty level. (Photo: Holly Bailey/Yahoo News) </p>
Poverty stricken Selma, Alabama

A boarded-up storefront in downtown Selma, Ala., where roughly 41 percent of the population lives below the poverty level. (Photo: Holly Bailey/Yahoo News)

<p>A mural honoring Selma’s history in the civil rights movement on the side of an abandoned building in downtown. (Photo: Holly Bailey/Yahoo News) </p>
Poverty stricken Selma, Alabama

A mural honoring Selma’s history in the civil rights movement on the side of an abandoned building in downtown. (Photo: Holly Bailey/Yahoo News)

<p>Selma, Ala. (Photo: Holly Bailey/Yahoo News) </p>
Poverty stricken Selma, Alabama

Selma, Ala. (Photo: Holly Bailey/Yahoo News)

<p>An abandoned house in Selma, Ala., where roughly 41 percent of the population lives below the poverty level. (Photo: Holly Bailey/Yahoo News) </p>
Poverty stricken Selma, Alabama

An abandoned house in Selma, Ala., where roughly 41 percent of the population lives below the poverty level. (Photo: Holly Bailey/Yahoo News)

<p>A “for sale ” sign on an empty building in downtown Selma, Ala. (Photo: Holly Bailey/Yahoo News) </p>
Poverty stricken Selma, Alabama

A “for sale ” sign on an empty building in downtown Selma, Ala. (Photo: Holly Bailey/Yahoo News)

<p>A cat wanders past an abandoned house in Selma, Ala. (Photo: Holly Bailey/Yahoo News) </p>
Poverty stricken Selma, Alabama

A cat wanders past an abandoned house in Selma, Ala. (Photo: Holly Bailey/Yahoo News)

<p>A boarded-up storefront on the main strip in downtown Selma, Ala. (Photo: Holly Bailey/Yahoo News) </p>
Poverty stricken Selma, Alabama

A boarded-up storefront on the main strip in downtown Selma, Ala. (Photo: Holly Bailey/Yahoo News)

<p>Selma, Ala. (Photo: Holly Bailey/Yahoo News) </p>
Poverty stricken Selma, Alabama

Selma, Ala. (Photo: Holly Bailey/Yahoo News)

<p>A broken bench outside an abandoned store front in downtown Selma, Ala. (Photo: Holly Bailey/Yahoo News) </p>
Poverty stricken Selma, Alabama

A broken bench outside an abandoned store front in downtown Selma, Ala. (Photo: Holly Bailey/Yahoo News)

<p>Selma, Ala. (Photo: Holly Bailey/Yahoo News) </p>
Poverty stricken Selma, Alabama

Selma, Ala. (Photo: Holly Bailey/Yahoo News)

<p>Selma, Ala. (Photo: Holly Bailey/Yahoo News) </p>
Poverty stricken Selma, Alabama

Selma, Ala. (Photo: Holly Bailey/Yahoo News)

<p>A Confederate flag near a grave at a Confederate cemetary in Selma, Ala. (Photo: Holly Bailey/Yahoo News) </p>
Poverty stricken Selma, Alabama

A Confederate flag near a grave at a Confederate cemetary in Selma, Ala. (Photo: Holly Bailey/Yahoo News)

<p>A boarded-up home in Selma, Ala., where roughly 41 percent of the population lives below the poverty level. (Photo: Holly Bailey/Yahoo News) </p>
Poverty stricken Selma, Alabama

A boarded-up home in Selma, Ala., where roughly 41 percent of the population lives below the poverty level. (Photo: Holly Bailey/Yahoo News)

<p>A 1965 photo of Martin Luther King Jr and other leaders behind President Lyndon B. Johnson as he signed the 1965 Voting Rights Act is displayed behind a shattered window in downtown Selma, Ala. (Photo: Holly Bailey/Yahoo News) </p>
Poverty stricken Selma, Alabama

A 1965 photo of Martin Luther King Jr and other leaders behind President Lyndon B. Johnson as he signed the 1965 Voting Rights Act is displayed behind a shattered window in downtown Selma, Ala. (Photo: Holly Bailey/Yahoo News)

<p>The crumbling shell of an old grocery store in Selma, Ala., where roughly 41 percent of the population lives below the poverty level. (Photo: Holly Bailey/Yahoo News) </p>
Poverty stricken Selma, Alabama

The crumbling shell of an old grocery store in Selma, Ala., where roughly 41 percent of the population lives below the poverty level. (Photo: Holly Bailey/Yahoo News)

<p>Selma, Ala. (Photo: Holly Bailey/Yahoo News) </p>
Poverty stricken Selma, Alabama

Selma, Ala. (Photo: Holly Bailey/Yahoo News)

<p>Selma, Ala. (Photo: Holly Bailey/Yahoo News) </p>
Poverty stricken Selma, Alabama

Selma, Ala. (Photo: Holly Bailey/Yahoo News)

<p>A memorial to Martin Luther King, Jr., outside the historic Brown Chapel church in Selma, Ala. (Photo: Holly Bailey/Yahoo News) </p>
Poverty stricken Selma, Alabama

A memorial to Martin Luther King, Jr., outside the historic Brown Chapel church in Selma, Ala. (Photo: Holly Bailey/Yahoo News)

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