US

Landmark bridge at center of Obama visit to Selma named for reputed Ku Klux Klan leader

  • FILE - In this March 21, 1965 file photo, civil rights marchers cross the Alabama river on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Ala. to the State Capitol of Montgomery. The Edmund Pettus Bridge gained instant immortality as a civil rights landmark when white police beat demonstrators marching for black voting rights 50 years ago this week in Selma, Alabama. What’s less known is that the bridge is named for a reputed leader of the early Ku Klux Klan. Now, a student group wants to rename the bridge that will be the backdrop when President Barack Obama visits Selma on March 7, 2015.  (AP Photo/File)

    FILE - In this March 21, 1965 file photo, civil rights marchers cross the Alabama river on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Ala. to the State Capitol of Montgomery. The Edmund Pettus Bridge gained instant immortality as a civil rights landmark when white police beat demonstrators marching for black voting rights 50 years ago this week in Selma, Alabama. What’s less known is that the bridge is named for a reputed leader of the early Ku Klux Klan. Now, a student group wants to rename the bridge that will be the backdrop when President Barack Obama visits Selma on March 7, 2015. (AP Photo/File)  (The Associated Press)

  • FILE - In this March 21, 1965 file photo, Martin Luther King, Jr. and his civil rights marchers cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Ala., heading for capitol, Montgomery, during a five day, 50 mile walk to protest voting laws. The Edmund Pettus Bridge gained instant immortality as a civil rights landmark when white police beat demonstrators marching for black voting rights 50 years ago this week in Selma, Alabama. What’s less known is that the bridge is named for a reputed leader of the early Ku Klux Klan. Now, a student group wants to rename the bridge that will be the backdrop when President Barack Obama visits Selma on Saturday, March 7, 2015.  (AP Photo/File)

    FILE - In this March 21, 1965 file photo, Martin Luther King, Jr. and his civil rights marchers cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Ala., heading for capitol, Montgomery, during a five day, 50 mile walk to protest voting laws. The Edmund Pettus Bridge gained instant immortality as a civil rights landmark when white police beat demonstrators marching for black voting rights 50 years ago this week in Selma, Alabama. What’s less known is that the bridge is named for a reputed leader of the early Ku Klux Klan. Now, a student group wants to rename the bridge that will be the backdrop when President Barack Obama visits Selma on Saturday, March 7, 2015. (AP Photo/File)  (The Associated Press)

  • FILE - In this March 5, 1994 file photo, U.S. Rep. Cynthia McKinney, D-Ga.; SCLC President Joseph Lowery; Evelyn Lowery; Coretta Scott King, U.S. Rep. Eve Clayton,-D-N.C.; and Marie Foster cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Ala., to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the Selma-to-Montgomery civil rights march. The Edmund Pettus Bridge gained instant immortality as a civil rights landmark when white police beat demonstrators marching for black voting rights 50 years ago this week in Selma, Alabama. What’s less known is that the bridge is named for a reputed leader of the early Ku Klux Klan. Now, a student group wants to rename the bridge that will be the backdrop when President Barack Obama visits Selma on Saturday.(AP photo/Dave Martin, File)

    FILE - In this March 5, 1994 file photo, U.S. Rep. Cynthia McKinney, D-Ga.; SCLC President Joseph Lowery; Evelyn Lowery; Coretta Scott King, U.S. Rep. Eve Clayton,-D-N.C.; and Marie Foster cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Ala., to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the Selma-to-Montgomery civil rights march. The Edmund Pettus Bridge gained instant immortality as a civil rights landmark when white police beat demonstrators marching for black voting rights 50 years ago this week in Selma, Alabama. What’s less known is that the bridge is named for a reputed leader of the early Ku Klux Klan. Now, a student group wants to rename the bridge that will be the backdrop when President Barack Obama visits Selma on Saturday.(AP photo/Dave Martin, File)  (The Associated Press)

When the nation's first black president steps onto the Edmund Pettus Bridge this weekend to honor the marchers beaten there 50 years ago, he'll be standing on a structure that's at once synonymous with the civil rights struggle and a tribute to a reputed Ku Klux Klan leader.

Now a student group wants to rename the bridge that will serve as backdrop when President Barack Obama visits Selma on Saturday.

An online petition launched by the Selma-based Students UNITE says the well-known landmark shouldn't continue honoring Confederate Gen. Edmund Winston Pettus.

Although some historians question claims that Pettus was grand dragon of the Alabama KKK after the Civil War in the 1870s, that's how the Encyclopedia of Alabama describes him.