Category: BirminghamWatch

Daughter of Victim in Controversial 1931 Crime Critical of Book on the Subject

Dear Mr. Baggett, I was appalled and saddened by parts of your review of Melanie Morrison’s book, “Murder on Shades Mountain.” Although I commend Ms. Morrison for her quest for racial justice, equality and reconciliation, I was somewhat disturbed that she did not even attempt to interview Nell Williams’ descendants to uncover some larger truths and the

Reading Birmingham: In Birmingham 1931, a Man Went Out for Cornbread, Died in Prison

Murder on Shades Mountain: The Legal Lynching of Willie Peterson and the Struggle for Justice in Jim Crow Birmingham by Melanie S. Morrison (Duke University Press, 2018)

By James L. Baggett

UPDATED: Victim’s daughter challenges book’s view.

Willie Peterson just wanted to pick up some cornbread for supper. On a hot September afternoon in 1931, Peterson boarded a streetcar near his home in the Woodlawn neighborhood of Birmingham and rode to Southside.

After visiting his mother-in-law, Peterson walked up Avenue G (now Seventh Avenue South) toward Beamon’s Café. A slightly built African-American man, Peterson suffered from tuberculous and followed his wife’s instructions not to overexert himself. Before Peterson reached the café, three white people in a car — a man and woman in their 20s and an older woman — stopped and began to question him. As the young man held Peterson at gun point, the young woman said, “Yes, it’s him. I know it’s him.”

When three police officers arrived, they beat and handcuffed Peterson and drove him to jail.

“You’ve got the wrong Negro,” Peterson told the officers. Willie Peterson lived in a time when being the “wrong Negro,” or just any black man in the wrong place at the wrong time, could be deadly.

In this new book, Melanie S. Morrison, a United Church of Christ minister and self-described social justice educator, researches and retells a story she heard as a child in Michigan from her Birmingham-born father. Read more.

Reading Birmingham: An Introduction
Today, BirminghamWatch begins a new feature spotlighting books about Birmingham and Alabama. Read more.

NewsMatch 2017 Raises $4.8M+ in Donations for Nonprofit News

NewsMatch 2017 raised more than $4.8 million from individual donors and a coalition of foundations to support more than 100 local and investigative nonprofit news organizations, including Alabama Initiative for Independent Journalism, which publishes BirminghamWatch.

According to a report from the Institute for Nonprofit News, this makes NewsMatch 2017 the largest-ever grassroots fundraising campaign to support local nonprofit and investigative news.

More than 80 individual donors supported AIIJ/BirminghamWatch during the October-December campaign, the highest number in the organization’s two-year history. These local contributors gave more than $20,000 that is being matched by national foundations to support the organization’s mission of public service journalism on the environment, education, the economy and government for Birmingham and Alabama. Read more.

What to Watch in 2018

2018 promises to be an interesting time, as the Chinese blessing (or curse) goes. Alabama and Birmingham, specifically, will be tackling many issues involving education and school management, jobs and the economy, the environment, crime and, of course, party politics and political leadership, to name a few.

BirminghamWatch asked community leaders and contributors for insight on important issues that are likely to be demanding attention this year. Read what they had to say. Read more.

What news are you watching for in 2018? Visit our Facebook post and tell us in a comment, or send us an email at editor@birminghamwatch.org, and and we might watch it, too. We always want to know what’s important to people in the community.

Birmingham Celebrates Martin Luther King Jr. Day With Marches, History, Service Projects

Martin Luther King Jr. holds a special place in the history of Birmingham. It was here that he wrote the Letter from Birmingham Jail after being arrested during a civil rights march.

King, in conjunction with local civil rights activists, organized the Birmingham campaign, which led to a brutal crackdown by law enforcement, captured the nation’s attention and contributed to passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

That history will be commemorated Monday with a list of events marking Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

At the King statue in Kelly Ingram Park – near sculptures depicting the lunging, snarling dogs released on civil rights marchers praying ministers, children who took part in the protests and many others – a wreath-laying ceremony will be held at 10 a.m.

A march in tribute to King follows at 11 a.m., beginning at the park. Read more.

From Gardendale to Syria: BirminghamWatch Reprises Its Most Interesting Stories of 2017

BirminghamWatch stepped out of the mainstream in 2017 to give you stories that didn’t just recap the news, but also explained how the news was affecting our culture and the people in it.

BW has followed, and continues to follow, arguments for and against Gardendale’s attempts to break away from the county and form its own school system. It has brought you stories of immigrants who have made Alabama their home, of the state’s attempts to improve student performance regardless of high poverty rates in schools, and of the effect the state’s budget decisions are having on the environment.

2017 also was a year of elections, from the culmination of the presidential election with the inauguration of President Donald Trump, to the Birmingham city elections, to the U.S. Senate special election that attracted national attention. BirminghamWatch worked to give voters the information they needed before going to the polls, in addition to delivering that something extra that helped explain the issues, the politics and the ramifications of the elections.

We hope you’ve enjoyed reading BirminghamWatch in 2017, and please continue reading to see what we have in store for 2018! Read more.

2017 Election Coverage

A Big Blue Dot in a Sea of Red. But Jefferson County’s Presidential Vote Tally Masks Deep Community Divisions

From Jefferson County’s Trump Country: “I feel like I’ve been left out a lot.”

Fairness and Safety. Education and Jobs. Similar Worries for Clinton and Trump Voters

 

Birmingham Election Voter Guide

 

U.S. Senate Special Election Voter Guide

U.S. Senate GOP Runoff Voter Guide

U.S. Senate Republican Runoff Voter Guide

Doubling Down: Donate to BirminghamWatch Before Dec. 31 and Double the Power of Your Gift

Dec. 31 is the last day to donate to BirminghamWatch and double the impact of your gift.

Until then, News Match 2017 will match any donation up to $1,000. News Match, a $3 million program to support nonprofit and investigative news organizations, is a collaboration of the Democracy Fund, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. It is the largest grassroots fundraising campaign to support nonprofit news organizations that play a vital role informing the public and holding those in power accountable.

BirminghamWatch, the news reporting arm of the Alabama Initiative for Independent Journalism, was chosen as one of 110 news organizations participating in News Match. Each of the organizations is eligible to receive up to $28,000 in matching money.

“At a time when trust in media is at an all-time low, nonprofit journalism organizations are directly connecting with people to understand their needs and concerns, while providing vital news and information to communities across the nation,” said Jennifer Preston, Knight Foundation vice president for journalism. “This initiative will help news organizations that are imperative to our democracy build resources and widen their supporter base, just when they need it most.” Read more.