Category: Race in Alabama
The death of George Floyd at the hands of law enforcement sparked police reform efforts and organizing all over the country. But in the birthplace of the civil rights movement, there hasn’t been as much action. Read more.
Community activists in Birmingham called for police reform at a vigil Tuesday evening as they marked the first anniversary of the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. A few dozen people gathered at Kelly Ingram Park to remember the life of Floyd and other Black people killed by police. Aside from police reform, speakers also called for resources to be directed away from traditional law enforcement operations. Read more.
On April 9, 2020, the Etz Chayim Synagogue in Huntsville was defaced with antisemitic graffiti. The following day, the Chabad of Huntsville was vandalized with similar hate speech. Security footage taken from both scenes indicates the same perpetrator committed both crimes. Given that they took place on the first night of the Jewish holiday Passover, the crimes are thought to be meticulously planned and executed with one purpose: to send a message of hate to the Jewish community.
Mayor Tommy Battle released a statement to the public saying “the city of Huntsville condemns antisemitism in the strongest possible terms” and emphasized Huntsville as a city of inclusivity and acceptance. “Any offense against one is an offense against all,” Battle said.
The case has since been handed over to the FBI, and no perpetrator has been caught.
Despite these attacks against the Jewish community the state of Alabama has reported zero hate crimes to the FBI’s annual Unified Crime Report for the past two years in a row. It is the only state in the country that has reported zero hate crimes.
“It is highly implausible that in 2019 or 2018, no hate crimes were committed in Alabama. Of the over 417 law enforcement agencies in the state, only two actually participated in the 2019 reporting process to the FBI, which is deeply troubling and undoubtedly means that many hate crimes have gone unreported,” said Dr. Allison Padilla-Goodman, vice president of the Anti-Defamation League’s Southern Division. Read more.
Alabamians are mourning the death of lifelong civil rights activist Eileen Walbert, a white woman who made fighting for racial equality her life’s work.
She and her husband Jim moved to Homewood in the late 40s. Born in Virginia in 1920, Walbert was aware of the racial tensions between Blacks and whites but moving to the deep south was different.
“She didn’t see the swastikas when she arrived here, but she saw the colored and white signs which represented the swastikas,” said historian Horace Huntley.
Huntley, former leader of the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute’s oral history project, said Walbert was determined to challenge the racial inequalities of Birmingham and her Homewood neighborhood.
Walbert and her husband befriended a couple who were refugees from Europe during World War II. Soon after, the couple introduced the Walbert’s to the Civil Rights Movement.
Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin described the Jan. 6 Capitol insurgency as a time when people “identified themselves as white supremacists,” which he said the country must acknowledge.
“To move the country forward, we have to acknowledge the pain it caused, have accountability and move forward,” he said during a livestreamed interview with Karen Attiah, global opinions editor for the Washington Post.
Montgomery Mayor Steven Reed described the insurrectionists as people who felt they could get close enough to use deadly force. The terrorists exhibited “a level of privilege, entitlement and outright brazenness,” he added.
The two black mayors, whose cities represent the cradle and battlegrounds of the Civil Rights movement from the 1950s to the present day, were interviewed during a Facebook Live event by Karen Attiah, the global opinions editor of the Washington Post, on Friday, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday. Read more.
“Down Along With That Devil’s Bones: A Reckoning With Monuments, Memory, and the Legacy of White Supremacy,” by Connor Towne O’Neill (Algonquin Books)
Earlier this year when the city of Birmingham removed the Confederate Soldiers and Sailors Monument from Linn Park, the action was part of a broad nationwide discussion on the place of Confederate symbols in our culture and who decides how and where those symbols are displayed.
Connor Towne O’Neill, who teaches in the English Department at Auburn University and produces the National Public Radio podcast White Lie, has achieved every nonfiction author’s dream. He began researching a book five years ago that is now being published and could not be more relevant to this moment.
Race in America is too big a topic to take in a single bite. O’Neill chose to examine a more narrow but telling slice. “Down Along With That Devil’s Bones” is a travelogue of race and racial tensions that explores the topic through the life and legacy of one of the Confederacy’s most popular figures, Nathan Bedford Forrest. Read more.
Slaves in Alabama could thank their masters for providing them with one of the earliest versions of social security, according to a ninth grade textbook used for more than a decade in public schools.
The textbook — Charles Grayson Summersell’s “Alabama History for Schools” — dismissed realities of slavery, glorified the Confederacy and defended deeds of the Ku Klux Klan.
Summersell’s textbook was the ninth grade companion to Frank L. Owlsey’s “Know Alabama,” written for fourth graders. In addition to repeating much of the same Lost Cause ideology, the two esteemed authors shared similar career paths, which included serving as chair of the history department at the University of Alabama. They influenced tens of thousands of grammar-school children, high school and college students, and professors.
Both authors also drew from predecessors such as Alabama history textbook writers L.D. Miller, Albert B. Moore, L. Lamar Matthews and others for a now-disputed version of history repeated for about seven decades.
Teachers were still using Owsley’s and Summersell’s books after classrooms were widely integrated in the late 1960s, and they continued to use revised editions well into the 1970s. The later editions toned down the contention that slaves were mostly happy and contented. Read more.
More about textbooks with pro-slavery messages used to teach Alabama students.
Textbook ‘Know Alabama’ Justified Slavery, Praised Confederacy to Schoolchildren
The year was 1961.
As the Freedom Riders crossed the South in their fight for civil rights, schoolchildren in Alabama were reading about the bright side of slavery and the contributions of the Ku Klux Klan.
They were taught these lessons from “Know Alabama,” the standard fourth-grade history textbook in the state’s public schools. The book informed baby boomers and Generation Xers from the mid-1950s through the 1970s. Some of those students became the teachers who taught subsequent generations.
Both white and Black children were instructed from “Know Alabama” that plantation life was a joyous time and slaves were generally contented. They read that Confederates were brave heroes, and Reconstruction was a terrible time when carpetbaggers, scalawags and illiterate Blacks corrupted the state.
Today, with factions across Alabama caught up in a clash over the meaning of Confederate monuments and symbols, many are debating the true history of the South. Is it the version that Black Lives Matter protesters shout in the public square or the story taught in Southern schools during and after the fight over segregation?
The “Right to Breathe Caravan” toured several north Birmingham neighborhoods Saturday, calling for environmental and racial justice in communities that have faced decades of industrial pollution. Read more.
The Alabama Legislature adjourned in 1900 so the United Daughters of the Confederacy could convene its national convention in the state Capitol.
The women sat just steps away from the spot where Confederate President Jefferson Davis took the oath of office 39 years before.
“You stand before the world the living witness that the past is not dead, but all in it that was good and great and true still lives and has its worshipers,” Marielou Armstrong Cory told the UDC in her opening address. “To you the selfsame welcome of the heart goes out as went that day to Jefferson Davis, the martyr chieftain of our sacred cause.”
That sacred cause — or Lost Cause — is a legacy of the UDC that critics say amounts to whitewashing the history of a slave-owning South.
Today, hundreds of UDC Confederate monuments are under attack as Black Lives Matter activists target them in protests against the killings of unarmed black men by white police officers. While monuments endure until a mob or mechanized crane removes them, historians and academics say the UDC holds a more lasting and insidious influence over generations of minds in the South.