Category: Race in Alabama
A descendant of Emma Sansom said members of Sansom’s family support removing a Confederate monument in Gadsden that memorializes their ancestor.
The statue of Sansom near City Hall has become a target for conflict between Black Lives Matter protesters and counter-protesters. The fray began with national protests over the death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man killed May 25 by a white police officer in Minneapolis.
Sansom is a heroine of Confederate lore for her role in helping rebel Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest capture Union Col. Abel Streight and his brigade in 1863. Streight appeared to have escaped Forrest’s pursuit across north Alabama by crossing and then burning a bridge spanning Black Creek at Gadsden.
Chants of “black lives matter” and “take it down” echo across the courthouse square.
Protesters wave signs and shout their disapproval of an anonymous Confederate soldier, immortalized in monument and towering over them.
This is not Birmingham or Mobile or some other urban center of Alabama with a core population of black residents. This is Florence, tucked away in the remote northwest corner of the state, with a population that is 75% white.
The protests from more populated Southern cities are filtering down to the hinterlands, with people in smaller and sometimes more conservative cities such as Florence, Gadsden, Anniston, Opelika, Jasper, Athens, Selma and Tuskegee showing their support for the Black Lives Matter movement.
Hundreds of people gathered at Birmingham’s Kelly Ingram Park on Friday to commemorate Juneteenth, a celebration of the end of slavery.
Onoyemi Williams is with the group Alabama Rally Against Injustice. She said after weeks of protests and demonstrations, today is a celebration of Black lives.
“Because when you’re at war, you must take the time for self care and celebration,” she said. “We’re celebrating where we’re at so we can prepare for where we have to go.” Read more.
In the wake of the police killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Rayshard Brooks and others, countless white people across the county have experienced a social awakening.
Judy Hand-Truitt isn’t among them.
The 72-year-old Center Point resident has been socially awake from her youth and four years ago established White Birminghamians For Black Lives to protest racial injustice.
The racially mixed group marched regularly at Birmingham’s Kelly Ingram Park until the pandemic made their marches less frequent. Its most recent march was Friday, May 29; its next march will be Friday, June 26. Read more.
Shawn Fitzwater admits he had little hope of his suggestion of a “Black Lives Matter” street mural coming to fruition.
“Really,” the professional painter said today, “not at all.”
But the suggestion from Fitzwater and another individual will likely be a reality by the end of today. Work began Wednesday on the street mural, on First Avenue South between 16th and 17th Streets, where “Black Lives” has been painted in bright yellow paint.
Today, the final word of the phrase is going into place as a second coat is applied to the first two words. The aim is to complete the project in time for Juneteenth festivities in Birmingham. Read more.
DOUBLE SPRINGS — As racial tensions burn across the United States and protesters in the South pressure officials to remove Confederate symbols, all is quiet on this northwestern Alabama front.
No one is trying to tear down what may be the most unusual courthouse monument in the state, a statue called Dual Destiny that features both Confederate and U.S. flags.
Perhaps the design of the monument makes it more palatable to current values. But the lack of conflict also may lie in the fact that only 124 of the county’s estimated 23,968 residents are black.
Roger Hayes, himself serving in a dual role as County Commission chairman and Haleyville barber, said residents are proud of their monument and their heritage of supporting the Union during the Civil War.
The cleanup and restoration of downtown Birmingham continues as more murals are painted on plywood used to secure buildings vandalized almost two weeks ago after a protest.
Saturday morning, people are being invited to the Alabama Theatre, where they can get paint and go around painting their handprints on each of the large murals lining the sidewalks, according to Mary Jean Baker LaMay, one of the organizers of BHAM Cleanup.
The Love mural above, by Véronique Vanblaere, is one of many painted this week, adding to artistry begun after the May 31 demonstration. See the photo display.
Jermaine “FunnyMaine” Johnson, the Birmingham comedian who spoke at a rally in Kelly Ingram Park and told protestors he was headed to Linn Park to “tear something down,” has been charged with inciting a riot after that demonstration escalated into violence and vandalism.
The charge is a Class A misdemeanor, which could carry a jail sentence of up to one year and a fine of up to $6,000. According to media reports, Johnson surrendered to Birmingham police, posted a $500 bond and was not imprisoned.
Emory Anthony, Johnson’s attorney, told reporters that his client was not guilty. Read more.
When Birmingham’s mayor decided to remove a visible symbol of the Confederacy from a park in a state packed with monuments, memorials, plaques and place names honoring the lost cause, it made huge news and sparked a number of reactions.
“It was absolutely appropriate,” said retired Auburn University professor Wayne Flynt. Besides being a recognized authority in Southern history, Flynt counts among his ancestors members of the Confederate military.
His view: it was time for the monument to go. “I applaud the mayor for doing it. I applaud the City Council for supporting it,” Flynt said.
Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin defied state law June 1 when he had the controversial 1905 Confederate Soldiers and Sailors Monument removed from the city’s Linn Park. He promised demonstrators he would have the memorial removed to quell violence after a protest over the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police turned toward destruction of statuary and downtown storefronts.
But there are still a lot of Confederate memorials of various sorts standing around the state of Alabama. More than 40 of the state’s 67 counties have at least one, and some counties have more. Read more.
Memorials to the Confederacy are hardly isolated to the South. In fact, the Montgomery-based Southern Poverty Law Center’s “Whose Heritage” report in 2019 includes a detailed map of such sites. The SPLC documents memorials to the Southern rebellion as distant as Maine, California and Washington — not to mention Washington, D.C. Most, not surprisingly, are clustered throughout the South. Read more.