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New Book Explores Stories of Early African American Activists in Birmingham

Segregation in the New South: Birmingham, Alabama, 1871-1901 (Louisiana State University Press, 2023) by Carl V. Harris

Birmingham is known around the world as a place where African Americans fought and sometimes died to secure their rights as citizens and dismantle Jim Crow segregation. But Jim Crow did not spring up fully formed, nor was it a system that had always existed. It was the product of a long and tortuous push and pull between blacks seeking justice and whites seeking control.

At its birth in 1871, Birmingham was a Reconstruction-era city, and Birmingham came of age in a time when white Southerners and African American Southerners, many only a few years removed from enslavement, were struggling to find their places in a new post-war racial order. This is the story, and the stories of early African American activists who are largely unknown today, that Carl V. Harris tells in his new book Segregation in the New South: Birmingham, Alabama, 1871-1901.

Harris, who taught history at the University of California, Santa Barbara, died before completing this book. His colleague, W. Elliott Brownlee, edited and finished the manuscript. Harris’ earlier book, Political Power in Birmingham, 1871-1921 (University of Tennessee Press, 1977), was the first scholarly book on Birmingham’s history and it is still indispensable for anyone wanting to understand the political dynamics of Birmingham’s early decades. Read more.

COVID Hospitalizations in Alabama Drop Below 1,000 for First Time in 12 Weeks

The number of COVID-19 patients in Alabama hospitals has fallen below 1,000 for the first time since mid-July as case numbers continue to tumble since the peak from a summer surge of the delta variant.

There were 970 patients being treated for the coronavirus in hospitals around the state on Friday, according to the Alabama Hospital Association. That is the lowest since a total of 957 on July 16, and down by about 66% since the inpatient count reached a peak of 2,890 on Sept. 1.

The Alabama Department of Public Health reported 919 new cases of COVID in its daily update on Saturday. The state averaged 1,097 new cases a day over the past week, almost 77% below the average of 3,962 cases per day on Sept. 8. ADPH has reported 807,479 cases since the pandemic began in March 2020.
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Will Special Session Include Sentencing Reform Measures?

At the very end of the Alabama Legislature’s 2021 Regular Session in May, a slate of four criminal justice bills died before getting a vote in the Senate.

The bills, sponsored by Rep. Jim Hill, R-Moody, received bi-partisan support in the House and looked to be a lock to go to the governor’s desk. But things can get testy between the chambers on the final days of session and they never came up for a final vote.

“Sometimes with these things, you just run out of time,” Hill told Alabama Daily News on Monday.

Now, Hill is prepared to file the bills again in the special session on prison construction, should they fit into Gov. Kay Ivey’s special session plan.
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State House’s COVID-19 Restrictions Eased for Upcoming Special Session

After restricted public access the past two regular legislative sessions, next week’s special session of the Alabama Legislature will largely be free of COVID-19 protocols.

Secretary of the Senate Pat Harris said that people who aren’t vaccinated are asked to wear masks, as is the recommendation of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, but there will be no enforcement of that request.

“We’re asking people to use common sense,” Harris said.

The Senate gallery will again be open to the public, Harris said, but distancing in committee rooms will still be in place.

“We’re not going to pack the hearing rooms,” Harris said. 
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Ivey to Call Special Session on Prisons Sept. 27

UPDATED — Gov. Kay Ivey plans to call lawmakers to Montgomery for a special session on prison construction Sept. 27, she told them in a letter today. “As I have stated before, this is our moment — this Legislature and this administration — to lead our state in a bipartisan manner to solve a problem that has plagued us for decades and that, if not properly addressed, will continue to set us back for decades to come,” Ivey wrote in the letter. Read more.

Animal Shelters in the Gulf South Are Overflowing With Animals

When Alie Dennis laid her eyes on Copper at the Metro Animal Shelter in Tuscaloosa, it was love at first sight. Dennis, a University of Alabama student, came to the shelter in hopes of adopting a dog before her final year of school. After playing with the 3-month-old German shepherd Labrador mix for about an hour, she knew he was the one — asking for a 24-hour hold on the dog to talk the adoption over with her family.

But for Metro Animal Shelter, even 24 hours can be a long time if people are willing to take home a new pet. Last year, shelters in Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi were running out of so-called “pandemic puppies.” Now, they are overflowing with dogs, cats, and even hamsters. Read more.

You Know Delta, but Have You Met Mu and the Rest of the Relatives?

Viruses mutate.

Researchers say there always will be new variant strains of the COVID-19 virus, although all the strains won’t be as deadly as delta.

The delta strain has made COVID more deadly for the unvaccinated. It is responsible for 90% of the 40 million COVID cases in the U.S and the deaths of 648,000 people, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

It spreads much faster and may cause more severe cases than other variants, according to the CDC.

The delta strain is not alone. There are many variants being studied by researchers and scientists.

Last Friday, the World Health Organization added the mu strain to its list of COVID variants of interest. It joins eta, iota, kappa and lambda on the list. Read more.

Early Numbers in Hand, Reapportionment Committee Starts Public Hearings Wednesday

Armed with new information about which districts gained and lost residents, the committee redrawing the Alabama House and Senate, Congressional and board of education maps will begin public hearings Wednesday.

The hearings will be held at community colleges and can be attended in person and observed online. A complete schedule and links can be found here.

Months-long delays in the 2020 gathering of census data has meant lags in getting states their new population numbers, delaying the reapportionment process that happens every 10 years.
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Committee for Recompiling State Constitution Holds Public Hearing, Work to Continue

MONTGOMERY —  The committee charged with making Alabama’s monster constitution more user friendly and less racist is taking written public comments.

Only one speaker attended the public hearing Tuesday at the State House for the committee on recompilation of the constitution, but a two-week period for written comments to be sent to the committee was also approved.

Committee Chair Rep. Merika Coleman, D-Pleasant Grove, said during Tuesday’s meeting that she knows some members of the public could not come because of concerns over COVID-19.

People wishing to submit a comment have until Sept. 7. Those can be sent by email to Othni Lathram, director of the Legislative Services Agency, at
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