Tag: civil rights

Sewell, Alabama’s Lone Congressional Democrat, Seeks to Strengthen Voting Rights, Defeat Party Infighting

Rep. Terri Sewell, D-Birmingham, the lone Democrat in Alabama’s seven-member congressional delegation, is seeking to grow the party with a two-pronged approach — countering Republican-backed voting restrictions while raising money to protect Democratic incumbents against challenges from the left.

First elected in 2011, Sewell has for four successive congresses introduced legislation to restore much of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, legislation that mandated federal oversight of election laws in areas with a history of racial discrimination. That historic legislation was largely struck down by the Supreme Court in 2013. The court’s ruling that the law’s requirements were outdated  led to state legislatures issuing a ream of voting restrictions in the wake of that decision.

This year, Sewell again introduced the bill, House Resolution 4, newly named the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act in honor of the Alabama-born Georgia congressman and civil rights icon who died last year.
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Calls Continue Urging President Biden to Honor ‘Drum Major for Justice,’ Fred Gray Sr.

Even during a pandemic, you can find 90-year-old Fred Gray Sr. at his law office in Tuskegee. He’s been fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

“He’s still working every day,” Fred Gray Jr. said. “It is not because he has to, but it’s because it’s that fire in his belly and it’s because he still wants to help people.”

Gray Jr. and his dad are partners in their law firm. Gray Jr. said his dad just won’t slow down. In fact he’s currently working on behalf of the Macon County Commission to remove a confederate monument in the heart of downtown Tuskegee.

Gray Jr. said his dad’s drive and tenacity are only part of the reason he should be awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor. 

“His IQ and his work is right up there with men like Thurgood Marshall, Oliver Hill and Wiley Branton,” he said. Read more.

Lighting Up the Night Again

The neon sign for the historic A.G. Gaston Motel was lit Tuesday night in a ceremony marking the end of phase 1 of the site’s restoration. Birmingham Mayor Randall L. Woodfin attended along with representatives from the city and the National Park Service. “The A.G. Gaston motel sign served as a beacon to black families traveling through the segregated South,” Woodfin said. “It’s a sign that will now shine in remembrance of Dr. A.G. Gaston’s legacy – a legacy of black prosperity, equal opportunity, Southern hospitality and freedom.” The motel was used frequently by civil rights leaders such as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as they strategized their campaigns against injustice. Restoration of the 1958 wing of the hotel has been completed. Work to restore the 1968 wing and courtyard is next, with a projected completion date of June 2022. (Photo from City of Birmingham Facebook video)

Remembering Homewood Resident And Civil Rights Activist Eileen Walbert

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. 
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Proposed Center for Birmingham’s Civil Rights District Draws Skepticism

Part of Birmingham’s identity was forged by the civil rights movement. A proposed development would build on that history through an internationally-recognized leadership center. The Global Forum for Freedom and Justice would be a major addition to the Birmingham Civil Rights District. The $40 million proposal is the brainchild of Washington, D.C. philanthropist Wayne Reynolds, and it’s generating skepticism in some parts of the community. WBHM’s Andrew Yeager spoke with Birmingham Business Journal editor Ty West about the plans. Read more.