Tag: Race in Alabama
Delena Chappel works to extend a sense of community to her students and other Black women. Read more.
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.
“Dear Denise” follows Lisa McNair’s life in a series of letters to the sister she never met. Lisa recounts her experience growing up in the first generation of African Americans after legal segregation. Read more.
The Colony, Cullman County’s only Black community, has a rich history of resilience and self-made success. Its current residents are working to continue it. 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.
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.
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.