Tag: Race in Alabama

Birmingham Activists Remember George Floyd One Year After His Death

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.

A Lack of Hate or Lack of Reporting?: Alabama Has Reported Zero Hate Crimes in the Past Two Years

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.

Alabama Black Mayors Say It’s Time for a New Reconstruction, Lament Capitol Insurrection

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.

Racist Textbooks Endured, Presenting Alternate ‘History’ to Alabama Students for 70 Years

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

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?
Read more.

Daughters of Confederacy Put Up Statues, Indoctrinated Generations, Historians Say

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.
Read more.

Descendants Want to Remove Gadsden’s Emma Sansom Monument

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.
Read more.

Generation After Generation, the Need for Black Parents and Children to Have ‘The Talk’ Continues

Get on the ground. Get on the ground now. I must have been speeding. No, you weren’t speeding. I wasn’t speeding? You didn’t do anything wrong. Then why are you pulling me over? Why am I pulled over? Put your hands where they can be seen. Put your hands in the air. Put your hands up.

— From “Stop and Frisk,” by the Jamaican-American poet Claudia Rankine

Ralph Cook and Grover Dunn were born in the early 1940s, and though they did not know each other until much later, they had some things in common. Both were black, both were raised in Bessemer, both have had long public careers and have been among the first blacks to hold various public posts in what used to be “the Cutoff.”

Being black, Cook and Dunn also had another shared experience – a talk from their parents about how to behave in the presence of the police. That experience is one they hold in common with black children and parents in Alabama and across the country, including black parents nearly half their age, such as Alabama Democratic Party Chairman Chris England.

As adults, Cook and Dunn have had what is commonly referred to as “the talk” with their children and their grandchildren.
“It’s a shame we have to do this,” said Dunn, the assistant tax collector in the Bessemer Division. “But we do it constantly.” Read more.

Protests Over Confederate Monuments Spread to Small Towns Across Alabama

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.
Read more.