Tag: Race in Alabama

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?
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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.
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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.
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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.
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Vestiges of Segregation Remain. America Is Fighting Over Them Today.

To understand today’s protests, you have to look at yesterday’s racial inequities, historians say. And you have to realize that, as famously noted by William Faulkner, “the past is never dead. It’s not even past.”

America’s long history of racial inequality explains much about the intense, sometimes violent protests around the country that lately have cast a spotlight on issues of police brutality and lingering vestiges of the segregated past. It goes beyond Confederate monuments and beyond a single killing of an unarmed black man.

“Even though the George Floyd murder was horrendous and absolutely impossible to watch, it shouldn’t blind us to the fact that racial violence has been with us and our country since its inception,” said John Giggie, an associate professor of history and director of the Summersell Center for the Study of the South at the University of Alabama.

“For me, any conversation about George Floyd doesn’t begin yesterday, it doesn’t begin with the civil rights movement. It goes all the way back to when we know at least 17 enslaved Africans arrived at Jamestown in August of 1619. And there we began really an American tradition of unfreedom that has persisted in some vein all the way to the present moment as seen by the recent killings of unarmed black citizens,” Giggie said.

He’s not the only one to connect present day problems with past discrimination.

The issues thread through society.

Schools with high minority populations often are poorer than majority-white schools; buying houses can be more difficult for blacks because of lending practices; health care is not as readily available in some majority black areas; black men are incarcerated in prisons at higher rates than are white men.

This is the first of a series of stories from BirminghamWatch that will explore those legacies of race. Read more.

Conversation Begins Over What White Privilege Means in Society Today

Earlier this month, in response to the ongoing protests over the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police, late night talk show host Jimmy Kimmel delivered a monologue on his new acceptance of the term “white privilege.”

He said he’d rejected the concept because he didn’t understand it. But now, he said, he does.

“People who are white, we don’t have to deal with negative assumptions being made about us based on the color of our skin. It rarely happens, if ever. Whereas black people experience that every day,” Kimmel said.

This is perhaps a sign of how recently he — and American culture at large — have begun to grapple with the concept of “white privilege.” Read more.

Conversation Begins Over What White Privilege Means in Society Today

Earlier this month, in response to the ongoing protests over the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police, late night talk show host Jimmy Kimmel delivered a monologue on his new acceptance of the term “white privilege.”

He said he’d rejected the concept because he didn’t understand it. But now, he said, he does.

“People who are white, we don’t have to deal with negative assumptions being made about us based on the color of our skin. It rarely happens, if ever. Whereas black people experience that every day,” Kimmel said.

This is perhaps a sign of how recently he — and American culture at large — have begun to grapple with the concept of “white privilege.” Read more.

Center Point Woman Leads White Birminghamians for Black Lives

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.

Black Lives Matter Message Rolls Over Downtown Birmingham Street

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.