APR strives to represent all of its listeners at all times. 2013 afforded a singular opportunity to examine the fiftieth anniversary of key events related to the civil rights movement in Alabama.
1963 was marked by the “stand in the school house door” in Tuscaloosa and the bombing at the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, as well as a demonstration that set the tone for 1963 known as the “children’s march.” That protest was rendered iconic by black and white news footage of Negro demonstrators being met with fire hoses and police dogs. Less known is the role of black radio disc jockeys in signaling the students to leave class and protest. The 1963 children’s march gave U.S. television audiences their first view of racial unrest in the South.
APR sought to give life to this event through our series “Civil Rights radio.” The challenge for this particular production was the near total absence of recorded sound from that time. Air check recordings of the Birmingham disc jockeys who signaled the young demonstrators to action were erased or lost in a fire in the mid 1960’s. Even the news footage of the police response with fire hoses and attack dogs was shot without a soundtrack. Six months of research with the Birmingham Radio History Museum, the archives of the Universities of Alabama and Georgia, and the Birmingham Record Collectors Club uncovered what traces of sound that had survived. Also, the young marchers, now in their sixties, were asked during their interviews to reenact their favorite childhood memories of radio personalities like Shelley “The Playboy” Stuart. The result is a vivid portrait of youthful activism which helped set the stage for passage of the Civil Rights Act in 1964.
The APR news team also covered the anniversary of the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing by tracking down one of the survivors of the attack. Reporter Maggie Martin also uncovered letters from prison written by “Dynamite Bob” Chambliss, who was convicted of the attack. Further, APR reported on iconic sites related to the civil rights movement which are now tourist attractions, as well as the story of Hobson City, Alabama’s first all-black city almost wiped out by desegregation, among other stories.
“Remembering 1963” is respectfully submitted for your kind consideration.
CIVIL RIGHTS RADIO PART 1
APRIL 16, 2013
James Stewart: For me, it was just a day of resolve and resolution, and I said ‘sign me up.”
Eloise Gaffney: Well, the first thing I tell them is that I went to jail, and they go ‘Oooh, Grandmama,” and I say well, let me explain…
Washington Booker: It was just…you knew God was on your side. And we knew that it didn’t matter what we were facing. You knew if God was on your side, you’d overcome it.
Pat Duggins: James Stewart, Eloise Gaffney, and Washington Booker are all in their early sixties. They’re all from Birmingham. They’re all African American. And fifty years ago, they made national news..
CBS Radio report fade up…
Anncr: American Airlines presents Douglas Edwards with the late news….
Edwards: In Birmingham, Alabama, the civil rights demonstrators became wholesale today, and police arrested four hundred fifty Negro schoolchildren who played hooky to parade and picket and pray….
Report fades down
Pat Duggins: on May 2, 1963, Stewart, Gaffney, and Booker were among the teenagers who took part in what became known as the “children’s march.” It was a protest against segregation in Birmingham. If you ever saw the film footage of Negro protesters being me with fire hoses and police dogs, that’s it.
CBS fades back up…
Edwards: Police loaded some of the children onto school buses, arrested among them a six year old girl. The Reverend Fred Shuttles worth says the protests will go until we run out of children.”
Music “It’s Alright up” fades up
Pat: Back then, these kids were just kids. Thousands of them were inspired by civil rights leaders like the Reverend Fred Shuttles worth, James Beville, and of course Dr. Martin Luther King, Junior. But, there were other voices too…
Music “It’s Alright” fades back up, then down
“In 1963, songs by Curtis Mayfield and the Impressions were playing on local radio stations. Fats Domino and Little Willie Littlefield had hits as well. If kids in 1963 Birmingham wanted to hear this music, there was one place to go…
Shelley “The Playboy” promo fades up…..then fades down…
Shelley: “I was a broadcaster. And, my audience was what I would call…a vast audience of black and white people.”
Pat: Shelley Stewart is also from Birmingham. This radio show recording you’re hearing is old. It’s from 1985. But Shelley’s career goes back even farther than that, to the late 1950’s and early 60’s. Tapes from that time are hard to find. But, the kids remember. Before the 1963 “children’s march,” Washington Booker remembers Shelley as “The Playboy.”
Booker: Now, how it got that name, I do not know. That is probably an interesting story, but I do not know. He’d call people up like ‘baby Jones in Ensley, you up? you up? You need to get up.’ And, a few minutes Mrs. Jones will call up and say ‘Shelley, what are you doing getting people up at 5 o’clock.”
Gaffney: He did R and B…
Pat: Eloise Gaffney.
Gaffey: But, he had…he had one saying that went ‘Timber! Let it fall!’ Something like that. And, I think that was…I know that was one of the signals.
Pat: The school students who took part in the children’s march talk about these signals a lot. James Stewart…
Stewart: On the radio, Shelley made an announcement that we’re playing this song, and all of us knew that meant this was going to be a day of activity. Even the kids who didn’t go to the meetings. We ran into them every day.
Pat: Just don’t Shelley Stewart about that…
Shelley: Let me know at the start of this conversation that I have never been a civil rights activist of any kind. I want to make that perfectly clear.
Pat: The students who took place in the children’s march might argue that point. Tomorrow, Gaffney, Stewart, and booker talk about what it was like to be teenagers in segregated Birmingham in 1963. That’s in part two of civil rights radio.
CIVIL RIGHTS RADIO PART 2
APRIL 17, 2013
Shelley: Let me know at the start of this conversation that I have never been a civil rights activist of any kind. I want to make that perfectly clear.
Pat: The teenagers who took part in the 1963 children’s march see it differently They relied on signals and code words from Stewart’s radio show to know when the protest would begin. And even Shelley admits he knew firsthand what school kids, both black and white, could do in the race of racism. When he wasn’t on the air, Shelley the playboy played records at dance parties. That included a 1960 event at a Birmingham area hot spot called Don’s teen town
Shelley: About eight hundred kids there that night to witness the performance of “Shelley.” And the Ku Klux Klan showed up that night, and they demanded that the owner of the club, Ray Mahoney, send me out. They said they were going to kill him. The kids became very disturbed, they bolted out of the door and jumped on the Ku Klux. The Birmingham News the next day talked about a racial protest…it was no protest. Those kids, who were all white, jumped on the Ku Klux and gave me an opportunity to get away…
Pat: That was in 1960. But, 1963 the stage was set for Shelley the Playboy and the Children’s March. Segregation in Alabama had reached a tipping point…
FX fade up….
Fade up Fx of Wallace inaugural parade, oath ceremony, fade to inaugural address…
Wallace: In the name of the greatest people who have ever trod this Earth, I draw the line in the dust, and throw down the gauntlet before the feet of tyranny, and I saw segregation now, segregation tomorrow, and segregation forever…. (cheers from crowd)
Gaffney: It was mean, and we lived through it.
Pat: Eloise Gaffney.
Gaffney: And when I tell my kids, they just, they don’t….my children have a hard time believing. And for my grandchildren, it’s really far-fetched. When I say I couldn’t go to Fairpark. You had to go past by Fairpark and see the children playing, and a child asks ‘why can’t I go there?’ And, I’m sure parents then had a hard time answering questions like that.
Pat: On May 2, 1963, Gaffney would take part in the children’s march.
Stewart: My mother….when I was very young, my mother took me to town to the one of stores…
Pat: James Stewart.
Stewart: I had found out, by this time, that the tall water fountains had cold water, and the one next to it, the porcelain white basin types, had warm water. There was stool in front of the tall one, so I got up on the stool to get a drink of water, a drink of cold water, and my mother just came out of nowhere saying ‘noooo!” And, she swept me away. And at that point, she started telling me what I could and couldn’t do. And these rules were hard to comprehend. Because you had what’s wrong, what’s right, and what’s ‘white.’
Pat: Gaffney and Stewart would be joined during the Children’s March by Washington Booker.
Booker: I can remember seeing some kid with a banana split….some white kid sitting at the counter with this big ole banana split. And, I mean…I don’t know. I had nothing to compare it to, how it looked. It was just a marvelous thing, and I wanted one. I wanted to sit at that counter and eat one. And, I always thought about that during the marches. When we were demonstrating, I was thinking about that. Yeah, I want to be able to sit at that lunch counter, so I can order me one of those banana splits. It seems trivial, but it was part of the way you saw the world.
Booker, Stewart, and Gaffney would soon find themselves in the middle of the children’s march as well as the response by the Birmingham Police that would shock the nation. That’s tomorrow in part three of civil rights radio. Pat Duggins, APR news in Birmingham.
CIVIL RIGHTS RADIO PART 3
APRIL 18, 2013
Pat: Birmingham area disc jockey Shelley the Playboy may have signaled the start of the children’s march in 1963, but he didn’t organize it. The credit goes to a lieutenant of Dr. Martin Luther King, the reverend James Beville. One of the teenagers he inspired was James Stewart…
Stewart: He wore one of the blue jeans suits, and had badges from everybody, and pins all over, and he was baldheaded and wore this skull cap. And he’s the one who was the kids’ ‘pied piper,’ he talked to us about getting involved. And we reached a point where we said ‘we need to do something to change this.’
Pat: And that’s where Birmingham area disc jockey Shelley “the playboy” Stewart comes in. James Beville also wanted to use local radio stations to get the word out on protest day. He talked to Shelley as well as another local disc jockey named Paul White. His radio audience knew him as “Tall Paul.” Shelley says on May 2, 1963, he and “Tall Paul” announced the start of the children’s march. But, they did it in a roundabout way. They used codes.
Shelley: They had to use to get codes to get into the community. If we made an announcement ‘I want everyone to go to the park,” you don’t do that. You had to remember there were mothers and fathers who were afraid and they’d lock the door, and the teachers and principals would lock the doors. You just went around that. As they said in the old days, ‘there’s more than way to skin a cat.’ ‘Shake, Rattle, and Roll’…that’s an old tune by an artist named Joe Turner. And, we said when we played ‘Shake, Rattle, and Roll’ that’s the signal. Time to go out. So, it’s ‘Shake, Rattle, and Roll.’
Fade up Joe Turner’s Shake, Rattle and Roll…then fade under...
Shelley: And, when those kids heard that, they told the teachers ‘we’re gone!’ And, the teachers tried to stop them, they were jumping out of windows at Parker High. So, that is really happened, and it escalated. Bull Connor was very upset, the local police didn’t know what to do.”
Keep Shake, Rattle, and Roll low under
Gaffney: And, I mean…it was…unbelievable. Everybody started storming out of the school. Some got out of windows. I remember Mr. Winston stood at the door, he was the teacher everybody was afraid of, and he held his hand up and said ‘stop!’ And the kids just trampled over him, and he went back like this with his hand still in the air. They just trampled over him. So, all just marched from Parker to 16th street. Carver in north Birmingham is farther than that. But, they all marched to 16th street. That’s what they did.
Stewart: So, we were jammed into the paddy wagons. People were running over from the park, and they had seen what was going on, and there were news people, so it was a little chaotic in the streets. And they brought out the police and arrested us. And, it was a pretty terrifying experience.
Booker: And I felt the emotions, and the crowds that lined the streets, and then when the marchers were signing and the people were singing, it just went whoosh! And you felt like you were a part of it. And I had already made up my mind, I was going to jail.
Fade up Shake, Rattle, and Roll and it ends cold.
Stewart: Jail was like hell. It was four days of really hell.
Pat: That’s in part four of “civil rights radio.” Pat Duggins APR news in Birmingham
CIVIL RIGHTS RADIO PART 4
APRIL 19, 2013
Stewart: Jail was like hell. It was four days of really hell.
Pat: James Stewart of Birmingham was just a teenager on April 2, 1963. He took part in the Children’s March, and he was one of the first to arrested and jailed…
Stewart: We were put in a room that could hold fifty or sixty people comfortably. They put three hundred of us in that room. It was standing room only. It was a concrete floor, it was concrete walls, very small windows with the bars on them. It was very hot. And they just kept putting us in that room. We had to develop a system just to sleep. We would make space on the floor, and most of us would stand around the walls, or sit in the windows. And those who slept on the floor, slept on the concrete.
Pat: Washington Booker was in that cell too.
Booker: Going to jail didn’t slow anybody down, didn’t break anyone spirit. Okay, we’re in jail, this is what we supposed to do…let’s all sing… ‘ain’t gonna let nobody turn me round, turn me round…’ And we sang. It was…it was…anything but punishment.
Pat: That was day one of the children’s march. On day two, more marches took place, more arrests were made. But when these students were put behind bars, Stewart and Booker noticed they were soaking wet.
Gaffney: I was out in the park when they released the fire hoses and the police dogs.
Pat: Eloise Gaffney.
Gaffney: I was walking along, at that time it was Fifth Avenue, and it was a whole row of businesses there, and they all had glass windows, and I mean the water was so forceful it knocked me into the windows. I mean they were in the park, and the water had come over a block. Some of us found fun in it. Some of us laid on the ground and let the water push us around the park. We made a fun thing out of it. I know one of the girls who had bite marks from the dogs, so that was really scary. But the fear didn’t come. Now, when I think about it…Lord. I think it had be Lord to keep us, because we didn’t realize the danger.
Fade up JFK clip
JFK: “Today, as the result of responsible efforts on the part of both white and Negro leaders, over the last seventy two hours.
Pat: President John F. Kennedy
JFK: The business community in Birmingham has responded in a constructive and commendable fashion and pledged that substantial steps would begin to meet the justifiable needs of the Negro community. Negro leaders have announced suspension of their demonstration.
Pat: Washington Booker.
Booker: Having access to jobs where we spent our money was part of what we were asking for. We had the right be salespeople where we spent our money. But, for us as kids, that was far off. But going to the Alabama Theatre did, sitting at that lunch counter did.
JFK fades back up…
JFK: We can hope that tensions will ease. And that this case history, which has so far only narrowly avoided violence and fatalities, will remind every State, and citizen and every community, how urgent it is that all bars to equal opportunity and treatment be removed as promptly as possible.
Pat: The very next year, Congress would pass the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which outlawed racial discrimination. Still, fifty years after the Children’s March, James Stewart is still dealing with the emotions…
Stewart: There are people who say get over it, just get over it. When you see the size and the magnitude of what happened, it’s not easy to get over.
Pat: Washington Booker gets those questions too, from his grandchildren.
Booker: What they can’t really get their minds around is understand how we….how we took it. Why didn’t we fight to the death and be done with it. Maybe that’s taking to an extreme, but that’s what they wonder.
Pat: That’s one reason these protesters are talking about it now, fifty years later. They want young people to know why they did it, and why facing the fire hoses, police dogs, and jail in 1963 was worth it. Pat Duggins APR news in Birmingham…
16 th Street Baptist church survivor
NWS RV01 Runs:
ALL YEAR LONG ON ALABAMA PUBLIC RADIO, WE’VE BEEN LOOKING BACK ON 1963, AND KEY EVENTS THAT TOOK PLACE THEN DURING THE CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT. PERHAPS THE MOST INFAMOUS IS THE BOMBING OF THE 16TH STREET BAPTIST CHURCH. APR’S RYAN VASQUEZ REPORTS ON SOMEONE PERILOUSLY CLOSE TO THE EVENT…
September 15th, 1963 started off just like any other Sunday for Barbara Cross with morning Sunday school class down in the basement of 16th Street Baptist Church. Cross remembers that day’s Sunday school lesson…
BC-18 “Our Sunday school lesson that day was “A Love That Forgives” I’ll never forget that as long as I live. In my class particular we discussed the scripture from Matthew the fifth chapter talking about a godpaying love the godly type of love and a god pay is the Greek word for godly love.”
It was the first time Pastor John Cross, Barbara’s father, initiated Youth Sunday under his ministry. After class the children were getting ready for their other responsibilities that Sunday. Again Barbara Cross…
BC-19 “I remember a good friend of mine came by the classroom and we were going to go to the bathroom together and my teacher stopped me, my teacher’s name was Mrs. Demann, and she gave me an assignment that literally save my life and kept me out of harm’s way.”
Cross was asked to write the names of those who would be moving up to the next age level in Sunday school. It was just a few minutes later that that Sunday would soon be marred by an explosion that would change Birmingham forever.
BC-16 “I remembered I was in the process of writing the names down. The most horrific noise I ever heard in my life. I remember the building shaking. I remembered hearing children screaming.”
Four young girls died, many more injured and a community ripped apart by an act of violence on what was supposed to be a peaceful Sunday. Don Brown was a general assignment reporter for the Birmingham News during the early 60s. He was at a church three blocks away when the bomb went off.
DB-22 “It was after the church service that I told my wife, ‘Take the car on home. I’m going to see what’s happened down the street here.’ And as soon as I saw what’s happened I got a ride to work with a photographer and stayed at work until after midnight that Sunday night.”
local and national media outlets HAVE BEEN CRITICIZED FOR BEING slow to cover the Civil Rights movement in Birmingham. By the summer of 1963, every major news outlet had someone on the ground. After the explosion that rocked the country, news spread fast. At the Cross residence the phone was constantly busy right after the explosion from reporters to family members like Barbara Cross’ uncle in Virginia…
BC-26 “I remembered my mother telling me he had to interrupt the line because there was a broadcast an NBC report or one of the major networks that said the 16th Street Baptist Church was bombed in Birmingham, Alabama and my uncle said that’s my brother in law’s church you got to get me through to that line I need to make sure my family is okay.”
It wasn’t long until word spread that Sunday knew what had transpired in Birmingham.
CA-09 “ I was preparing to get ready for church because I went to Sunday School and my brother yelled come quick, come quick something has happened in Birmingham.
Charles Avery was living just outside of Chicago at the time, but he never forgot his Birmingham roots.
CA-14 “When we heard it on the news we were almost compelled to get in the car and come to Birmingham then at that moment we were so excited and wanted to get back home”
Avery sensed what many were feeling…. Former Birmingham news reporter Don Brown says something big was about to happen …
DB-12 nervousbreakdown “If you could equate the feeling around the city those next few days to somebody having a nervous breakdown. Birmingham was having a serious nervous breakdown.”
Two young men were killed later that day and the National Guard was brought in to keep the peace in the days following the bombing. As national and international media ramped up their coverage they echoed what Brown would while covering the Young Men’s Business Club in Birmingham.
DB-25 “One of the lawyers whom I respected got up and told his colleagues “Birmingham is dead” this was after the church bombing. And that was the feeling that the national media and Birmingham itself had left itself with when we saw what we had done at the 16th Street Baptist Church and I say we because everybody in Birmingham was blamed for that.”
50 years later now and Chuck Morgan’s words still ring in the city. Birmingham isn’t dead but it still carries the scars of September 15th with it. It’s a constant reminder in the parks and monuments to Civil Rights leaders and at 16th Street Baptist Church where it comes up in this first Sunday service.
Pastor September 15th “We’ve got a lot coming up in the next coming month as we commemorate the 50th anniversary of the church. But let me just say this, for us at 16th street don’t wait until September 15th to give God some praise every day is a day of thanksgiving. You might not be here September 15th …(fade out).
The church has taken on civil rights history as a ministry offering tours of the church and basement where the bomb went off. Pastor Arthur Price Junior …
AP-23 “We’ve increased our tour ministry when we got here and we have great volunteers who don’t mind telling the story. We produced the documentary chronicling the events of 1963 and the bombing of the church and trials of bringing the perpetrators to justice so every year we know that people make a pilgrimage to come to Birmingham to see what happened here 50 years ago.”
It’s not uncommon to find visitors from all over taking in a church service on any given Sunday…
Barea college welcome…fade out clapping
Pastor Price says he has already received calls from over 350 people to attend service on the 50th anniversary this year including from the White House. On that day they will recreate the service from September 15th including the Sunday school lesson that day “A Love That Forgives.”
BC-Chapter 5 Matthew (Barbara Cross – Matthew Chapter 5 fade up then fade out)
An ironic lesson from 50 years ago and what could be a fitting reminder 50 years later. I’m Ryan Vasquez, APR News in Birmingham.
ALL YEAR LONG ON ALABAMA PUBLIC RADIO, WE’VE BEEN MARKING THE FIFTIETH ANNIVERSARY OF KEY EVENTS IN THE CIVIL RIGHTS ERA. ONE OF THE MOST POIGNANT HAPPENED ON SEPTEMBER 15, 1963. THAT’S WHEN MEMBERS OF THE KU KLUX KLAN PLANTED A BOMB AT THE 16TH STREET BAPTIST CHURCH IN BIRMINGHAM. THE EXPLOSION KILLED FOUR AFRICAN AMERICAN GIRLS. AN EXHIBIT AT THE BIRMINGHAM PUBLIC LIBRARY GIVES AN UNUSUAL WINDOW INTO THOSE EVENTS. THE LIBRARY IS DISPLAYING LETTERS…NOT FROM THE VICTIMS, BUT ONE OF THE BOMBERS. ALABAMA PUBLIC RADIO’S MAGGIE MARTIN TAKES A CLOSER LOOK …
FIFTY YEARS AGO, A BOMB EXPLODED AT THE 16TH STREET BAPTIST CHURCH IN BIRMINGHAM. FOUR YOUNG GIRLS WERE KILLED IN THE BLAST. IT WOULD TAKE FOURTEEN YEARS BEFORE THE FIRST KLANSMAN WAS TRIED AND CONVICTED IN THE BOMBING. ROBERT CHAMBLISS WAS FOUND GUILTY OF HIS PART IN THE ATTACK
AMBI OF PRISON DOOR SLAMMING SHUT
HE WOUND UP HERE. AT THE SAINT CLAIR COUNTY CORRECTIONAL FACILITY, ABOUT FORTY MILES NORTHEAST OF BIRMINGHAM.
IT’S HERE WHERE CHAMBLISS WROTE LETTERS TO HIS FAMILY DURING HIS TIME IN PRISON.
AMBI OF CART BEING PUSHED DOWN
THE HANDWRITTEN LETTERS, AND THE PICTURES THEY PAINT FROM THAT TIME, CAN NOW BE FOUND AT THE ARCHIVES DEPARTMENT AT THE BIRMINGHAM PUBLIC LIBRARY.
“APRIL 20, 1979. YES MOMMIE YOU TOLD ME AND TOLD ME YOU CALLED THE GOVERNOR. MOMMIE I ASK YOU AGAIN DID YOU TALK TO THE GOVERNOR. DID YOU CALL MY LAWYER.
MOMMIE IS CHAMBLISS’ WIFE IN A LETTER READ BY LIBRARY ARCHIVIST JIM BAGGETT…
WHAT DID HE SAY. WROTE THE GOVERNOR A NICE TWO AND A HALF PAGE LETTER. THE REASON HE SENT THE LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR’S STAFF OVER HER TO TALK TO ME TELL OUR LITTLE BABBY TO WRITE ONE. PUT IN YOUR LETTER SO IT WON’T COST HER POSTAGE. ANSWER SOON, YOUR LOVING HUSBAND, R.E. CHAMBLISS.”
BAGGETT HAS BEEN STUDYING THOSE FIFTY YEAR OLD LETTERS IN DETAIL...
“CHAMBLISS IS ALMOST ENTIRELY FOCUSED ON HIMSELF IN THESE LETTERS. THERE’S A LOT OF SELF-PITY AND HE PRESENTS HIMSELF AS A VICTIM AND HE NEVER ACKNOWLEDGES ANY INVOLVEMENT IN THE BOMBINGS. THERE’S NO REMORSE. THERE’S NO ACCEPTANCE OF RESPONSIBILITY AT ALL.”
IN 1963, CHAMBLISS WAS BETTER KNOWN BY HIS NICKNAME, DYNAMITE BOB. PROSECUTORS AT THE TIME CALLED HIM SKILLED BOMB MAKER, RESPONSIBLE FOR SEVERAL RACIALLY MOTIVATED ATTACKS IN BIRMINGHAM, THOUGH THE NUMBER ISN’T CLEAR. BAGGETT SAYS ONE ELEMENT WAS RACE—NOT THAT OF HIS VICTIMS. BUT, RATHER HIS OWN…
“HIS SELF WORTH COMES FROM THE FACT THAT THERE’S THIS WHOLE OTHER GROUP OF PEOPLE HE CAN LOOK DOWN UPON AND DOMINATE. SO I THINK THIS ACCOUNTS FOR A LOT OF THE REASON THAT PEOPLE LIKE CHAMBLISS REACTED SO VIOLENTLY TO CIVIL RIGHTS ACTIVITY. IT WASN’T JUST AN ATTACK ON THE SOCIAL SYSTEM THAT THEY LIVED IN THAT WAS SEGREGATED. IT WAS AN ATTACK ON THEIR WHOLE SELF IMAGE, THEIR OWN SELF WORTH AND HOW THEY SAW THEMSELVES.”
OTHERS OBSERVERS OF THE SIXTEENTH STREET BAPTIST CHURCH BOMMING HAVE A MORE STRAIGHTFORWARD ASSESSMENT OF CHAMBLISS.
“THE THING THAT I RECALL MOST ABOUT HIM IS JUST A DEEP SENSE OF MEANNESS. SOMEONE WHO HAD SUCH A DEEP HATRED.”
DOCTOR ART DUNNING IS A PROFESSOR AT THE UNIVERSITY OF ALABAMA. HE WAS ONE OF JUST A FEW AFRICAN AMERICANS TO ATTEND THE TUSCALOOSA CAMPUS IN 1966, THREE YEARS AFTER THE STAND IN THE SCHOOL HOUSE DOOR. HE AGREES WHITE SUPREMACISTS WERE THREATENED BY THIS CHANGE IN SOCIAL ORDER, AND THAT’S WHAT SPURRED THE VIOLENCE.
“I DO THINK THAT CHAMBLISS’ OTHER WORLD SAW THIS SORT OF SOCIAL ORDER CRUMBLING WHERE JUST BY HEREDITARY ADVANTAGE THAT CERTAIN THINGS, I DON’T HAVE TO DO ANYTHING JUST BE BORN IN A CERTAIN GROUP, I HAVE THIS DISTINCT ADVANTAGE. I THINK THAT WAS DISTURBING TO THEM.”
AMBI OF CART ROLLING DOWN THE AISLE
BACK AT THE BIRMINGHAM PUBLIC LIBRARY, JIM BAGGETT PULLS OUT ANOTHER OF CHAMBLISS’ LETTERS. IT’S ALSO ADDRESSED TO HIS WIFE, DATED APRIL 25, 1979.
Fade up prison ambi
“I DON’T TRUST MY LAWYER. THEY ARE GIVING BIG MEETINGS ALL AROUND TAKING UP BIG COLLECTIONS. WHAT ARE THEY DOING WITH THE MONEY. HE SAID IT’S BEING PUT IN THE BANK FIRST NATIONAL BANK IN NORTH BIRMINGHAM IN YOUR NAME. I CAN’T SLEEP BUT ABOUT THIRTY MINUTES AT THE TIME. I HARDLY EVER LAY DOWN TILL 11 OR 12 O’CLOCK. MOMMIE I GOT PLENTY TO TELL YOU WHEN AND IF I EVER GET OUT. IT WOULD MAKE YOU ALL WANT TO KILL SOMEBODY.”
CHAMBLISS WROTE DOZENS OF LETTERS OVER THE NEXT SIX YEARS. HE NEVER DID SUCCESSFULLY GET OUT OF PRISON AS HE HAD TRIED TO FOR AS LONG AS HE WAS INCARCERATED. CHAMBLISS DIED IN PRISON IN OCTOBER 1985. THERE’S STILL A CONNECTION BETWEEN THE PRISON AND THE 16TH STREET BAPTIST CHURCH BOMBING. ONE OF CHAMBLISS’ ACCOMPLICES, THOMAS BLANTON, IS STILL SERVING A LIFE SENTENCE THERE.
AMBI OF JAIL DOOR CLOSING
MAGGIE MARTIN, APR NEWS IN BIRMINGHAM.
NWS RV01 Runs:
ALL YEAR LONG ON ALABAMA PUBLIC RADIO, WE’VE BEEN LOOKING BACK AT THE FIFTIETH ANNIVERSARY OF KEY MOMENTS IN THE CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT. THAT INCLUDES HOW THE MEDIA COVERED THOSE EVENTS. Alabama Public Radio’s Ryan Vasquez continues the series with a look at how differently black-owned and operated newspapers covered the civil rights movement compared to their white counterparts.
Let’s put you in the position of a being black person living in the South during the Civil Rights Movement.
CF-split 1 :06 “If you picked up a white newspaper you as a black person didn’t exist.”
Craig Flournoy is a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist and professor of journalism at Southern Methodist University.
CF-split 2 :10 “There was no record of you being born, no record of you graduating from high school much less college, no record of you getting married, no record of your promotion and no record of you dying.”
IN OTHER WORDS, unless you were famous like Joe Louis or Louis Armstrong, a black person MIGHT not make it into most white newspapers unless they committed a crime. So when it came to coverage of events surrounding the Civil Rights Movement, THERE WAS LITTLE IF ANY COVERAGE AT ALL. CRAIG FLOURNOY SAYS, TAKE the Montgomery Bus Boycott AS AN EXAMPLE.
CF-NY Times cover boycott :21 “The New York Times basically missed the story. They relied on wire service copy for the first four months and the esteemed Johnny Popham, the greatest reporter covering the south during this time wrote exactly two stories about it. And the way they framed the story the story they saw was a legal contest once the NAACP came in and filed a lawsuit.”
King on Meet the Press … segregated hour
While Dr. MARTIN LUTHER King, JUNIOR felt that the church pews across the nation remained among the most segregated places in America, Flournoy says the nation's newsrooms weren't much better.
CF-long 11 “I do believe in fairness meaning you get both sides of a story and on that basis white newspapers failed abysmally. They almost never covered the black side of a story.”
That was left to black newspapers, often at great risk to THE REPORTERS. One of the unsung newsmen of the Civil Rights Era was Emory Jackson. Jackson edited the Birmingham World which served as a lifeline to blacks about what was going on around the state and world. Jim Baggett is an archivist at the Birmingham Public Library
JB-split1 :11 “You had other black newspapers here some would be around for a year, some would be around for a few years but the World was around for decades.”
The Library is now home to the newspaper’s archives and a collection of Jackson’s personal papers.
JB-split2 :18 “And with Emory Jackson who always fought with the papers owners in Atlanta to have as much local content in the paper as possible it’s really an indispensable record in terms of documenting African-American life in Birmingham during that period.”
And not just a record of big events like the Montgomery Bus Boycott. Jackson’s coverage of that pivotal incident is considered some of the best around. Baggett says even earlier moments in the Civil Rights movement such as the 1948 Freedom Train visit made black papers.
The Freedom Train nat sound and under
JB-freedom train :15 “The Freedom Train was sponsored by the American Heritage Foundation it was traveling the country stopping in cities. People could go onto the train; you could see the Emancipation Proclamation a copy of the Declaration of Independence all these important documents from history.”
But in many southern cities, lines to get on the train to see the documents were segregated. That didn’t sit well with Jackson.
JB-Jim crow lines :17 “Jackson was one of the people who first raised the issue and really led the fight here in Birmingham to not have Jim Crow lines outside the Freedom Train. Jackson said we shouldn’t have to stand in a segregated line to see the Emancipation Proclamation.”
It was this type of reporting that contributed to Jackson’s fearless reputation. He would take on Bull Connor and other segregation minded officials in his articles, print full names of those he interviewed and always tried to get both sides of the story. But this also invited danger for the intrepid newsman. Joe Dixon who worked with Jackson and later bought the Birmingham World remembers one instance where Jackson went to cover the Dixiecrat convention in 1948 in Birmingham.
JD-Dixiecrat1 :12 “And they told him that he couldn’t participate. He told them he was with the press representing the journalists and he had just as much right to be there as anybody else. They threw him out.”
The Dixiecrat party was a segregationist faction of the Democratic Party that split off because they were unhappy with President Harry Truman and their own party’s national plank calling for civil rights. They certainly didn’t want a black journalist especially one of Jackson’s tenacity covering their event.
JD-Dixiecrat2 :12 “Emory went back and they put him out again and told him to run. But he didn’t run and I asked him, ‘Why didn’t you run’ and he said ‘If I had run they would have shot me saying I was running around trying to steal stuff.’”
Jackson would go on to cover many of the significant events in Alabama during the Civil Rights Movement from the Children’s March to the Stand in the Schoolhouse Door. Always a believer in justice and going through the courts Jackson would later find himself on the wrong side of the demonstrations brought on by Fred Shuttlesworth and Martin Luther King Jr.
JB-EJsplit1 : 03 “He was bothered by street protests…”
Again Jim Baggett.
JB-EJsplit2 :12 “He called the demonstrations here a flash dance. He didn’t believe it would work and he didn’t believe it was the best approach in terms of trying to bring about change.”
Nat sound outside of Nelson Brothers Café fade under
The Birmingham World is long gone and all that remains is a plaque dedicated to Emory Jackson outside of Nelson Brothers Café which sits near the World’s old headquarters. Partially due to his differences on the Birmingham Campaign, Jackson’s impact on Birmingham gets overlooked today. Joe Dixon, who helped get the plaque dedicated to Jackson, feels Emory has been unfairly remembered by history.
JD-Emory’s due :21 “The sad thing about all of this is the treatment that the community has given Emory since he passed. Three people that I don’t think really was covered: Emory Jackson, Jesse Walker, Fred Shuttlesworth. They never got what they should’ve gotten.
Fred Shuttlesworth and Martin Luther King Jr. may rightfully be credited as being great Civil Rights leaders, but without people like Emory Jackson their role in history might be drastically changed. In Birmingham, I’m Ryan Vasquez, APR News.
CIVIL RIGHTS TOURISM / INGOLD
There are many reasons people visit Alabama, to see sporting events, the space connection in Huntsville or the beaches along the gulf coast. However, there is a form of tourism often overlooked by the masses. Alabama Public Radio’s Stan Ingold takes a look at how a dark time in the state’s history is now drawing tourists…
(sound of the Histons coming into the center.)
Betty and Phil Histon are from Corvallis Oregon. they’re in alabama like many tourists—to try the local barbeque and to see the sights. today’s trip has nothing to do with the music scene in muscle shoals or alabama football coach bear bryant in tuscaloosa. the histons are at the Civil Rights Interpretive center in Selma…
“we have heard of the Civil Rights movement since we were children and wanted to see where some of these things took place, part of the history that we wanted to see and be part of, we’re on a cross country trip and we knew the name Selma and things happened here and we just wanted to see where it really happened.”(20hist)
and the histons are not alone. IF YOU WANT TO SEE HOW BIG CIVIL RIGHTS TOURISM IS IN ALABAMA, STATE TOURISM OFFICIALS SAY LOOK NO FARTHER THAN THE CIVIL RIGHTS INSTITUTE IN BIRMINGHAM. THE CENTER ATTRACTS AN ESTIMATED ONE HUNDRED AND FIFTY THOUSAND VISITORS A YEAR. LEE SENTELL IS the tourism director for the state of alabama. THE SAYS THE BUSINESS IS BIG ENOUGH FOR THREE CITIES TO FIGHT OVER.
“there is no agreement in this state as to which state owns the civil rights movement. because people in montgomery think that everything happened in the montgomery area, people in birmingham thing only the major events happened in birmingham, so birmingham, selma and montgomery are three cities where more tourists visit because that is where the landmarks are.”(24Lee)
and if visiting iconic sights from the civil rights era as a tourist sounds unusual, you may be even more surprised about the man who helped get civil rights tourism going…
wallace wuote… segregation now, segregation tomorrow…
ALABAMA GOVERNOR GEORGE WALLACE SPENT MOST OF HIS POLITICAL CAREER SUPPORTING SEGREGATION, UNTIL A CHANGE OF HEART LATE IN HIS LIFE. LEE SENTELL EXPLAINS WHAT GOT WALLACE ON THE CIVIL RIGHTS TOURISM BANDWAGON.
This is all part of an effort to tell Alabama’s story during the fifties and sixties. The project was started nearly thirty years ago and was signed off on by Governor George Wallace…Yes…THAT George Wallace, the one said “Segregation now, Segregation forever.”
Alabama’s Tourism Director Lee Sentell says Alabama was one of the first to recognize the potential of these sites…
“It was explained to George Wallace by Ed Hall who was the tourism director at the time, that this was a story the state needed to tell, because if you don’t tell your story people will tell it for you. So Alabama was the first state to have a black heritage guide.’(13sec)(13lee)
AND THE RESULT OF THAT SUPPORT IS THE CIVIL RIGHTS INTERPRETATIVE CENTER IN SELMA. THeresa Hall is an interpretive park ranger THERE…
“We have several photographs from the voting rights movement and the march they were taken by Dan Budnick, he was one of many photographers there we also show the same movie “Never Lose Sight of Freedom” as the Lowndes Interpretive center and we have two computers back there you can listen to oral histories on.” (20THall)
THE TOURISM INDUSTRY TYPICALLY TRIES TO GENERATE MORE VISITORS WITH TELEVISION COMMERCIALS. ALABAMA’S CIVIL RIGHTS TOURISM ATTRACTIONS APPEAR TO HAVE HAD AN EASIER TIME ATTRACTING ATTENTION LATELY…
(nat sound from the event)
CIVIL RIGHTS SUPPORTERS GATHER ANNUALLY AT THE EDMUND PETTUS BRIDGE IN SELMA TO RE-ENACT WHAT’S KNOWN AS BLOODY SUNDAY. THAT’S WHEN DEMONSTRATORS FIGHTING FOR THE VOTING RIGHTS ACT WERE ATTACKED BY POLICE OFFICERS. THIS YEAR’S EVENT WAS ESPECIALLY BIG, SINCE 2013 MARKS FIFTY YEARS SINCE PIVOTAL MOMENTS LIKE THE STAND AT THE SCHOOL HOUSE DOOR IN TUSCALOOSA, AND THE BOMBING AT THE 16TH STREET BAPTIST CHURCH IN BIRMINGHAM. CONGRESSMAN AND CIVIL RIGHTS ICON JOHN LEWIS WAS IN SELMA FOR BLOODY SUNDAY…
“Forty-eight years ago, some of us and many of you here gave a little blood on this bridge. We were beaten, tear gassed, trampled by horses, but we didn’t give up, we didn’t give in and we will never give up or give in.”(18lewis)
The reverends Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton spoke to the crowd, Sharpton says there is more to the event than just remembering what happened…
“We are not here just to commemorate what happened here 48 years ago, this is not for us a commemoration, this is a continuation.”(13sharp)
However the keynote speaker this year was U.S. Vice President Joe Biden…
“like so many americans, I remember that day replayed on our television sets, 600 decent women and men stepped through the doorway of brown chapel a m e church, you made history, you made history on that bloody Sunday.”(19biden)
(fade in sound of people singing as they cross)
After all the speeches, those in attendance have the opportunity to cross the bridge, many singing as they go, following in the footsteps of those who continue to fight for equality.
Selma’s Mayor, George Patrick Evans says events like this are very important for his city and wants to make sure people remember what happened in the past so they can move forward…
“it helps the economy naturally, that’s one way to look at it. It helps to promote the city of Selma as being the Queen City of the black belt. All about the history of 1965 and what happened here years ago and folks like to come back and be reminded of what happened there.’(14evans)
(sound from highway 80)
Cars pass on highway 80, the same route taken by the demonstrators as they marched from Selma to Montgomery, our next stop on Alabama’s Civil Rights Trail…
I’m Stan Ingold APR News in Selma…
SPRING HILL COLLEGE/MM
APRIL 16, 2013
2013 MARKS THE FIFTIETH ANNIVERSARY OF MANY KEY MOMENTS IN THE CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT. IT WAS ON THIS DATE BACK IN 1963 WHEN DR. MARTIN LUTHER KING, JUNIOR WRITE HIS “LETTER FROM BIRMINGHAM JAIL.” KING WROTE THE LETTER AFTER BEING ARRESTED FOR VIOLATING A COURT ORDER BANNING CIVIL RIGHTS DEMONSTRATIONS. IN HIS LETTER, KING CITED SPRING HILL COLLEGE IN MOBILE FOR ITS LEADERSHIP IN THE CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT. THAT’S BECAUSE THE SCHOOL INTEGRATED IN 1954, MAKING IT THE FIRST DESEGREGATED COLLEGE IN ALABAMA AND ONE OF THE FIRST TO DO SO IN THE DEEP SOUTH. AS ALABAMA PUBLIC RADIO’S MAGGIE MARTIN REPORTS HOW THE CATHOLIC UNIVERSITY HAS BEEN A QUIET LEADER IN THE CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT.
“Those were the only black students there at the school. And they began as soon as the integration started, so they were all either freshman or sophomores, so that’s why I finished first…”
Sitting in her living room in Georgia, just a few minutes outside of Atlanta, Fannie Motley points to old photographs of the first nine black students admitted to Spring Hill College. Her picture is on the top. Motley says she was hesitant to attend Spring Hill at first, but her husband insisted.
“He said now that the integration law has passed and now that Spring Hill College has opened its doors, and we are right here, he said all you have to do to finish your last two years of college, just get in the car and ride out to Spring Hill every day.”
Motley wasn’t your typical college student. She was twenty nine, married, and had two when she transferred to Spring Hill in 1955. That was just a few months after the Jesuit University decided to integrate. In 1956, Motley would become the first African American to graduate from Spring Hill. It was an event the press was eager to cover, but Motley was fearful of the attention…
“That was right during the time of the Ku Klux Klan, my husband was pastor of the church, we were living right behind the church and my boys were in school, little bitty things. [35:52] I didn’t want to put the church in jeopardy like maybe look up and somebody would have come and burned the church down in the middle of the night.”
Afraid of what the repercussions would be, Motley called the schools president, Father Andrew Smith.
“I said because of the Ku Klux Klan and because of my husband being a minister and there’s this church there, I said I don’t want that. And he said, don’t worry about it, I’ll take care of it.”
Motley says Smith tried to chase reporters away from the campus during her graduation. They came anyway, and that concerned Smith as well as Motley. The school feared a backlash and lack of donations to the private school if integration wasn’t kept low-key.
“Father Smith is famously asked by the Mobile Register if there were black students on campus and he says I assume so.”
Professor Tom Ward taught history at Springhill
“But he says we don’t ask that. And so that of course was part of the way it was going to be done in that, if it was going to be done, it could be done quietly and if you don’t make a big issue out of it, it seemed like the city was not going to make a big issue out of it.”
Ward says while Father Smith was quiet about integration, other members of the Spring Hill faculty weren’t. Sociology Professor Albert Foley was dismissed for holding interracial meetings on campus in the 1940’s. Six years later, Father Smith rehired him. Ward says Foley’s approach to integration was more aggressive, especially when it came to the Ku Klux Klan in Mobile.
“Foley wasn’t going to do things quietly. He was going to be outspoken and he was going to call people out and that went against the school policy in some regards. And also putting students potentially in danger by having them go infiltrate the Klan. And when they said you know you get hurt, he said well you’ll be a martyr then. Kind of like it’s a good thing.”
Despite requests from the school leaders, Foley publicly spoke out against the Klan. He had students infiltrate Klan meetings and encouraged them to take down license plate numbers. Tension came to a head in 1957 when Klan members set up a cross soaked in kerosene in front of a men’s dormitory. Students chased the Klansmen out before they got a chance to light it. But while Foley was aggressive with civil rights and integration at Spring Hill, Ward says the Jesuit priest had a different attitude when it came to Martin Luther King’s approach to the movement.
[Foley] “And I will not take from you any of the very unchristian things you have been saying about me…”
[King] “Well that’s why I regret so much that you have taken the wrong road.”
This is part of a recorded phone conversation between Foley and King. It was May 4th, 1963, just weeks after King was arrested in Birmingham…
[Foley] “I have not taken the wrong road. I am just differing with you on a tactic.”
Foley and King agreed that the Civil Rights Movement was necessary, but they weren’t always on the same page. Foley believed the Birmingham March was the wrong strategy at the wrong time. King thought otherwise. The two met several times and spoke on the phone from 1955 through King’s March in Birmingham in 1963.
[When Martin left our house, I said this is a historic chair and I put…and that chair…[10:14] And I put a sign on there “Martin Luther King sat in this chair in the Motley House… it’s a kind of relic] fade under
Back in Georgia, Fannie Motley shows an old chair in her living room where King sat in her house in 1964. She has a sign on the back of it to remember his visit. King would not forget the Catholic University and its impact on the Civil Rights Movement. He mentioned the college as a leader in the desegregation movement in his 1963 Letter From A Birmingham Jail. The Civil Rights Act would be signed into law in 1964, ten years after desegregation at Spring Hill College. Maggie Martin, APR News in Mobile.
Civil Rights Yesterday and Today
NWS RV01 Runs:
All year long here on Alabama Public Radio, we’re looking at the 50thanniversary of some of the pivotal moments in the Civil Rights Era. Times of have changed for the better since 1963, but have they changed so much that we can move on from laws meant to protect minorities. Shelby County is challenging a key provision of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 saying it’s no longer needed. Alabama Public Radio’s Ryan Vasquez takes a look at the progress made in Alabama in the last 50 years and if it has been enough.
Today Mason Davis is an accomplished lawyer in Birmingham, but in 1958 he was just a young law student trying to register to vote in Alabama.
MDliteracy1-15 “The registrars asked me to explain the 14thAmendment of the Constitution. I started talking and none of them knew what I was talking about and they ultimately allowed me to become a registered voter.”
While the line of questioning struck Davis as odd it made him also worry what they were asking other potential black voters.
MD-test-14 “What do you think they were asking people of people who were not law students? They would ask questions on the literacy test some so outrageous as tell the number of jelly beans in this jar.”
Congress passed the Voting Rights Act In 1965. The measure made it illegal to ask voters to pass any test before casting a ballot. Now almost 50 years later Shelby County in Alabama is challenging the constitutionality of one part of the act. Cam Ward is a state senator representing District 14, which includes Shelby County. He says the issue is over something called preclearance..
CW-15 “Anytime we’d want to annex someone into or cities we have to get permission from the Justice Department, anytime we want to de-annex, change our cities line we have to get permission from the Justice Department and that seems extremely over burdensome for one section of the country to have to do that over another.
Ward thinks the Voting Rights Act has served a valuable purpose and continues to do so, but when it comes to the preclearance provision changes need to be made. He’s a support of efforts to challenge the act before the U.S. Supreme Court
CW -22 “The burden that it puts on your local government is tremendous and one slight error can null and void your entire election and you have to start over without any proof of discrimination whatsoever it’s just because you didn’t follow up a piece of paper work with the Justice Department. And there are other areas in the country which also have an unfortunate history with the Civil Rights Movement that this doesn’t apply to so it just seems overly punitive to me.
Preclearance covers many Southern states, also towns and counties across the U.S. Alabama points to strides toward racial equality like electing black judges, mayors, state house members and even sending an African American woman to Congress. Representative Terri Sewell is a native of Selma and represents District 7 which covers much of Alabama’s black belt. She agrees with Ward that racism is not just a southern problem…
TS-20 “We can’t just say that’s it’s a southern problem because frankly when I studied law school up in Massachusetts the very first time I was called the N word was in Harvard Square now not Selma where I grew up but Massachusetts. So let’s not be confused, racism is alive and well and it exists across this country and across this world.”
The debate doesn’t seem to be over the absence of racism but whether or not Alabama is any worse than other parts of the country.
DS-Ohio-24“New voting restrictions in Ohio. The republican secretary of state wanted to close early voting in the weekend leading up to the election.
This is a clip from the Daily Show with John Stewart on Comedy Central
Ohio Republicans failed in their attempt to expand voting hours in republican areas while cutting them back in democratic areas…What more does Ohio have to do to get on the list of states? I mean replace voting machines with shredders…”
Claims that Alabama is doing better when it comes to racial discrimination aren’t convincing everyone in the State. Southern Poverty Law Center Co-Founder Joseph Levin has worked on more than 50 major civil rights cases. Levin says when it comes to progress on social issues like race, immigration, and LGBT rights it just seems like Alabama is slower than other places.
JL- 50 years -17 “Alabama is on social issues of this sort for whatever the variety of reasons are that exist in this state is always at least 50 years behind the more progressive states in the country.”
It’s not hard to find people who agree with that assessment…
HS-1 -08 “I would say more than 50 years, and I'm going to go out on a limb and say Alabama is one of the backward states I know.
Judge Helen Shores Lee is the 10thCircuit Judge in Jefferson County and daughter of the famous civil rights attorney Arthur Shores. His Birmingham house was bombed twice in the early 1960’s during the fight for civil rights.
HS-2 -23 “They haven't come that far. You can see in the passage of House Bill 56, the anti-immigration bill that we haven't come very far. And while the laws of Jim Crow may be gone or off the books the spirit of Jim Crow among many Alabamians is alive and well.”
Efforts to challenge the Voting Rights Act before the supreme court has forced the issue of racial equality back on the national stage. 50 years has been enough time to integrate schools and elect a black president, but it may be another half century before some Alabamians feel it's safe to remove the act so many civil rights supporters worked so hard to pass. I'm Ryan Vasquez, in Birmingham.
2013 MARKS THE FIFTIETH ANNIVERSARY OF MANY PIVOTAL MOMENTS IN THE CIVIL RIGHTS ERA IN ALABAMA. THE MOVEMENT WOULD LEAD TO DESEGREGATION OF SCHOOLS AND BUSINESSES IN THE DEEP SOUTH. BUT, ALONG WITH THESE VICTORIES, THERE WERE CASUALTIES ALONG THE WAY. DESEGREGATION ALMOST KILLED ONE SMALL ALABAMA TOWN. ALABAMA PUBLIC RADIO’S MAGGIE MARTIN REPORTS THE IMPACT INTEGRATION HAD ON ALABAMA’S FIRST ALL-BLACK CITY.
“This used to be the main drag. The school would always have a homecoming parade, Christmas parade. So it was always kind of a celebration strip. And all these homes left and right, I knew everybody in these homes.”
Bernard Snow drives through the narrow, main strip of Hobson City. He’s familiar with the businesses and families that once thrived in this small Alabama town. That’s because he grew up here. Snow’s family was one of many that were part of a thriving ALL AFRICAN AMERICAN community. Today, THINGS ARE DIFFERENT… .
“Through here used to be our retail stores here. It’s all gone now and my grandparents own the café right there on this corner. Used to be a church right here on this corner. Used to be a sundry store on the corner to your right there where this building is. Followed by a beauty shop, another gasoline station, the barber shop.”
Hobson City could be easy to miss if you’re just passing through. About two miles long, the town sits between Anniston and Oxford. The city was once a part of Oxford, until an African American justice of the peace was elected from the area. Oxford’s mayor redrew the boundaries and kicked out Hobson City. The town was incorporated in 1899 as Alabama’s first all-black city.
“Nobody thought it would work because blacks were not used to governing themselves.”
Hobson City Mayor Alberta McCrory.
“In fact, some of the newspapers said it was a…refer to it as maybe a project, a test of some kind. And they would wait to see what happen. So here we are still existing in Hobson City in 2013.”
Like Bernard Snow, Mayor McCrory also grew up in Hobson City. She isn’t too far from where she went to class nowadays. That’s because City Hall was once the local school.
“This used to be my literature class and this was my French class over here. This is where we have our City council meetings…” fade out
Today, much of the building is in disarray with peeling paint and LEAKY ceilings that are starting to fall in. But at one time, the school was a source of pride for Hobson City and was the town’s core. McCrory says a historic piece of legislation changed Hobson City forever.
“After the passing of the civil rights bill, we saw changes in Hobson City because it opened doors for us to go other places. So the small businesses we had in Hobson City, like businesses in other small towns with the large companies coming in shutting them out. That’s what happened with Hobson City.”
McCrory says Hobson City had freedom of choice during the 1965-1966 school year. That meant students WHO USED TO ATTEND segregated CLASSROOMS COULD CHOOSE TO GO TO BLACK OR SCHOOLS. So, students in Hobson City could choose to stay in the local school or attend nearby Oxford, which was predominately white. McCrory says most chose to stay where they were.
“It took a court order to really desegregate the schools because people really wanted to stay where they were. You know they had their own friends, their own school, they were involved in sports and music and all other activities and so they were comfortable staying where they were.”
McCrory says desegregation knocked down barriers, and ultimately that hurt Hobson City. AFTER GRADUATION, Many students left and didn’t come back. Shops that were once “white only” in nearby Oxford and Anniston were now open to blacks as well. Hobson City stores and businesses that once relied on its residents as a solid customer base were forced to close. McCrory says she was active in the civil rights movement, and says she was thrilled to gain equal rights, but it came at a cost.
“Had I known then what I know now, that maybe I wouldn’t have gone to all the protest marches and then perhaps still would have marched because there needed to be changes in other areas. But that if we had been able to maintain some of what we had instead of losing everything, because we did lose. And so you know that’s the price we have to pay.”
Mayor McCrory says she’s working to turn Hobson City’s fortunes around and bring it back as a thriving community. Some have expressed concerns that if Hobson City can’t make, it’ll have to merge into Oxford or Anniston. Mayor McCrory says she’s determined not to let that happen.
“No. Never. We’ll never go back. Why? That’s like throwing our hands up to our ancestors and saying ‘we couldn’t make it. We couldn’t do it.’”
Others aren’t so optimistic.
“If you look straight ahead through there, you’ll see the play equipment. Our organization’s responsible for that.” Fade down
We met Bernard Snow earlier in this story..
Snow is part of an economic development group that’s rebuilding Hobson City one project at a time, like the fifty-thousand dollar playground at the local park he’s pointing to. Snow says if something isn’t done soon, Hobson City will have to be incorporated back into Oxford, or merge into Anniston. But he says he’s going to fight with Mayor McCrory to try and preserve a piece of Alabama’s history. Maggie Martin, APR News, in Hobson City.
JUNE 7, 2013
ALL YEAR LONG ON ALABAMA PUBLIC RADIO, WE’RE OBSERVING THE FIFTIETH ANNIVERSARY OF PIVOTAL MOMENTS IN THE FIGHT FOR CIVIL RIGHTS. 1963 SAW THE CHILDREN’S MARCH AND THE BOMBING of the 16TH STREET BAPTIST CHURCH IN BIRMINGHAM. BUT FOR NEXT FEW DAYS, ALL EYES ARE ON TUSCALOOSA AND THE FIGHT OVER STUDENT DESEGREGATION AT THE UNIVERSITY OF ALABAMA. APR’S PAT DUGGINS HAS MORE ON WHAT
BECAME KNOWN AS THE STAND IN THE SCHOOLHOUSE DOOR…
class fx faDE UP…
pat: PROFESSOR STEPHEN BLACK IS ON A STROLL THROUGH HISTORY.
Black fx up… “As you can imagine the whole campus is in an uproar…”
pat: INSTEAD OF USING A CHALK BOARD, HE’S TAKING HIS CLASS TO SITES ON CAMPUS RELATED TO THE CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT…
black fx up …“there was a cross burning about where the arby’s is here…”
pat: NEXT TUESDAY MARKS FIFTY YEARS SINCE THE STAND IN THE SCHOOLHOUSE DOOR. THAT’S WHEN GEORGE WALLACE TRIED TO KEEP TWO AFRICAN AMERICAN STUDENTS FROM ENROLLING AT THE TUSCALOOSA CAMPUS IN 1963. THE NAMES OF VIIVAN MALONE AND JAMES HOOD ARE ETCHED IN CIVIL RIGHTS HISTORY. BUT THEY WEREN’T THE FIRST…
bLACK: tHINGS WERE SAID TO HER, THINGS WERE THROWN AT HER. bUT, THINK OF YOUR DAY TO DAY, WHAT DO YOU DO? YOU GO TO CLASS…(FADE)
pat: HE’S REFERRING TO AUTHERINE LUCY. SHE ENROLLED IN TUSCALOOSA IN 1956. BLACK SAYS THE RECEPTION WASN’T WELCOMING…
bLACK: ONE OF THE IMAGES YOU’LL SEE ON THE NEXT PAGE IS A GROUP OF PRO-SEGREGATIONIST FOLKS. THEY’RE BURNING IN EFFIGY A COPY OF THE BROWN VERSUS BOARD EDUCATION DECISION. …(FADE)
Pat: IN 1963, HOOD AND MALONE WANTED TO FOLLOW IN LUCY’S FOOTSTEPS. DR. CULPEPPER CLARK DOESN’T NEED A WALKING TOUR ABOUT THAT. HE’S AUTHOR OF THE BOOK THE SCHOOLHOUSE DOOR…
cLArk: “it was an iconic moment. it pitted the kennedy administration against the south’s most defiant supporter of segregation , alabama governor george wallace.:
newsreel footage from tuscaloosa fades up…
Pat: Culpepper clark…
clark: the kennedy administration were fearful that if they had to move him forcibly from the door, by that I mean lay hands on him, they’d have an arrest scenario that would lead to a
constitutional crisis over the tenth amendment
pat: the tenth amendment of the u.s. constitution sets out which powers are held by the federal government and which ones are held by the states.
Clark: and they certainly wanted to avoid that, and eventually, wallace did step aside.
newsreel footage fade up…
vivian malone: well, i’d like to say I’m glad to say that registration is over, and everything is over now, and now we can get down to studying . that’s our main purpose here,and i’m happy that it’s all over now, and all we have to do is get our books and start studying…”
John f. kennedy---- “good evening my fellow citizens…”
Pat: President John F. Kennedy…
JFK: “this afternoon, following a series of threats, and defiant statements, the presence of alabama national guardsmen was required on the campus of the university of alabama to carry out the final and unequivocal order of the united states district of the northern district of alabama. that order called for the admission of two clearly quaLIFIED CANDIDATES WHO HAPPEN TO HAVE BEEN BORN NEGRO…”
PAT: BEHIND THE MEASURED WORDS FROM BOTH PRESIDENT KENNEDY AND GOVERBNOR WALLACE, THERE WAS CONCERN. DR. CLARK SAYS IT WASN’T OVER WHAT WAS GOING ON BETWEEN THE WHITE HOUSE AND THE ALABAMA GOVERNOR’S MANSION,BUT HOW THE PUBLIC MIGHT REACT…
cLARK: tHE UNIVERSITY AND GOVERNOR WALLACE WERE DETERMINED NOT TO HAVE ANOTHER OLE MISS CRISIS AS occurred IN SEPTEMBER 3, 1962 WHERE THERE WAS A SHOOTOUT WITH A COUPLE OF DEATHS…
PAT: THERE WAS REASON FOR CONCERN. ONE DAY AFTER THE STAND IN THE SCHOOLHOUSE DOOR. MISSISSPPI NAACP ORGANIZER MEDGAR EVERS WAS GUNNED DOWN IN FRONT OF HIS HOME.
DEDICATION CEREMONY FX FADE…
PAT: FOSTER AUDITORIUM WHERE THE STAND TOOK PLACE HAS BEEN RENOVATED, AND THE UNIVERSITY OF ALABAMA SAYS PROGRESS HAS BEEN MADE SINCE THEN…
PAT: FIFTY YEARS LATER, THE UNIVERSITY OF ALABAMA WELCOMED MEMBERS OF CONGRESS TO A CEREMONY WHERE THE ORIGINAL DOORS WHERE GEORGE WALLACE STOOD IN SUPPORT OF SEGREGATION HAVE BEEN PRESERVED. CONGRESSMAN AND CIVIL RIGHTS ACTVIST JOHN LEWIS OF GEORGIA WAS PART OF THE DELEGATION…
LEWIS: I JUST FELT LIKE REACHING OUT AND TOUCHING THE DOORS. BUT THEY WERE SO SACRED, I COULDN’T TOUCH…”
pAT: LEWIS MADE HIS COMMENTS BESIDE A CLOCK TOWER IN FRONT OF FOSTER AUDITORIUM. THREE OF THE FACES LOOKS OUT ON THE UNIVERSITY OF ALABAM CAMPUS./ THE FOURTH LOOKS BACK ON FOSTER AUDITROIUM WHERE THE STAND IN THE SCHOOLHOUSE DOOR TOOK PLACE FIFTY YEARS AGO. PAT DUGGINS APR NEWS IN TUSCALOOSA…
Tuskegee High 50th Reunion/MM
September 2, 2013
All year long on Alabama Public Radio, we’re looking at the 50th anniversary of key moments in the civil rights movement. One of the biggest fights in the movement was the effort to desegregate schools. That included Tuskegee High School. In 1963, a lawsuit was filed and a federal court ordered the school to desegregate. 13 black students were chosen to integrate the school and anticipated starting classes with their white peers on September 2nd. APR’s Maggie Martin recently went to Tuskegee to talk with former students as they look back 50 years after the desegregation of the high school.
[AMBI OF CROWD]
High school reunions can be exciting if not a little nerve-wracking. But tonight’s gathering at the Tuskegee Human and Civil Rights Multicultural Center has a different vibe. For the former students here, it’s not so much a reunion as it is a reflection. They’re looking back on what was supposed to be the first day of classes on September 2, 1963. Former student Willie Wyatt Junior was one of the 13 black students integrating Tuskegee High School.
“I thought well, okay, there’s going to be three to four hundred other kids in the school, How am I going to make friends? How am I going to be accepted? Is there anything that’s going to happen that’s going to cause me to react and respond? So that was a thought running through my head.”
But Wyatt never made it to the first day of class. No one did. That’s because Alabama Governor George Wallace intervened to stop the school from desegregating. Wyatt vividly remembers what happened that morning.
“The school was surrounded by state troopers. And the 13 of us who boarded the bus got to the driveway of the school and Captain Prior of the Alabama state patrol got on the bus and gave us all a copy of the executive order from the governor denying admission to this school.”
Jane Hornsby Kourkoulis also recalls the events that unfolded on September 2nd. She would’ve started her senior year that day and was supposed to be one of Wyatt’s classmates. Tonight is the first time they’ve ever met. Kourkoulis tells Wyatt that her concerns for the school year were very different from his.
“In retrospect to think of the courage it took for you 13 to do that, to make history. And, you know, my little petty annoyances about not being able to go to school with the same people I’d gone to school with all my life and you know, word about the prom, football games and things like that. And here were these courageous 13.”
Former student Rebecca Wadesworth Sickles is also at tonight’s event. She was supposed to start her junior year at Tuskegee High. She remembers a scene similar to what Wyatt described earlier-state troopers swarming the school campus. Sickles recalls that while she and her siblings felt intimidated, her mother did not.
“At one point, she [Sickles mother] turned around and asked all of us ‘do you students want to go to school?’ And we all said ‘yes ma’am.’ And so she walked up to the nearest trooper who was standing stone-faced and said ‘please give a message to Governor Wallace that these students want to attend school.’ And of course, he said nothing.”
Sickles was one of the few white students to go back to Tuskegee High when it reopened about a week later. She describes the school atmosphere as “eerie,” but her time at Tuskegee High would be cut short.
“It was scary for me and I’m sure it was scary for those few black students that were in there. And one day in the middle of the school day, my daddy came to take me out. He said he was afraid of me to stay there.”
Sickles’ family sent her to live with her aunt and uncle in Alexander City. She wasn’t the only white student to be pulled out of Tuskegee High. In just a matter of days, all the white students had withdrawn from the high school. Their families transferred them to two nearby Macon County schools-Shorter and Notasulga. The move forced Tuskegee High School to close in January 1964, and a federal court ordered some of the black students to go to Shorter, and some to attend Notsulga.
Many were caught off guard by the turn of events, but no one more so than Anthony Lee and his family.
“We had the understanding and we had prepared for a very smooth transition.”
Lee was one of the lead plaintiffs in Lee v. Macon County Board of Education. It was the 1963 court case that forced Tuskegee High School to desegregate in the first place. So, what played out September 2nd was not what Lee or his family was expecting.
“The events that had happened that day just caught us by surprise because we thought we had prepared for everything and everything was supposed to be a very smooth transition until the closing and things like that happened.”
With the help of civil rights attorney Fred Gray, Lee v. Macon County Board of Education was expanded as a blanket desegregation order for more than a hundred school districts in the state.
But that decision wouldn’t be handed down for nearly four years, long after Anthony Lee and his classmates would be set to graduate high school. Lee, and fellow senior classmate Willie Wyatt Junior, didn’t get to graduate in ’64. They had been transferred to Notasulga and just a few days before graduation, the school was burned to the ground. The two men of the original 13 who integrated Tuskegee High School wouldn’t receive their diplomas until 48 years later. Maggie Martin, APR News in Tuskegee.