Montgomery, Ala., Welcomes Its First African-American Mayor: raceAhead

It always takes too much time.

Montgomery, Ala., became the first capital of the Confederate States of America in 1861, and despite quickly losing that dubious honor to Richmond, Va., remained the determined defender of white supremacist sentiment for generations.

Nearly 100 years later, it seemed not much had changed.

In 1955, a fearless civil rights expert named Rosa Parks was arrested for refusing to adhere to the Jim Crow restrictions enforced by the Montgomery bus system, catalyzing a boycott and protest movement that slowly captivated the nation. 

But it took 10 years after her arrest before the 1965 Voting Rights Act was finally passed; ten years of marching, protesting, advocating, and organizing to end the segregation and disenfranchisement which helped make Montgomery the epicenter of necessary civil rights work.

So, it is no small milestone that the city has elected its first African-American mayor in its 200-year history. 

Steven Reed, a Montgomery County probate judge, beat white television station owner David Woods in a decisive runoff vote last night, gaining 32,918 votes to Woods’ 16,010.  “Let the record show tonight, above all… what we can do when we come together in this city and we build around positivity, around opportunity, and all the things that tie us together versus those things that keep us apart,” Reed said at an impromptu victory party.

Reed graduated from Morehouse, a historically Black college in Atlanta, got his MBA from Vanderbilt, and became the first Black probate judge in Montgomery County in 2012. An outspoken advocate for LGBTQ civil rights, he became the first Alabama judge to issue same-sex marriage licenses in February 2015. He was forced to stop a month later after a ruling by the Alabama Supreme Court. “I am bound by this order from the state’s highest court, whether I agree with it or not,” he said in a statement.

Montgomery-based pastor Rev. Edward J. Nettles told the New York Times that Reed’s election “will send a signal to the entire country that Montgomery is moving forward in a positive way.” The city has a population of 200,000 and is 60% African American, but has been stuck in a retrograde way of thinking, he says. “There’s a generation that’s older than him. They can’t seem to get past the politics and status quo of the past. They’re still locked in a particular mind-set.”

Reed’s election comes on the heels of another significant first: The National Museum of Peace and Justice, the country’s first-ever memorial to the more than 4,000 victims of racial terror lynchings, opened in Montgomery last year.  

The memorial helped spark an important conversation in its new home town.

On the day the museum opened, the cover of the Montgomery Advertiser was populated only with the names of 300 of those victims under the headline “Time To Face The Past.” They apologized for their part in the horrors of Jim Crow. “The Montgomery Advertiser recognizes its own shameful place in the history of these dastardly, murderous deeds.”

With atonement comes the opportunity to include those who have been excluded.

“This election has never been about me,” Mr. Reed told the cheering crowd. “This election has never been about just my ideas. It’s been about all the hopes and dreams that we have as individuals and collectively in this city.”

On Point

Senate report finds that Russian social media activities in 2016 focused primarily on race For a concerted propaganda effort, it makes sense to head straight to the country’s Achilles heel. A new Senate committee report finds that African Americans were targeted more than any other group in the Russian effort to disrupt U.S. elections. In fact, over 66% of posts generated by Russia’s Internet Research Agency (IRA) contained a term related to race, the Senate Intelligence Committee found. It was all in service of one candidate. "The Committee found that IRA social media activity was overtly and almost invariably supportive of then-candidate Trump," the report reads. "The Committee found that the Russian government tasked and supported the IRA's interference in the 2016 U.S. election."

Georgetown welcomes its first hip-hop artist-in-residence Tauheed Rahim II, whose rap name is Marco Pavé, will be working jointly with the department of performing arts and department of African American studies, hosting a series of events called "Critical Frequencies: Live from the Southern hip-hop Stage." The series will explore politics, social justice, entrepreneurship, and culture through the lens of hip-hop. Georgetown says. "You don’t have to be a rapper, you don’t have to be trying to make beats, you don’t have to do anything, you don’t have to be a practitioner of hip-hop to learn from hip-hop," Rahim said in an interview with Georgetown’s The Hoya. It’s an important addition to the music department, says Professor Anthony DelDonna. "Our major is a major in American musical culture. So, what does that mean?" he says. "[I]t’s not just the classical tradition. It’s jazz, it’s blues, but what’s really been missing from our curriculum is hip-hop, which is a dominant cultural force."
The Hoya

Rihanna is here to explain exactly why she will not be performing at the Super Bowl She did not mince words. In a recent interview with Vogue, she confirmed rumors that she turned down the chance to perform in solidarity with unsigned free agent and civil rights activist quarterback Colin Kaepernick. "Absolutely," Rihanna said. "I couldn’t dare do that. For what? Who gains from that? Not my people." She continued with some pointed comments, which surely made Jay-Z, who recently signed an entertainment and social justice deal with the NFL, wince. Finally, she had some "feedback" for President Trump on his “racist" response toward gun violence. Take a sip of tea, sit up a little straighter, then click on through.

On Background

Put some respect on Rosa Parks’ name In September, 1944, a young mother named Recy Taylor was abducted while walking home from a church revival in rural Abbeville, Ala. A sedan filled with seven white men. A horrifying drive to a secluded pine grove. A brutal gang-rape. Taylor was told they’d return and do worse if she told anyone. First, she told her father. Then she told everyone. Her case went to a grand jury twice, but when charges were never filed, the NAACP office in Montgomery sent their best investigator out to find out why. Her name was Rosa Parks. Long before she was famous for her role in the Montgomery Bus Boycott, Parks was a trained activist, investigator, and led a national campaign to stop sexual assaults against black women, which was a persistent experience in the violent Jim Crow South. The Root

There was a moment when we started fighting about politics on television If you want to understand what started the nasty, counterpunching debate dynamic that is now commonplace on the evening news and the internet, you’ll need to go back to 1968, when cash-strapped ABC, then stuck in third place, hired conservative William F. Buckley, Jr. and the liberal Gore Vidal to participate in ten debates on nightly television. Best of Enemies is a truly astonishing documentary about the debates, and reveals the actual moment when civility went out the window and television vitriol in service of deeply rooted ideological views became good business.
Best of Enemies


"You too know, that among us, white men have an equality resulting from a presence of a lower caste, which cannot exist where white men fill the position here occupied by the servile race. The mechanic who comes among us, employing the less intellectual labor of the African, takes the position which only a master-workman occupies where all the mechanics are white, and therefore it is that our mechanics hold their position of absolute equality among us."

Jefferson Davis, first president of the Confederacy

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