From a Florida Keys lawyer buddy yesterday:
Keep the Faith, Sloan--My Washington Post subscription allows me to share access to great journalism. Check out this gift article, at no cost to you: The state’s constitution includes a provision designating tax money to fund the Confederate Memorial Park. https://wapo.st/3l8uosM
Thanks, Amigo -I dreamed about this last night, and now wonder if and how to proceed?I've been wondering lately whether I should reactivate my law license and to what purpose?
The Washington Post article reminded me of just how deeply entrenched white supremacy is in America, in plain view on January 6, an attempted coup rooted in claims that the 2021 presidential election was stolen ... by blacks the white supremacists never say, because they know that will be their undoing.
I don't know what to call the notion still expressed in some circles in the South that the Civil War was not about Slavery. Of course it was about Slavery. Without Slavery, the southern states' economies would have been up shit creek without a paddle or a canoe.
How'd the song I learned as a child go?
O, I wish I was in the land of cotton
Who planted and weeded and picked the cotton in Dixie Land? African Slaves.
Nowadays, I keep bugging white supremacists on Facebook and elsewhere about their January 6 proxies and their leader, Donald Trump.
Don't know if that's keeping the faith, but it seems just what needs to be done.
Alabama spends more than a half-million dollars a year
on a Confederate memorial. Black historical sites struggle to keep their doors
Yesterday at 6:00 a.m. EDT
CREEK, Ala. — Down a country road, past a collection of ramshackle mobile
homes, sits a 102-acre "shrine to the honor of Alabama's citizens of the
state’s Confederate Memorial Park is a sprawling complex, home to a small
museum and two well-manicured cemeteries with neat rows of headstones — that
look a lot like those in Arlington National Cemetery — for hundreds of
Confederate veterans. The museum, which director Calvin Chappelle said has
about 30,000 visitors a year, seeks to tell an “impartial” history of the Civil
museum’s exhibits explain what the White Alabamians who took up the cause of
the Confederacy felt was on the line — Alabama was 10th of the then 33 states
in the value of livestock, seventh in peas and beans, and second in cotton production.
The only hope to save its economic position, the exhibit quotes a former state
governor as saying, was for it to secede from the union, and though not
mentioned directly, maintain the bondage of hundreds of thousands of Black
recent morning, there was just one visitor on the property and he didn’t enter
are scattered mentions of slavery throughout the displays, but for the most
part the museum focuses on the story of Confederate soldiers on the
battlefield, mostly highlighting the bravery they displayed and the principles
they were fighting for. The exhibit quotes Confederates like E.S. Dargan, who
said: “If the relation of master and slave be dissolved, and our slaves turned
loose amongst us without restraint, they would either be destroyed by our own
hands — the hands to which they look with confidence, for protection — or we
ourselves would become demoralized and degraded.”
explained that the purpose of the museum was to tell the stories of Confederate
soldiers; visitors who want a fuller picture of Alabama’s racial history —
slavery, reconstruction, Jim Crow and the Civil Rights movement — would have to
There are a number of museums that tell those stories spread across Alabama, but the Confederate Memorial Park is different. It is the only museum in the state that has a dedicated revenue stream codified in the state’s constitution. So while other museums struggle to keep their doors open, search for grants for funding and depend on volunteer staff, the Confederate Memorial Park is flush with cash. In 2020 alone, the park received $670,000 in taxpayer dollars. That’s about $22 per visitor and more than five times the $4 admission price for adults.
A display inside the museum at the Confederate Memorial
Park. (Cameron Carnes for The Washington Post)
are the kind of resources the volunteers at the Safe House Black History Museum
in Greensboro, Ala., could only dream of. The small museum tells the
little-known history of the rural grass-roots movement that paved the way for
world-changing events like the 1963 March on Washington, where the Rev. Martin
Luther King Jr. delivered his famous “I Have A Dream” speech.
museum consists of two shotgun houses, one of which is where King sought refuge
from the Ku Klux Klan in 1968, just two weeks before he was murdered in
Memphis. The items on display include the rusted back of a pickup truck from
which King once gave a speech after being unable to find a local church that
would risk letting him speak in their building.
were invisible people,” Theresa Burroughs, the museum’s founder and a civil
rights activist who received a Congressional Gold Medal for her participation
in the 1965 march from Selma to Montgomery, Ala., says in a video that plays on
a television in the museum.
The exhibits Burroughs crafted tell the stories of people in Alabama’s “Black Belt” who worked in the shadows to make the civil rights movement successful. But with limited funding, it’s hard for the museum to make the history of those “invisible people” known today. Confederate Memorial Park is open seven days a week. The Safe House museum can only open its doors by appointment.
The exterior of the Safe House Black History Museum in
Greensboro, Ala., on Sept. 24. The home was once used to protect the Rev.
Martin Luther King Jr. from the Ku Klux Klan in 1968. (Cameron Carnes for The
“I need help in every area,” Theresa Davis, the museum’s unpaid executive director, said as she swept spiderwebs from the front porch with her hands. “I’m wearing a lot of hats and I get burnt out. It would be amazing if I could pay people to do some of this stuff.”
Artifacts and photographs on display inside the Safe House
Black History Museum. Its annual budget of $10,000 often does not cover all of
the needs of the physical building and its operations. (Cameron Carnes for The
annual budget of $10,000, Davis is always on the hunt for money for things like
the broken heater or to upgrade the Internet so the signal is strong enough for
the entire building. Davis doesn’t recall the museum ever receiving a dime from
the state. Instead the museum relies on small donations and grants, and what is
raised from admissions fees and a small gift shop.
to raise up the next person to do this work,” said Davis, a retired mental
health professional. “But people need to be paid.”
Earlier this year, a pair of state senators, a Black Democrat and a White Republican, co-sponsored a bill that would have maintained funding for the Confederate Park, while providing the same amount to Black historical sites. The bill failed, but Sen. Clyde Chambliss Jr., its Republican sponsor, told the Montgomery Advertiser that he planned to reintroduce the legislation during a planned special session. The special session started Sept. 27, but there have been no signs that Chambliss will follow up on his pledge. Neither Chambliss nor his Democratic co-sponsor, Sen. Bobby D. Singleton, responded to requests for comment.
The interior of the Tabernacle Baptist Church in Selma,
Ala., on Sept. 24. Since 2013, the church has been listed on the National
Register of Historic Places and was recently added to the U.S. Civil Rights
Trail. (Cameron Carnes for The Washington Post)
had expressed confidence that the bill would win easy passage, but similar
measures have failed in the past and there was vocal opposition to the effort
from people like Patricia Godwin, a longtime member of the Selma chapter of the
United Daughters of the Confederacy.
would never support that,” Godwin told the Alabama News Network. “Unless
I see some balance and we see in April, Confederate history and heritage month
in the school system and that that would be a part of the official Alabama
state curriculum.” The Washington Post reached out to Godwin for an interview
and got her answering machine, which had the message: “The war of Southern
cultural genocide rages on, and we’re still on the battlefield so I’m sorry, we
can’t take your call right now.” The message ends: “In spite of it all, we do
hope that you're having a Dixie day.” She did not respond to a message seeking
fight over how to fund Alabama’s museums comes as state lawmakers debate what and
whose history should be taught and promoted. In August, the Alabama State Board
of Education passed a resolution that banned the teaching of critical race theory, an
academic framework that examines the role of race and racism in the crafting of
American laws and social norms.
phrase has become a catchall term that conservatives have used to criticize a
number of efforts they say constitute an attack on White Americans and culture.
Alabama lawmakers have also introduced bills for the 2022 legislative session
that seek to ban the teaching of “divisive concepts” that might make students
uncomfortable because of their race or gender. Some have argued that teaching
about slavery, racism and bigotry make White students — particularly males —
feel bad or ashamed. In Alabama, museums are part of the fight over which
telling of the state’s history will prevail.
the pandemic, Verdell Lett Dawson, a member of Tabernacle Baptist Church in
Selma, said that she and other members of the congregation had been working to
draw tourists to their church.
consider ourselves to be a treasure with an untold story,” she said. “But our
pastor reminds us it’s not an untold story, it’s an unheard one.”
It was here, just down the road from the Edmund Pettus Bridge — which has been immortalized in films like the Oscar-nominated “Selma” — where the Selma Voting Rights Movement began. Louis Lloyd Anderson, then-pastor of Tabernacle, agreed to open the church’s doors for the movement’s first mass meeting. The movement eventually captured the nation’s attention after activists, including future congressman John Lewis, were beaten on the Edmund Pettus Bridge. What happened in Selma paved the way for the passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.
A bust of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. outside Brown
Chapel A.M.E. Church in Selma, Ala., on Sept. 24. (Cameron Carnes for The
that first mass meeting, Dallas County Sheriff Jim Clark brought a posse of
White men to line the church’s walls and intimidate those in attendance. His
officers wrote down the license plate numbers of the cars parked outside. Many
of those in attendance were arrested, and others lost their jobs just for being
at the meeting.
“The story of Selma is a story of courageousness to rise up against unfair forces no matter how powerful they are,” Dawson said. “It’s a message about overcoming for the underserved and underrepresented around the world. But it also has a message for people in power that they must learn to understand the people around them. And that they are not the only ones that have contributed to the greatness of this country.”
The cemetery at the Confederate Memorial Park. (Cameron
Carnes for The Washington Post)
2013, the church has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places
and was recently added to the U.S. Civil Rights Trail. Still, Dawson said, it
has never received funding from the state despite years of trying. Dawson said
the church has been lucky to receive five grants from the National Park Service
that together brought in more than $1 million over the years, but that money was used to cover
critical needs, like the century-old building’s foundation and roof.
church has turned to the Alabama Historical Commission for help, but has not
found success. The commission is a state agency that runs Confederate Memorial
Park along with other museums, including the Freedom Rides Museum, and is in
charge of safeguarding the state's historical buildings and sites.
have never received anything from the Alabama Historical Commission,” Dawson
said. “We have a grant application with them right now, and we’re just waiting
to hear back on that. Maybe three times [is the] charm.”
Hancock Cooper, director of the Alabama African American Civil Rights Heritage
Sites Consortium, which works with a number of sites across the state including
the Safe House museum in Greensboro and Tabernacle Baptist Church, said
Dawson’s experience isn’t unusual.
“The needs at these sites are so great,” Hancock Cooper said. “But the big issue is the fact that for too long African American sites have not been involved in these conversations and have been undervalued.”
A mural on a window inside the Safe House Black History
Museum. The museum has requested funding from the state in the past, but
Theresa Davis, its executive director, doesn’t recall any efforts being
successful. (Cameron Carnes for The Washington Post)
consortium is working with 20 historical sites across the state, helping them
build capacity and raise needed capital. Four years into the project, all of
the consortium’s funding has come from out-of-state institutions, such as the
Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Philanthropies organization.
Alabama Historical Commission is the state’s main historical preservation
office and has an annual budget of $12 million, funded mostly with state and
federal dollars. Spokeswoman Wendi Lewis said the commission received grant
applications totaling $4 million last year, but had funding to fulfill only
$1.3 million of those requests, including money for “a significant number of
African American projects.”
approach with our historic sites is to concentrate on ALL Alabamians’ history,
and that has not changed,” Lewis wrote in an email. “We have sites that deal
with African American history, Native American history, and we tell all those
Walker, a longtime employee of the Alabama Historical Commission and director
of the Freedom Rides Museum in Montgomery, stands by the work that the
commission has done over the years. Just before Walker joined the commission,
it stepped in to stop the demolition of the old Montgomery Greyhound bus
terminal that now serves as the site of the Freedom Rides Museum.
The museum tells the story of the groups of volunteers, the Freedom Riders, who rode buses throughout the South in 1961 to challenge segregation on public transportation. Riders were attacked throughout their journey from D.C. to New Orleans, but the most vicious attacks occurred outside of the Montgomery bus station where state officials stood by and let the mob have at the riders. The images out of Montgomery helped force President John F. Kennedy’s administration to step up its efforts to force the integration of interstate transportation in the South.
A plaque on a monument to the founder of the Alabama
Confederate Soldiers’ Home, which is now home to the Confederate Memorial Park.
(Cameron Carnes for The Washington Post)
1990s, the federal courthouse located next to the bus station wanted to tear
down the building to expand its operations. The Alabama Historical Commission
stood up to save it, Walker said.
state could have let this building come down. They didn't have to step in,”
Walker said. “And the state is still putting resources in and paying us to
stand there and tell people every day what the state of Alabama did not do to
protect its people.
other state is doing that?” Walker asked. “So in that way, we are progressive.”
Wimberly, chair emeritus of the Alabama Historical Commission’s Black Heritage
Council Board, understands why many are unhappy with the Confederate Memorial’s
outsized financial endowment, but she said the problem lies with the
legislature, not the historical commission.
source of the memorial’s funding can be traced back to the state’s Jim Crow-era
constitution. Carol Gundlach, a policy analyst at Alabama Arise, a statewide
advocacy organization, said that lawmakers in 1901 were looking for a way to introduce
new taxes in the conservative state and needed a sympathetic group to attach
the tax increase to. Gundlach said they decided on Confederate veterans and
their wives. Funds for Confederate veterans became part of a statewide 6.5 mill property tax — 3
mills for public schools, 2.5 mills for the state’s general operating budget
and 1 mill for the veterans. That 1 mill provided for pensions for veterans and the construction of
a home for indigent veterans in rural Chilton County. (A mill is a tenth of a
home closed in 1934 after the last veteran died, but state lawmakers reopened
the property as Confederate Memorial Park in 1964, during the height of the
civil rights movement and around the 100th anniversary of the Civil War. The
park now receives 1 percent of that original tax.
tax is really locked in because it is in the state constitution,” Gundlach
said. “It’s a part of a bigger problem we have with our post-Reconstruction
constitution passed by wealthy Whites when they took back the state government.
It was about locking in their power and locking in the authority of the
legislature. It contains quite a few of these segregationist and racist
policies that we are just now beginning to get rid of.”