Greene County commemorates 52nd Annual Freedom Day at Courthouse Square; Mayor Johnny Ford of Tuskegee keynotes; vaccinations offered

Staff of the Greene County Health System administering Johnson and Johnson one shot COVID-19 vaccine as part of the program
L to R: John Zippert , Anita Lewis , Greene County Housing Authority Director, Lewis Leonard, who was the first person vaccinate and received a $100 gift certificate, and Spiver W.Gordon
L t o R: Spiver W. Gordon presents certificate to keynote speaker, Johnny Ford , Mayor Latasha Johnson, Lorenzo French and John Zippert

The Alabama Civil Rights Museum Movement Museum sponsored the 52nd Annual Freedom Day Program at the Old Courthouse Square on Saturday, July 31, 2021.

About one hundred people attended the outside meeting, in blistering

heat, to commemorate the Special Election on July 29, 1969, when Black people were elected to control the County Commission and School Board in Greene County. 

The Special Election of July 1969 was ordered by the U. S. Supreme Court, after local white officials left the Black candidates, running in the National Democratic Party of Alabama (NDPA) off the ballot in the November 1968 General Election. The meeting was to commemorate over half a century of Black political progress in Greene County.

The Greene County Health System was on hand to give Johnson and Johnson one-shot coronavirus vaccinations at the event to persons who needed a vaccination. Seven persons were vaccinated and many others received information on the importance of vaccination to protect their health and the health of their families, friends and community. The Museum and other sponsors provided gift certificates to those who were vaccinated.

Spiver Gordon, President of the Museum spoke on the occasion for the program. “Many things have changed for the better since 1969. Electing Black officials allowed us to change many of the insulting racist practices n Greene County but we still need to keep working and keep moving forward.

Everything that happened, happened because ordinary people stood up to help make the needed changes.”

Lorenzo French, Chair of the Greene County Democratic Executive Committee, lamented, “Too many of our candidates are ‘bought and paid for’ before they run for office and when they get into office, they don’t do what we need them to do. We must recruit and train better candidates that will serve the people.”

Johnny Ford, eight term Mayor of Tuskegee and currently a City Council member gave the keynote address. Ford has served as head of the Alabama Conference of Black Mayors, National Conference of Black Mayors and World Conference of Black Mayors. He recently tried to saw the base of the Confederate Soldiers Memorial in Tuskegee to topple the statue.

Ford thanked Greene County for its work over the years since 1969 to pave the way for Black elected officials in Alabama and across the nation. “Today we have 50 Black mayors in Alabama, 200 across the South and more than 700 Mayors and Council-people across The United States, all inspired by what happened in Greene County,” said Ford.

Ford urged people to get vaccinated for the coronavirus and save their lives and the lives of the people around them. “Some people have hesitancy because of what happened in Tuskegee years ago in the syphilis study, where 600 Black men were denied medicine, to study the effects on them. In this case we are being offered a safe vaccine that was developed with the participation of Black doctors. Everyone should take the vaccine,” declared Ford in his remarks.

Ford said, “We have some more rivers to cross. We must Expand Medicaid for poor and working people in Alabama. We must end voter suppression and pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. We must end police brutality and pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act.”

Eutaw Mayor Latasha Johnson also addressed the crowd and urged everyone to participate in government by voting and attending meetings. She also urged everyone to get vaccinated to protect themselves from the coronavirus, especially the new delta strain, which is more powerful and contagious.

Spiver Gordon concluded the meeting by giving a plaque to speaker Mayor Johnny Ford, gift certificates to those who took coronavirus shots at the event and some door prizes to those in attendance. Refreshments were provided at the end of the meeting.