50th anniversary commemoration of Greene County Freedom Day honors footsoldiers of the civil rights movement

Special to the Democrat by: John Zippert,
Co-Publisher

On the weekend of July 27 and 28, the Alabama Civil Rights Movement Museum sponsored a series of events to commemorate ‘Greene County Freedom Day’ on July 29, 1969.
This is the date of a special election ordered by the U. S. Supreme Court in which four Black county commissioners and two Black school board members were elected countywide in Greene County.
With this election, Greene County became the first county in America where Black people took political control of a county government since passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.
Over the years, many other counties in the Black Belt of Alabama and other southern states also elected Black officials and some took control of their local governments. As Rev. Wendell Paris, guest speaker at the Sunday mass meeting said,
“What the people of Greene County did fifty years ago was what democracy is all about – openly and fairly voting – to choose your own political leaders.”
Spiver W. Gordon, President of the Movement Museum said, ”We want this celebration to honor the footsoldiers, the ordinary grassroots people of Greene County who summoned the courage and did the organizing work, precinct by precinct,to elect their own folks to political offices that made decisions for the entire county.”
On Saturday, the Museum unveiled two monuments to young people who boycotted the schools in 1965 and started the movement and for two African-American sisters – Annie Thomas and Rosie Carpenter – who allowed their home to be used as a resting and meeting place for civil rights workers.
At the Saturday banquet and the Sunday mass meeting the work of footsoldiers was highlighted and many received certificates of appreciation for fifty years of work and involvement in the civil rights struggle.
At the banquet on Saturday at the Eutaw Activity Center, Veronica Morton Jones, Circuit Clerk, gave the welcome and said, “ I brought my children to the program at the monument unveiling this morning and we learned so much history of our home county that we did not know about.”
Bill Edwards, who worked with Dr. John Cashin and the National Democratic Party of Alabama at the time of the 1969 Special Election, pointed out, “Judge Herndon deliberately left the names of the NDPA Black candidates off the November 1968 General Election ballot. Dr. Cashin had to carry Greene County officials to court for this injustice against democracy. The case went to the Supreme Court on appeal and the highest court in the land ordered a new special election on July 29, 1969. This is what we are here to celebrate tonight.”
Circuit Judge John H. England, who served as legal counsel for the new commission gave greetings and told of his experiences in working with Greene County. “ I learned from Greene County and pursued a career as a Tuscaloosa City Councilman, Circuit Judge, Alabama Supreme Court Justice and a member of the Board of Trustees of the University of Alabama,” said England.
Lanz Alexander an SCLC Board member from Los Angeles, and Johnnie Knott, former Circuit Clerk of the county, also brought greetings. Judge Dexter Wimbush of Griffin, Georgia gave a keynote stressing the themes of jobs, justice and Jesus.
Renetta Gail Brown, daughter of Dr. Robert Brown, the first Black School Superintendent of Greene County spoke about her experiences integrating the schools. “Greene County deserves to have a movie made about our contributions to the civil rights movement, just like Selma, we should have a movie,” she said.
Sunday’s Mass Meeting was held at the William McKinley Branch Courthouse, name in honor of our first Black Probate Judge. Current Probate Judge, Rolanda Wedgeworth, gave the welcome.
Sarah Duncan, a footsoldier made remarks saying, “ It has been a long hard journey to freedom; don’t stop now; keep on going, we made Greene County a better place for all people.” Jaqueline B. Allen, Rev. John Kennard and Commissioner Lester “Bop” Brown also gave greetings.
Former State Senator Hank Sanders of Selma, said, ”I commend Brother Spiver Gordon for working to preserve the history of Greene County. If we do not study and recognize our history, we will not know where we were, where we are or where we are going. If we don’t stand on our history, our history will stand on us.”
Chief Warhorse Gillum of Slidell, Louisiana brought greetings on behalf of the Black Indians. She said, “You need to look around you to see the contributions of the Black Indians in the mounds at Moundville and the name of Tuscaloosa, the Black Warrior chieftain.”
Dr. Carol P. Zippert introduced Wendell H. Paris the guest speaker. As part of her introduction she said, “The Greene County Board of Education has passed a policy that Black history and Greene County history be incorporated across the curriculum in every subject. But, we are having problems getting our teachers to understand and incorporate this history into their lesson plans. We must teach our history in our homes, churches and communities.”
Rev. Wendell H. Paris, Director of Member’s Care for the New Hope Baptist Church of Jackson, Mississippi gave the message. He highlighted three points, first, that the providential hand of God was involved in changing Greene County, second, that God helped people to see and participate in his political will, and third Greene County was one of the pockets of power, than Dr. King pointed out and God worked his will in changing. Greene County helped set an example for many other counties in the Black Belt.”
Persons interested in supporting the continuing work of the Alabama Civil Rights Movement Museum, may contact: Spiver W. Gordon, P. O. Box 385, Eutaw, Alabama 35462, phone 205-372-3446; or email: spriverwgordon@hotmail.com.

Two-day celebration planned for 50th anniversary of ‘Greene Co. Freedom Day’, July 29, 1969, when Black people were elected to take control of county government

NDPA Political Planning Session
L to R: Rev. Peter Kirskey, School Board Member, Rev. William M. Branch Probate Judge candidate, Malcom Branch, Judge Branch’s son, Greene County Commissioner Franchie Burton, Dr. John Cashin, NDPA President, Rev. Thomas Gilmore, Sheriff Candidate, County Commissioner Levi Morrow, Sr., and County Commissioner Harry Means. The group shown here is meeting in a planning session for the special election for Greene County in 1968. (The Afro-American Newspaper in Baltimore MD.)
Packed courtroom on hand for the oath taking ceremony for Greene County Commissioners and school board members listened intently as Circuit Court Judge Emmett Hildreth read a six page speech in which he lists achievements of past administrations and county bank balance. Newly elected Black officials were joined by fifth commissioner, Dennis Herndon, Probate Judge and other school board members in 1969. ( AFRO Staff Photos  By Irving H. Phillips of The Afro- American Newspaper in Baltimore MD.)

Special to the
Democrat by: John Zippert, Co-Publisher

“We will be holding a two day celebration of the 50th anniversary of Greene County Freedom Day – July 29, 1969 – when a Special Election was held in the county that elected the first four Black County Commissioners and two additional Black school board members, which gave Black people control of the major agencies of government,” said Spiver W. Gordon, President of the Alabama Civil Rights Museum Movement in Eutaw, Alabama.
This special election in the summer of 1969 was ordered by the United States Supreme Court when the names of Black candidates, running on the National Democratic Party of Alabama (NDPA), were deliberately left off the November 1968 General Election ballot by the ruling white political officials of the time. The special election of July 29, 1969 allowed Black voters, many newly registered under the 1965 Voting Rights Act, who were the majority in Greene County to have their say in a free and democratic election.
This was a historic event, which heralded a change in political power across the Alabama Black Belt and began a generational shift in the political power in Greene County that has continued for fifty years.
“As part of our commemorative celebration on the weekend of July 27 and 28, 2019, we will be unveiling and dedicating three monuments with the names of the ordinary people who made extraordinary contributions to changing the history of Greene County, the Alabama Black Belt, the South and the nation,” said Gordon.
The three monuments will be dedicated on Saturday morning, July 27, 2019 from 9:00 AM to 12:00 Noon.
The first monument will be for the Carver High School Class of 1965 and other Greene County school students, who boycotted classes and closed the schools to demonstrate against segregated schools and unacceptable civil rights conditions in Greene County at that time. The Class of 1965 closed the schools for the remainder of the spring 1965 semester and there was no formal graduation that year. Many of the students received a “Freedom Diploma” signed by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Ralph D. Abernathy and James Orange, at Brown’s Chapel Church in Selma, Alabama later in the summer.
The monument at the former Carver High School, now the Robert H. Cook Community Center, features the names of over 120 young people that took part in the school boycott and demonstrations of 1965, which led to the voting rights and election struggles later in that decade.
The second monument will be placed in front of ‘The Freedom House’, home of the late Annie Thomas and Rosie Carpenter on Highway 14 in Eutaw. These two courageous sisters, one a businesswoman and the other a school teacher, allowed their home to be used, starting in the 1960’s and continuing into the 1990’s for strategy sessions and political action planning meetings related to the civil and voting rights struggles of Greene County.
The third monument to be placed in front of the current Robert Brown Middle School and former Greene County High School site, to honor the young African-American students who first integrated the schools of Greene County in the 1960’s. The names of 45 or more persons are on this marker.
On Saturday, July 27, 2019 at 6:00 PM there will be a banquet honoring the foot soldiers who participated in the civil rights and voting rights movement of the 1960’s in Greene County. Among the living leaders who participated in the struggle, who have agreed to attend are: Rosie Carpenter (who now lives in Bowie, Maryland), Bill Edwards (Portland, OR), Atty. Sheryl Cashin (daughter of John Cashin from Washington, D. C.) Fred Taylor, Tyrone Brooks, and Dexter Wimbush (Georgia), Wendell H. Paris (Jackson, MS), Judge John England, Hank Sanders, Sen. Bobby Singleton and many other dignitaries.
On Sunday July 28, 2019, at 4:00 PM there will be a Freedom Rally, honoring the fallen Black political leaders of Greene County, at the William M. Branch Courthouse in Eutaw.
The rally will be followed by a fish-fry and watermelon eating fellowship meeting on the grounds of the old Courthouse in Eutaw.
For more information and to support the Freedom Day 50th anniversary celebration, contact: Spiver Gordon, Alabama Civil Rights Museum Movement, Inc., P. O. Box 385, Eutaw, Alabama 35462; phone 205-372-3446;
email:
spiverwgordon@
hotmail.com

Mayor Raymond Steele announces groundbreaking for Love’s Truckstop on October 15

At the regular Eutaw City Council meeting on September 11, 2018, Mayor Raymond Steele announced that the groundbreaking for the Love’s Truckstop, at Exit 40 off Interstate 59/20 has been scheduled for 11:30 AM on Monday, October 15, 2018. Alabama Governor Kay Ivey is scheduled to attend the groundbreaking along with representatives of state and Federal agencies that have facilitated the project coming to Greene County. After construction of the truckstop, with parking for 87 trucks, a convenience store and other services, Love’s will employ 43 people on an on-going operational basis. The Mayor indicated that the City of Eutaw has received a $400,000 grant from the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs (ADECA) and a $372,425 grant from the Delta Regional Authority towards a $900,000 project to extend and connect the City Sewage to the truckstop site. The Greene County Industrial Development Authority has agreed to loan the City of Eutaw the balance needed to complete the sewage extension. Mayor Steele said, “We hope other businesses like motels and restaurants, will recognize the value of locating at the Interstate exit and we welcome their interest and support. The Mayor also reported that the City had determined that a large number of the new self-reporting water meters have been installed incorrectly and that in some cases the meter numbers were incorrectly listed on the master list, which meant that they were not properly communicating water usage for billing purposes. “We are working with the project engineers and contractor to correct these problems and bring our water billing procedures up-to-date,” said the Mayor. The Mayor also thanked Ms. Lovie Burrell Parks and the Greene County Extension Service for assistance in beautification of the city and the City Park area with shrubs, flowers, fences and other support. The Extension Service has also provided 40 round tables and 320 chairs for use at the City Park and two rooms with weights and exercise equipment for former Carver School property for use by the residents of the city. In other actions, the Eutaw City Council, approved closing Highway 14, at the junction with County Road 170, for repair of the Colonial Pipeline, which crosses Highway 14 at this point, about a mile from the Interstate Exit. The repairs are to begin September 17, 2018 and last for up to two weeks, which will mean rerouting traffic to and from the Interstate. Councilwoman LaTasha Johnson made a motion to re-name Carver School, which the City is in the process of acquiring from the Board of Education, for use as a recreation center, to be named the Robert H. Young Civic Center, in honor of the deceased long-time Principal of the school. The motion was approved. The Eutaw City Council approved Danny Cooper and Billy Mingus to serve on the Airport Authority Board charged with administrating and operating the city’s airstrip. The Council tabled the issue of securing municipal license tags for all city vehicles since Council members Sheila H. Smith and LaJeffrey Carpenter, the main proponents of this issue, were absent from the meeting. This Eutaw City Council meeting was well attended with every seat in the audience filled. A group of mostly white residents came out to support the Eutaw Police Department against what they claimed were efforts by Council members to interfere with police efforts to fight crime and drugs. A Tuscaloosa TV station was also present video-tapping the meeting. One resident who said she lived across the street from the National Guard Armory said parties at the facility on weekends were still ending too late and disturbing the neighborhood. Jacky Davis, a Black resident responded, “The police must give respect to the people if they expect to get respect from the people.” Spiver W. Gordon said, “Respect is a two way street. Mutual respect is needed between the police and young people in the streets. We must teach and train our children to respect the police and the police must respect us and our children in the streets.”

49th anniversary of Greene County Freedom Day held at Morrow-Brown Community Center

 

Spiver W. Gordon presents certificate to Rev. John Kennard, Guest Speaker at the 49th anniversary program. Several of the program participants joined them at the podium.

On Saturday, July 28, 2018, about 50 residents of Greene County, met at the Morrow-Brown Community Center in Branch Heights to celebrate the 49th anniversary of the July 29, 1969 Special Election. This election resulted in a victory for four African-American candidates for the Greene County Commission and two for the Board of Education, which meant Black control of county government for the first time since Reconstruction. The Special Election of 1969 was ordered by the U. S. Supreme Court in a case brought by Greene County indicating that local officials had deliberately left Black candidates supported by the National Democratic Party (NDPA) off the 1968 ballot. In the 1970 election, William M. Branch was elected Probate Judge and Thomas Gilmore was elected Sheriff of Greene County completing a sweep of almost all public offices in the county. The Greene County Special Election of 1969 was heralded as a great victory for the Voting Rights Act of 1965 in an Alabama Black Belt county that contributed marchers to the ‘Bloody Sunday’ and subsequent marches in Selma. A New York Times headline on July 30, 1969 proclaimed: Election of 6 Alabama Negroes hailed as ‘Giant Political Step’. The Alabama Civil Rights Museum under the leadership of Spiver W. Gordon sponsored Saturday’s program, which included a display of photos, and programs from the museum’s collection. Rev. John Kennard was the Guest Speaker. Levi Morrow Jr. spoke about the origins and planning that went into the construction of Branch Heights. District 1 Commissioner Lester Brown and others made remarks to commemorate the occasion.

Black History Freedom Program February 25, 2018 at 5:00 p.m. at Christ Temple Church Bishop Luke Edwards, Church Pastor Come Join us for Good Music, Lively Speeches and Good Fellowship Keynote Speaker Hon. Curtis Anthony Senior VP of BBVA Compass B’ham, AL Special Guest Hon. Artis McCampbell,  State Representative For more information please Contact Spiver W. Gordon at 205-372-3446