When I turned in my final draft to University of Alabama Press my editor informed me that I needed to cut thousands of words and one entire chapter. I saved some of the most interesting deletions and want to share a few of those of Wilcox County stories from the Voting Rights Fight.
Getting electricity, sewer and water run to rural homes was the biggest change for the African American community due to gaining voting rights. Into the late 1970’s, most Black family outside the town of Camden had to haul water from pumps, heat it on wood burning stoves, and use outhouses. One of our main arguments for voter registration was that people could get county water service. Running water and functioning sewer systems were public utilities taken for granted by most people in the United Sates for more than fifty years, but they were out of reach for African Americans in many parts of the deep South. Until the got the vote.
On January 15, 2012, Highway 41 from the junction of Highway 80 and Highway 41 in Dallas County to the Monroe County line was designated “The Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Highway” by AL State Senate Bill SJR31. A piece of this highway runs in front of historical Antioch Baptist Church where a plaque has been installed to commemorate the naming.
Ms. Kate Charley on Bessie W Munden Playground:
“Mrs Bessie Munden was the supervisor of Black teachers, when we were all segregated. Well, we still are all segregated, but anyway, it was named for her. In the 1950’s she told Black teachers that they all needed to pay $20 a year for the park. She collected it and bought the land, built that playground. You remember, it was a source of great pride to the Black community. It fell into disrepair for a while, but some of us retired teachers have reclaimed it. We have a little board of directs and raised some money. We got some grants, raised $87,000, and built a pavilion and three ball fields. “ W. Kate Charley 2008.
Mrs Rosetta Angion on what changed:
“There has been a BIG change since black people became citizens, able to vote, have a voice altogether like it should be. Before we had the vote, we were not realy citizens. Now, I am able to go to the polls. Those that are able to work can get a job. We are able to go in the courthouse and use the restrooms. I feel a lot safer. I know that black people have rights just like white people, not everything belongs to them
We were just about coming out from under the hard slavery. I don’t think either my grandparents or parents were in slavery but my great grandparents were. What really needs to happen, people need to come together, woik together and don’t be fighting against the other (within the black community). Most of the ones that really benefitted and got the good jobs didn’t march and all that. I’m one of the few left that was there, remembers it all. They should learn about our history. Keep working, it’s not over with. Keep tryin’ to help each other. Thank you,thank you kindly. ” Read morehttps://www.thisbrightlightofours.com
These brief stories take me back to the ’60s, and they also help link that time with today’s issues. As Mrs. Angion says, “Keep working, it’s not over with.” How true! and inspiring. Thanks for posting this.