Free blacks in the antebellum South led precarious lives. Respected by slaves, with whom they shared skin color but not bondage, free persons of color were often feared by whites, who suspected they might be the fuse with which Northern abolitionists ignited a slave rebellion in the South. To prevent such an occurrence, Southern whites passed a series of laws throughout the first half of the nineteenth century restricting the actions of free blacks.
In its first editorial column on July 16, 1965, the Southern Courier (Courier) introduced itself to the public: “The SOUTHERN COURIER is an independent newspaper. Our responsibility is to our readers, the people of Alabama.” The paper would have a special commitment to the state’s African American population, seeking content that would “help erase the injustices of segregation and prejudice.” The purpose was not to persuade but to give facts about events and topics that mattered to its audience—issues largely overlooked by the mainstream media—so they could form their own opinions.
The paper was founded by two editors of the Harvard Crimson who had participated in the 1964 Freedom Summer in Mississippi. Frustrated by the unfair news coverage there, they decided to establish an outlet for participants and advocates of the civil rights movement. Initially, the project focused on Alabama, a logical choice in light of the recent Selma to Montgomery March and the voter registration activity that was expected to follow.
On a quiet night, you can almost hear faint echoes of hot jazz, cool blues, or sizzling swing from yesteryear seeping through the old rectangular building's faded yellow brick exterior. Walk up close enough to read the historical plaque mounted on the side of the old structure, and the mingled aromas of ladies' perfumes, sweaty summer nights, and a fish fry down the block seem to drift by. The plaque pays homage to the history of this building and its immediate two-block neighborhood: Tuxedo Junction.
The year 2016 marked the 100-year anniversary of the University of Alabama’s Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC). Since its inception, the mission of the ROTC has been to produce officers for the uniformed services. The ROTC was established on June 3, 1916, when Pres. Woodrow Wilson signed the National Defense Act into law, establishing both junior (high school) and senior (college or university) versions of the organization. The law allowed the president, through the War Department, to establish senior ROTC at state universities and other institutions required to provide military training as part of the 1862 Land Grant Act. The Act further authorized standard, prescribed courses of military training, requiring universities to devote at least three hours per week per academic year. The first ROTC units appeared in the autumn of 1916 at forty-six schools with a combined enrollment of approximately forty thousand students. Though the University of Alabama (UA) was not a land grant institution, by 1916 its Corps of Cadets had already existed for almost fifty-six years when the first ROTC units started appearing at other institutions.
On February 9, 2000, Thomas E. Corts, president of Samford University, delivered a speech before the Downtown Rotary Club of Birmingham entitled “How Long, Alabama? O How Long?” Dr. Corts’ presentation, which was widely reported, dealt with the political and economic problems the state of Alabama suffers because of its outmoded and cumbersome constitution, the fundamental document that gives shape to state government. Corts did not mince words. “For almost one hundred years,” he noted, “it has been acknowledged that our state constitution was poorly conceived, poorly written, composed largely with Reconstruction in mind .... Writers of the Constitution of 1901 worked from wrong motives that led them to wrong conclusions and we have been paying a price ever since.”
From the Vault
Read complete classic articles and departments featured in Alabama Heritage magazine in the past 30 years of publishing. You'll find in-depth features along with quirky and fun departments that cover the people, places, and events that make our state great!