Posts Tagged African American Attorneys
By Wayne Greenhaw
Since my 22nd book, FIGHTING THE DEVIL IN DIXIE: How Civil Rights Activists Took on the Ku Klux Klan in Alabama, was published by Lawrence Hill Books on January 1st, I have been on the road across the South.
Most of my stops have included independent booksellers, television shows, radio talk shows, and book festivals. But some have been high schools, colleges and university libraries.
“Why schools?” one fellow writer asked. And then answered, “Students don’t buy books.”
I shook my head. “Maybe only a few buy books,” I said. “But they talk. And perhaps their older friends and parents buy books.”
What is most important is that when I speak to these eager young people I am imparting knowledge that I have gained over my 70-plus years and during my two decades of covering civil rights as a journalist beginning in the mid-1960s and the civil rights history that my older friends handed down to me from their experiences during the 1950s.
At Calera High School in Shelby County south of Birmingham I spoke to two assemblies: middle school students and upper grades. After my short 20-minute talks, youngsters came up and shook my hand and said, “I really think I now know why we have Black History Month. It makes sense.”
One senior sat with me in the school’s media center and wanted to hear more about the African-American attorneys I simply touched on in my talks. I told him about Birmingham’s first black lawyer, Arthur Davis Shores, a small man with a huge intellect and an equally large amount of courage. I told him how Shores, born in Bessemer, had graduated from LaSalle Extension University Law School in Chicago and came back home to become the only practicing African-American attorney in the state. He stood up time and again to threats of the Ku Klux Klan and represented Vivian Malone and James Hood when they registered as the first black students at the University of Alabama when Governor George Wallace stood in the schoolhouse door.
I also told him about Orzell Billingsley Jr., a young man from Birmingham who attended A.H. Parker High School, Talledega College, and earned a law degree from Howard University in Washington D.C. He came back home and fought for more than 15 years to clear the name of Caliph Washington, a young black convicted by an all-white all-male jury of killing a white policeman. Billingsley proved his expertise in the art of incorporating all-black towns that had been gerrymandered out of white city limits. These residential areas scattered throughout Alabama in the mid-20th Century were refused paved roads, running water, sewage and other conveniences. Billingsley would go in, draw up incorporation papers, then show the new town leaders how to apply for federal assistance to obtain the necessary services. One was Roosevelt City between Birmingham and Bessemer, where Billingsley became municipal judge.
At a college near Amelia Island, Florida, a few weeks ago, I spoke to an over-flow crowd of young people who asked question after question into the late morning.
At Snead State Community College at Boaz last week, Keri O’Neal, an African-American sophomore from Lafayette, Georgia, appeared on a student panel with me. She and the other three asked questions about civil rights history. After the talk, Ms. O’Neal said, “For Snead State being a majority white school, I think it’s good to have a person who experienced civil rights to get more information about it. “
For me, hearing such comments makes me want to continue to talk to more and more students in high schools and colleges.
African American Attorney, African American Attorneys, Arthur Davis, Black History Month, Book Festivals, Civil Rights Activists, Civil Rights History, Fellow Writer, Ku Klux Klan, Lasalle Extension University, Lawrence Hill Books, Mid 1960s, Middle School Students, Radio Talk Shows, S Media, Shelby County, Small Man, Upper Grades, Vivian Malone, Wallac, Wayne Greenhaw
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