|Birmingham Commissioner of Public Safety
|In office 1957–1963
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Who was the Commissioner of Public Safety in Birmingham in the 1960s?
Eugene ‘Bull’ Connor (1897-1973) served as Public Safety Commissioner of Birmingham in the 1960s. He gained national media attention for his use of fire hoses and attack dogs on crowds during the civil rights protest in Birmingham in 1963.
Who was the police commissioner in Birmingham?
Chief Scott Thurmond | Birmingham Police Department.
Who was the director of Public Safety in Alabama?
ALEA announces new Director of Public Safety MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) – The Alabama Law Enforcement Agency Secretary Hal Taylor has announced the appointment of Jonathan Archer as the Director of Public Safety (DPS) on Mar.1. This announcement follows the retirement announcement of former DPS Director Colonel Jimmy Helms earlier this year.
A native of Mobile, Colonel Archer graduated from the University of South Alabama in 2002 with a Bachelor’s in Criminal Justice and a Master’s in Public Administration. He is also a graduate of the FBI’s National Academy. His career in law enforcement began in 2005, when he joined the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Marine Police Division and was assigned to the Baldwin County/Orange Beach Search and Rescue Unit.
Secretary Taylor said, “Throughout his years with ALEA, Colonel Archer has proven his unwavering commitment and dedication to public service, not only for this Agency but all Alabamians. Time after time, he has taken on monumental tasks and difficult challenges while providing safe and effective solutions and raising the Agency’s Driver License Division to a new level of excellence.
Based upon his proven work ethic and successful track record, I am extremely confident in Colonel Archer’s leadership abilities and his vision for the Department. I look forward to working with him in this new capacity.” During his time in the Driver License Division, he led his staff through the demanding challenges of COVID-19 to continuously provide public services and safely serve a record number of citizens via email, telephone, and online.
In 2022, ALEA’s Driver License Division worked diligently at the direction of Colonel Archer to improve technology and driver license processes, ultimately unveiling the new Law Enforcement Agency’s Driver License System (LEADS). LEADS was a monumental and historical accomplishment that replaced the previous system, which had been in place for nearly two decades.
Colonel Archer said, “I am honored that Governor Kay Ivey and Secretary Taylor have entrusted me to lead ALEA’s Department of Public Safety. I have thoroughly enjoyed working alongside employees within the Agency’s Marine Patrol and Driver License Divisions, and I look forward to continuing the Agency’s mission of providing the highest level of quality service and protection for all in this new position.” Not reading this story on the WSFA News App? Get news alerts FASTER and FREE in the and the ! Copyright 2023 WSFA.
All rights reserved. : ALEA announces new Director of Public Safety
What happened in Birmingham in 1960?
|Part of the Civil Rights Movement
|High school students are hit by a high-pressure water jet from a fire hose during a peaceful walk in Birmingham, Alabama in 1963. As photographed by Charles Moore, images like this one, printed in Life, galvanized global support for the demonstrators.
|April 3 – May 10, 1963
|Birmingham, Alabama and Kelly Ingram Park
|Parties to the civil conflict
- ACMHR member
- Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth
- SCLC members
- Martin Luther King Jr.
- James Bevel
- Wyatt Tee Walker
- Dorothy Cotton
- Art Hanes (1961–1963)
- Albert Boutwell (1963–1967)
- Commissioner of Public Safety
- Commissioner of Public Improvements
J.T. Waggoner Sr.
- President of Chamber of Commerce
- Sid Smyer
The Birmingham campaign, also known as the Birmingham movement or Birmingham confrontation, was an American movement organized in early 1963 by the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) to bring attention to the integration efforts of African Americans in Birmingham, Alabama,
Led by Martin Luther King Jr., James Bevel, Fred Shuttlesworth and others, the campaign of nonviolent direct action culminated in widely publicized confrontations between young black students and white civic authorities, and eventually led the municipal government to change the city’s discrimination laws.
In the early 1960s, Birmingham was one of the most racially divided cities in the United States, enforced both legally and culturally. Black citizens faced legal and economic disparities, and violent retribution when they attempted to draw attention to their problems.
- Martin Luther King Jr.
- Called it the most segregated city in the country.
- Protests in Birmingham began with a boycott led by Shuttlesworth meant to pressure business leaders to open employment to people of all races, and end segregation in public facilities, restaurants, schools, and stores.
- When local business and governmental leaders resisted the boycott, the SCLC agreed to assist.
Organizer Wyatt Tee Walker joined Birmingham activist Shuttlesworth and began what they called Project C, a series of sit-ins and marches intended to provoke mass arrests. When the campaign ran low on adult volunteers, James Bevel thought of the idea of having students become the main demonstrators in the Birmingham campaign.
He then trained and directed high school, college, and elementary school students in nonviolence, and asked them to participate in the demonstrations by taking a peaceful walk 50 at a time from the 16th Street Baptist Church to City Hall in order to talk to the mayor about segregation. This resulted in over a thousand arrests, and, as the jails and holding areas filled with arrested students, the Birmingham Police Department, at the direction of the city Commissioner of Public Safety, Eugene “Bull” Connor, used high-pressure water hoses and police attack dogs on the children and adult bystanders.
Not all of the bystanders were peaceful, despite the avowed intentions of SCLC to hold a completely nonviolent walk, but the students held to the nonviolent premise. Martin Luther King Jr. and the SCLC drew both criticism and praise for allowing children to participate and put themselves in harm’s way.
Who was the past chief of the Birmingham police?
Former Birmingham Police Chief Patrick Smith has been named chief of the Lakewood Police Department in Washington. (City of Lakewood) Former Birmingham Police Chief Patrick Smith will take over as top cop of a city police force in Washington. Smith resigned as Birmingham’s chief in 2022 after three years on the job.
- He cited personal reasons for his unexpected exit.
- Smith will take the helm of the Lakewood Police Department effective March 1.
- The chief will oversee 111 full-time employees.
- Lakewood City Manager John Caulfield announced Smith’s hiring on Saturday, saying he was chosen after a highly competitive selection and recruitment process.
Smith was chosen from six finalists. “He comes to Lakewood with over 32 years of law enforcement and leadership experience. Most recently he served as Police Chief of the Birmingham Police Department from 2018 to 2022. While in his home state of Alabama, he demonstrated his strategic management skills while running the largest law enforcement agency in the state,” according to the announcement.
“That included increasing engagement with the community, improving staff accountability, modernizing the department by adding a Real Time Crime Center that integrated technology for the department and establishing personnel development programs.” “Chief Smith’s background and experience in implementing innovative technology solutions, coupled with his strong aptitude in building lasting relationships with those he works with and with the communities he serves, will serve our community well as it continues to grow,” Caulfield said.
“I am confident Chief Smith is a great fit not only for the department and our organization, but also for our community. I’m excited to see him continue to build on the work achieved by our past chiefs and continue to elevate our police department to the next level as he leads our officers.” If you purchase a product or register for an account through one of the links on our site, we may receive compensation.
What is the history of Birmingham police?
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
|Birmingham City Police
|Hat badge of the type in use on the last day of the service
|20 November 1839
|31 March 1974
|West Midlands Police
|Birmingham, England, UK
|England & Wales
Local civilian police
Birmingham City Police was the police service responsible for general policing in the city of Birmingham from 1839 to 1974. The force was established by a special Act of Parliament in 1839, and was amalgamated as of 1 April 1974 with the West Midlands Constabulary and parts of other forces to form the West Midlands Police by the Local Government Act 1972,
Who was the first black police officer in Birmingham Alabama?
Leroy Stover, Birmingham, Alabama’s First Black Policeman: An Inspirational Story Paperback â Illustrated, April 24, 2013 This is the true historical story of Deputy Chief Leroy Stover, Birmingham, Alabama’s first Black Policeman. This book describes a journey of rejection, racism, and segregation that leads to acceptance, unity, respect and inspiration.
Leroy’s faith, courage, stamina, hard work and military, in his early years, helped to sustain him during his career for 32 years at the Birmingham Police Department. Bessie Stover Powell is the oldest niece of Deputy Chief Leroy Stover. They grew up in the same household. She researched many historical documents, and conducted extensive interviews with her Uncle in chronicling his journey.
She is an Educator, Administrator, School Counselor, and Minister. She has a B.S. in Human Services-Urban Planning, Thomas Edison State; M.A. in Rehabilitation Counseling, S.C. State University; Ed.D. in Curriculum and Instruction, University of Sarasota.
- She was Professor of the Year, 2008.
- She is Associate Professor in the Education Department, South Carolina State University. Don L.
- Powell is a distinguished scholar, teacher and administrator.
- He has a B.A.
- In English, Miles College; M.A.
- In English, Atlanta University; and a Ph.D.
- In English, University of Illinois.
He is the editor of Literary Perspectives, and other articles and documents. He was Professor of the Year, 2003, Claflin College. He is Chair of English and Mass Communication at Voorhees College. He retired from S.C. State University. Deputy Chief Stover has been described as a risk taker, trail blazer, intelligent, role model, effective administrator, trouble shooter, detail oriented, well dressed, and above all, fair and firm.
Who was president during the march on Birmingham?
In April 1963 King and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) joined with Birmingham, Alabama’s existing local movement, the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights (ACMHR), in a massive direct action campaign to attack the city’s segregation system by putting pressure on Birmingham’s merchants during the Easter season, the second biggest shopping season of the year.
- As ACMHR founder Fred Shuttlesworth stated in the group’s ” Birmingham Manifesto, ” the campaign was ” a moral witness to give our community a chance to survive ” (ACMHR, 3 April 1963).
- The campaign was originally scheduled to begin in early March 1963, but was postponed until 2 April when the relatively moderate Albert Boutwell defeated Birmingham’s segregationist commissioner of public safety, Eugene ” Bull ” Connor, in a run-off mayoral election.
On 3 April the desegregation campaign was launched with a series of mass meetings, direct actions, lunch counter sit-ins, marches on City Hall, and a boycott of downtown merchants. King spoke to black citizens about the philosophy of nonviolence and its methods, and extended appeals for volunteers at the end of the mass meetings.
With the number of volunteers increasing daily, actions soon expanded to kneel-ins at churches, sit-ins at the library, and a march on the county building to register voters. Hundreds were arrested. On 10 April the city government obtained a state circuit court injunction against the protests. After heavy debate, campaign leaders decided to disobey the court order.
King declared: ” We cannot in all good conscience obey such an injunction which is an unjust, undemocratic and unconstitutional misuse of the legal process ” (ACMHR, 11 April 1963). Plans to continue to submit to arrest were threatened, however, because the money available for cash bonds was depleted, so leaders could no longer guarantee that arrested protesters would be released.
- Ing contemplated whether he and Ralph Abernathy should be arrested.
- Given the lack of bail funds, King’s services as a fundraiser were desperately needed, but King also worried that his failure to submit to arrests might undermine his credibility.
- Ing concluded that he must risk going to jail in Birmingham.
He told his colleagues: ” I don’t know what will happen; I don’t know where the money will come from. But I have to make a faith act ” (King, 73). On Good Friday, 12 April, King was arrested in Birmingham after violating the anti-protest injunction and was kept in solitary confinement.
During this time King penned the ” Letter from Birmingham Jail ” on the margins of the Birmingham News, in reaction to a statement published in that newspaper by eight Birmingham clergymen condemning the protests. King’s request to call his wife, Coretta Scott King, who was at home in Atlanta recovering from the birth of their fourth child, was denied.
After she communicated her concern to the Kennedy administration, Birmingham officials permitted King to call home. Bail money was made available, and he was released on 20 April 1963. In order to sustain the campaign, SCLC organizer James Bevel proposed using young children in demonstrations.
- Bevel’s rationale for the Children’s Crusade was that young people represented an untapped source of freedom fighters without the prohibitive responsibilities of older activists.
- On 2 May more than 1,000 African American students attempted to march into downtown Birmingham, and hundreds were arrested.
When hundreds more gathered the following day, Commissioner Connor directed local police and fire departments to use force to halt the demonstrations. During the next few days images of children being blasted by high-pressure fire hoses, clubbed by police officers, and attacked by police dogs appeared on television and in newspapers, triggering international outrage.
While leading a group of child marchers, Shuttlesworth himself was hit with the full force of a fire hose and had to be hospitalized. King offered encouragement to parents of the young protesters: ” Don’t worry about your children, they’re going to be alright. Don’t hold them back if they want to go to jail.
For they are doing a job for not only themselves, but for all of America and for all mankind ” (King, 6 May 1963). In the meantime, the white business structure was weakening under adverse publicity and the unexpected decline in business due to the boycott, but many business owners and city officials were reluctant to negotiate with the protesters.
With national pressure on the White House also mounting, Attorney General Robert Kennedy sent Burke Marshall, his chief civil rights assistant, to facilitate negotiations between prominent black citizens and representatives of Birmingham’s Senior Citizen’s Council, the city’s business leadership. The Senior Citizen’s Council sought a moratorium on street protests as an act of good faith before any final settlement was declared, and Marshall encouraged campaign leaders to halt demonstrations, accept an interim compromise that would provide partial success, and negotiate the rest of their demands afterward.
Some black negotiators were open to the idea, and although the hospitalized Shuttlesworth was not present at the negotiations, on 8 May King told the negotiators he would accept the compromise and call the demonstrations to a halt. When Shuttlesworth learned that King intended to announce a moratorium he was furious—about both the decision to ease pressure off white business owners and the fact that he, as the acknowledged leader of the local movement, had not been consulted.
Feeling betrayed, Shuttlesworth reminded King that he could not legitimately speak for the black population of Birmingham on his own: ” Go ahead and call it off When I see it on TV, that you have called it off, I will get up out of this, my sickbed, with what little ounce of strength I have, and lead them back into the street.
And your name’ll be Mud ” (Hampton and Fayer, 136). King made the announcement anyway, but indicated that demonstrations might be resumed if negotiations did not resolve the situation shortly. By 10 May negotiators had reached an agreement, and despite his falling out with King, Shuttlesworth joined him and Abernathy to read the prepared statement that detailed the compromise: the removal of ” Whites Only ” and ” Blacks Only ” signs in restrooms and on drinking fountains, a plan to desegregate lunch counters, an ongoing ” program of upgrading Negro employment, ” the formation of a biracial committee to monitor the progress of the agreement, and the release of jailed protesters on bond ( ” The Birmingham Truce Agreement, ” 10 May 1963).
Birmingham segregationists responded to the agreement with a series of violent attacks. That night an explosive went off near the Gaston Motel room where King and SCLC leaders had previously stayed, and the next day the home of King’s brother Alfred Daniel King was bombed. President John F. Kennedy responded by ordering 3,000 federal troops into position near Birmingham and making preparations to federalize the Alabama National Guard.
Four months later, on 15 September, Ku Klux Klan members bombed Birmingham’s Sixteenth Street Baptist Church, killing four young girls. King delivered the eulogy at the 18 September joint funeral of three of the victims, preaching that the girls were ” the martyred heroines of a holy crusade for freedom and human dignity” (King, ” Eulogy for the Martyred Children,” 18 September 1963).
Why is Birmingham called Birmingham?
In the Saxon 6th Century Birmingham was just one small settlement in thick forest – the home (ham) of the tribe (ing) of a leader called Birm or Beorma. Geography played a major role in the transformation of Birmingham from a hamlet worth 20 shillings in 1086 into Britain’s centre of manufacturing in the 20th Century.
- It was a dry site with a good supply of water, routes converging at Deritend Ford across the River Rea.
- There was easy access to coal, iron and timber.
- The de Bermingham family held the Lordship of the manor of Birmingham for four hundred years from around 1150.
- In 1166 Peter de Birmingham obtained a market charter from Henry II and in 1250 William de Bermingham obtained permission to hold a four day fair at Whitsun.
In addition the family allowed many freedoms to their tenants and there were no restrictive obstacles to trade. Developing as a market centre, Birmingham also saw the beginnings of small scale smithing and metal working. Craftsmen were listed amongst the taxpayers in 1327.
- When Leland visited Birmingham in 1538 there were 1500 people in 200 houses, one main street with a number of side streets, markets and many smiths who were selling goods all over England.
- By supplying the Parliamentarians in the English Civil War (1642-46) with swords, pikes and armour, Birmingham emerged with a strong reputation as a metal working centre.
By 1731 the population had grown to 23,000 and manufacturing business thrived. By the time of the Industrial Revolution Birmingham had become the industrial and commercial centre of the Midlands.
Why was Birmingham called Magic city?
Magic City Modern: A Short History of the Birmingham-Bessemer School As a site of collective memory, Birmingham, Alabama, is commonly associated with some of the darkest chapters in American history. In his famous 1963 “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” Martin Luther King, Jr.
described the city: There can be no gainsaying of the fact that racial injustice engulfs this community. Birmingham is probably the most thoroughly segregated city in the United States. Its ugly record of police brutality is known in every section of this country. Its unjust treatment of Negroes in the courts is a notorious reality.
There have been more unsolved bombings of Negro homes and churches in Birmingham than in any other city in this nation. These are the hard, brutal, and unbelievable facts. During the Civil Rights era, the increasing demand by black Americans for some semblance of social and political equity ignited long-simmering racial tensions, especially in the city of Birmingham.
- Demonstrators of all ages put their bodies and livelihoods on the line to protest oppressive Jim Crow laws, which were enforced with particular brutality in the region.
- Jim Crow laws were also known as black codes, as they were the rules that governed black life.
- There were, however, other types of black codes that existed throughout the South.
In this instance, we may think of a code not as rules but in terms of one of its other meanings: a visual system for communicating information, especially in secret. These other black codes were not ones used to enforce subjugation, but were instead personal and collective expressions.
This text addresses the existence of such alternative codes, made manifest in the way that black artists in Alabama created work embedded with complex layers of conceptual meaning and aesthetic content that appeared in their yards and homes, often hidden from the public eye. This essay specifically serves as an introduction to a group of black male artists living in the greater Birmingham, Alabama, area from the period after the Civil Rights Movement through today.
While two of the artists, Thornton Dial Sr. (1928–2016) and Lonnie Holley (b.1950), have achieved relative institutional and academic recognition, the other two members of this group, Joe Minter (b.1943) and Ronald Lockett (1965–1998), remain comparatively underrecognized within the history of art and underrepresented on the walls of museums.
- These four artists lived either in Birmingham, the largest city in Alabama, or the smaller adjacent town of Bessemer.
- They constitute what American studies scholar Bernard L.
- Herman calls the “Birmingham-Bessemer School.” While they did not refer to themselves as such, each artist acknowledges the importance of this small community to their individual practices.
All impacted, either directly or indirectly, by Jim Crow rule, Dial, Holley, Lockett, and Minter made works that are not simply documents of history or illustrations but hidden transcripts, visions of alternative futures, and radical archives of black determination.
The hard, brutal, and almost unbelievable facts mentioned in Martin Luther King, Jr.’s description of Birmingham—racial injustice, police brutality, bombings—appear in the following works of art but are transformed, abstracted, and coded within the objects themselves. Fig.1. Thornton Dial, Monument to the Minds of the Little Negro Steelworkers, 2001–3.
Steel, wood, wire, twine, artificial flowers, ax blade, glass bottles, animal bones, cloth, tin cans, paint can lids, and enamel, 76 x 138 x 46 in. Minneapolis Institute of Art. Photo: Stephen Pitkin/Pitkin Studio. © Thornton Dial Estate/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York Even though the Birmingham-Bessemer School was active in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries, their collective history is rooted in the circumstances surrounding Birmingham’s founding as a city in the late nineteenth century.
- In Monument to the Minds of the Little Negro Steelworkers (fig.1), Dial draws upon the history of Birmingham as the steel and iron manufacturing capital of the South; the industry was propelled by black freedmen who worked in the iron foundries and coal mines of the region.
- Using primarily scrap metal, Dial has carefully manipulated this material into a swirling morass of curlicue forms.
These forms evoke the decorative ironwork (often made by black artisans) seen throughout Southern architecture—reminding viewers that the labor of black Americans is hidden everywhere. Additionally, the rags, bones, bottles, and artificial flowers that adorn the work’s metal structure recall black graveyard decorative traditions, an important phenomenon within the larger cultural history of black Americans.
Historically, black graveyards were some of the only sites white people dared not enter, allowing them to become some of the earliest spaces for safe visual expression by African Americans. Dial, himself a former metalworker, created this monument to, importantly, the intellect of the black workers whose contributions to the technological advancements pioneered in the area have gone unnoticed.
Viewed as a whole, Monument to the Minds of the Little Negro Steelworkers is a powerful visual index to the rich history of black life, love, and labor in the greater Birmingham region. Fig.2. Thomas Duke, Birmingham Alabama city convicts in their sleeping quarters.
- Shackles never removed,
- July 1907.
- Thomas Dukes Parke Collection, Birmingham Public Library Archives Birmingham was historically referred to as the Magic City because its soil contained the three necessary elements to produce iron: limestone, coal, and iron ore.
- This geological condition allowed Birmingham to become one of the most successful industrial centers in the post-Reconstruction South, and by the 1880s, it was the steel capital of the Southeast and one of the region’s most urbanized areas.
Far from any stereotypical vision of a rural Southern hamlet, Birmingham was a city built on its adoption of technological and industrial advancements, instead of relying on agriculture. The steel industry in Birmingham was fundamentally built on the continued violence toward and oppression of black workers.
- Birmingham was unique in the way that the city factory owners exploited a new form of industrial labor that could be equated to a form of slavery.
- The steel industry and local police force worked in concert to create this system of labor.
- Police in the Birmingham-Bessemer region would arrest black men for “crimes,” including loitering, vagrancy, or breaking curfew—essentially, being black in a public space—and then funnel them into the convict-lease system, so that they could be used as free labor for the steel and iron industry (fig.2).
Fig.3. Joe Minter, Chain Gang, 1995. Chains, shovels, picks, and fireplace grate. Photo: Stephen Pitkin/Pitkin Studio In order to fully understand a work such as Joe Minter’s Chain Gang (fig.3), it is essential to confront the history of this particular form of oppressive labor.
In addition to exploiting a systematically unjust criminal arrangement, factory owners fashioned a caste system for paid laborers in which white workers, a minority of the employees, functioned as skilled labor, while the black workers, who represented the majority, were classified as unskilled labor, with little to no opportunity for upward mobility.
The black workers were given the most difficult and dangerous work in the foundries, exposing them to extreme heat, toxic gases, and unforgiving physical labor. Despite these horrific conditions, many African Americans outside of Alabama came to work in these foundries in an effort to escape the pittance of sharecropping.
- By the 1920s, African Americans made up roughly 60 to 80 percent of the steel industry’s workers.
- In Minter’s metal assemblage, farm tools are forever chained together, the tools functioning as stand-ins for human figures, an allusion to the fact that the black body was historically viewed by those in power as valuable only insofar as it can be used for work.
The sculpture is created from metal, which was the final product of so much dangerous and backbreaking labor—then, of course, the metal produced could be turned into tools to facilitate more hard labor. Similar to Mel Edwards’s (b.1937) famous Lynch Fragments series, both artists imbue abstracted metal forms with a sense of malevolence, threat, and history.
Fig.4. Joe Minter, A Monument: The Birmingham Jail, 2000, part of The African Village in America. Photo: William Arnett Chain Gang functions as a standalone work, although it also belongs to a larger project Minter has been working on for the last few decades. Beginning in the late 1970s and early 1980s, Minter began transforming his property into what he calls, “The African Village in America.” Stretching across the entirety of his one-acre property, it has now become a single-artist museum and art installation dedicated to the history of the black diaspora in the United States.
Minter began building this yard after he heard the city was about to begin construction on what is now the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, located in downtown Birmingham. In fearing that the city would not, in his words, “tell the story of his people that has never been properly told,” he embarked on this thirty-plus–year ongoing project.
As one weaves through his environment—which, as of 2020, can be visited by the public—it is possible to encounter abstract sculptures, such as Chain Gang, as well as found-object recreations of specific sites significant to black history, such as the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, or the Birmingham Jail cell (fig.4) from which Martin Luther King, Jr.
wrote his famous letter (quoted at the beginning of this text). Minter’s yard is one of the best extant examples of a visual phenomenon that used to exist across the South—the “yard show,” a type of site-specific art environment that was erected primarily by black Americans on their properties.
- The yard show was especially predominant in the Deep South.
- Originally defined by Robert Farris Thompson as “the practice of adorning one’s property and living space with objects of aesthetic, spiritual, and cultural significance,” these sprawling installations were filled primarily with found object assemblages, but also paintings and sculptures, and were once commonplace.
Beyond object adornment, these yards also presupposed the presence of a viewer, or a community within which such a practice could be understood. Additionally, yard shows were also a way of announcing ownership through visual expression; this is significant, considering how difficult it was (and still is, in many ways) for black people to own property.
Finally, in creating a massive, impossible-to-ignore art environment where visitors must confront American history, these artists present an artistic archive for oneself and one’s community. With the exception of Ronald Lockett, each artist in the Birmingham-Bessemer School constructed a yard environment.
What makes Minter’s yard particularly powerful, in addition to its content, is its location: perched on the top of a hill, it overlooks two historically black cemeteries, Shadow Lawn and Grace Hill, where many of Birmingham’s black laborers and citizens are laid to rest.
The phenomenon of the yard show has now, for the most part, ceased, as their makers have passed away and black people have moved away from the South. Black flight from the South during the period of the Great Migration greatly impacted the cultural, social, and economic landscape of the region. While the Birmingham area was the site of major economic growth in the early half of the twentieth century, by the 1950s, industry jobs began to decline sharply.
By 1971, all the Birmingham iron mines had closed. These closures most sharply affected the city’s black population, who held the vast majority of its industrial jobs. The decline of this industry directly impacted Thornton Dial, perhaps the best-known member of the group.
Dial had spent thirty years working at the Pullman Standard plant, and his neighborhood, Pipe Shop, was named for its proximity to U.S. Pipe, a major employer in Bessemer. After Dial was permanently laid off, at age fifty-eight, he decided to devote most of his time to art making. Working in his “junk house” studio on Fifteenth Street in the Pipe Shop, Dial began to experiment with making things that had no explicit utilitarian value, although at that stage he did not call these objects art.
Later, importantly, Dial would embrace his practice and self-identify as an artist. The early period of Dial’s career (late 1980s through the 1990s) is marked by the consistent presence of animal subject matter. Birds, fish, and, most of all, tigers make frequent appearances.
In Dial’s symbolic universe, the tiger served as an avatar for himself, and more generally, the history of black struggle in the United States. To the uninformed, the use of the tiger could seem like nothing more than a folksy proclivity, or, even more problematically, an indicator of a primitive connection to nature.
In actuality, using the tiger as a symbol for black struggle allowed him to speak about personal and social inequity in a veiled and critical fashion. Fig.5. Thornton Dial, Monkeys and People Love the Tiger Cat, 1988. Rope, carpet, wire, enamel, and Splash Zone compound on wood.
- Souls Grown Deep Foundation.
- Photo: Gamma One Conversions.
- © Thornton Dial Estate/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York For example, in the early work Monkeys And People Love the Tiger Cat (fig.5), a blue tiger rendered out of rope is surrounded by abstracted human and monkey figures painted in bold strokes of black and white.
A snake, a biblical symbol for evil, stretches across the top of the painting. Even at this early phase in his career, Dial was skeptical of the approval he was beginning to receive in the mainstream art world. This scene is a coded expression of Dial’s early apprehension, where the tiger is made to perform for people, whose features, while abstracted, are noticeably rendered primarily in white.
Fig.6. Jim Peppler, Roadside Sign for the Lowndes County Freedom Organization, 1966. Jim Peppler Southern Courier photograph collection, Alabama Department of Archives and History The tiger’s close relationship to the black panther is no coincidence. The Black Panther image originated from Lowndes County, located just outside of Montgomery, Alabama.
The Lowndes County Freedom Organization (LCFO) was formed in 1965 under the umbrella of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), helmed by Stokely Carmichael. As a party, the LCFO had a mission to register the majority black citizens of Lowndes County to vote.
- They chose the black panther as their symbol, and a year later Huey P.
- Newton and Bobby Seale adapted the image for the newly formed Black Panther Party, based in Oakland, California.
- In looking at the roadside sign for the LCFO, as captured in Jim Peppler’s photograph (fig.6), the flattened, horizontal orientation of the panther figure, with its upwardly curved tail, bears a striking formal resemblance to Dial’s Monkeys and People Love the Tiger Cat,
Dial’s selection of the tiger as an avatar, with its proximity to the panther, allowed him to indirectly associate himself with larger movements addressing black struggle without having to explicitly state his politics. Fig.7. Ronald Lockett, Once Something Has Lived It Can Never Really Die, 1996, wood, enamel, graphite, tin, found materials, industrial sealing compound, on wood, High Museum of Art.
- Photo credit: Stephen Pitkin/Pitkin Studio.
- © Ronald Lockett Estate/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York The animal avatar shows up with particular prominence in the work of another member of the Birmingham-Bessemer School, Ronald Lockett.
- Lockett was Thornton Dial’s much-younger cousin, who, for a period of time, “studied” under Dial in an unofficial mentor-mentee capacity.
Also living on Fifteenth Street, for years Lockett was the only person allowed in the junk house studio while Dial was working. As his protégée, the most significant concept Lockett appropriated from Dial was the use of an animal avatar as an encoded autobiographical figure.
As his avatar, Lockett selected not a predator, but prey—a deer. The whitetail deer that often appear in Lockett’s paintings and assemblages (fig.7) are commonly found throughout Alabama, in both rural and urban areas. In the mid-twentieth century, the Alabama Department of Conservation began cultivating a stock of deer throughout the state.
Hunting whitetail deer was and continues to be a popular pastime in Alabama; the majority of hunters are white men who live in rural areas. Lockett was not a hunter. In choosing the deer as his avatar, specifically, the common Alabama whitetail deer, in effect, he was positioning himself as the locally hunted animal.
- In choosing an animal of prey instead of a predator, Lockett’s deer are meditations on the difficulty of young black survival in the small postindustrial town of Bessemer, where job opportunities were limited, and, for many of Lockett’s generation, leaving seemed like the only option.
- In addition, the male deer that appear throughout his work are also an homage to his mentor, Thornton Dial, who was referred to by loved ones as “Uncle Buck.” Beyond animal subject matter, Lockett was deeply interested in creating works of art related to the collective history of the area.
During the 1950s and 1960s, Birmingham was also called “Bombingham” due to the frequency of bombings committed by white residents, who sought to terrorize the black community and quell any form of uprising and resistance. In Smoke-Filled Sky (fig.8), Lockett takes charred wood, reignited with lashes of red paint, and visualizes this act of violence.
As the school’s youngest member, Lockett did not personally experience the effects of Jim Crow or the unfolding of the Civil Rights Movement. Nevertheless, he felt the need to address this shared history in his own practice. Fig.8. Ronald Lockett, Smoke-Filled Sky (You Can Burn A Man’s House But Not His Dreams), 1990.
Charred wood, industrial sealing compound, paint, on wood, Souls Grown Deep Foundation. Photo credit: Stephen Pitkin/Pitkin Studio. © Ronald Lockett Estate/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York Born in 1950, Lonnie Holley did live through this traumatic period of American history.
- One of the most significant acts of domestic terrorism, which helped ignite the Civil Rights Movement, was when the Ku Klux Klan bombed the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in 1963, killing four black girls who were changing into their choir robes in the church basement.
- Holley was thirteen years old when the bombing happened, almost the same age as the four victims.
Holley’s grandmother worked as a gravedigger for a portion of her life, and, according to him, she dug three of the four bombing victims’ graves. The shovels of Three Shovels to Bury You (fig.9), with their spades turned upright, have an anthropomorphized presence similar to Minter’s Chain Gang.
Both a personal and historical memorial to the people of his hometown, the work serves as another example of how artists of the Birmingham-Bessemer School confront history in a coded manner. Fig.9. Lonnie Holley, Three Shovels to Bury You, 1998. Shovels, metal fence, found wood, and fabric. Photo by John Bentham, courtesy Souls Grown Deep Foundation and Community Partnership Historically, the consistent use of found materials in the work of the Birmingham-Bessemer School has been attributed to need: with a lack of economic resources, they were compelled to use what was readily available.
While this is partially true, these artists are also making very deliberate conceptual and aesthetic choices to further their own visions and artistic practices. Holley’s use of junk and found materials, in particular, needs to be properly understood within his own radical epistemology and the larger history of other black artists who worked with discards.
What I’m doing here, I think Malcolm said it best: by any means necessary,” Holley states, “We can make art where we have to. Dr. King, if you remember, wrote a sermon on a piece of toilet paper.” In these statements, Holley connects black history to trash: not by lowering this history to the status of garbage, but instead by unlocking the subversive potential of junk through this association.
When Holley states that he makes art “by any means necessary,” he is also alluding to his use of lost or discarded materials. Using junk is a necessary means for Holley as an artist, a practice that grew not only out of a lack of traditional art materials, but also out of a recuperative desire to unlock the historical and aesthetic possibilities embedded in every object.
- The idea that Dr.
- Ing was not above using toilet paper in his own work, that in times of need even the lowliest of household objects was a worthy vessel for a sermon, clearly appealed to Holley.
- If toilet paper can contain a sermon, then anything can be used to create a work of art.
- The South, so often considered the backward and antimodern underbelly of the United States, was nevertheless a site of industrialization—especially the city of Birmingham.
As its history reveals, this modernity was built through the continued abuse and oppression of black Americans, a counter to any romantic notions of progress. To fully understand the work of the Birmingham-Bessemer School, Birmingham’s exceedingly violent modern history must be confronted.
In this same vein, one must also confront the many unrealized promises of the Civil Rights Movement and the effects of deindustrialization, which led to the economic collapse of the area in the 1970s. It is plausible that part of the resistance to accepting these artists into the larger narratives of modern and contemporary art is due to the ugly historical circumstances that led to the group’s formation in the first place.
Their exclusion represents the general resistance in the United States to fully acknowledging the social and political realities that black citizens faced and continue to face. The city of Birmingham set the stage for the emergence of artists such as Holley, Minter, Lockett, and Dial.
With its systematically unequal, exploitative, and racist labor practices, its association with the most violent tragedies of the Civil Rights Movement, and its continued economic challenges, Birmingham exists as a constant reminder of the casualties of economic development and how racial equality is far from having been achieved.
Each artist of the Birmingham-Bessemer School uniquely addresses this history through varying media and conceptual orientations. Collectively, they have turned this difficult and challenging past into difficult and challenging art; the school’s story is ultimately one about black self-determination.
- To borrow a quotation by the historian Robin D.G.
- Elley, perhaps the history of Birmingham can best be characterized as: “Here you are watching Western Civilization.
- It emerges as Modern as can be, but is the best example of Barbarism you’ve ever seen.” Speaking in eloquent and subversive visual languages, the work of the Birmingham-Bessemer School reveals the barbaric underside of modernity—but only to viewers willing to crack the codes.
Cite this article: Aleesa Pitchamarn Alexander, “Magic City Modern: A Short History of the Birmingham-Bessemer School,” Panorama: Journal of the Association of Historians of American Art 6, no.1 (Spring 2020), https://doi.org/10.24926/24716839.9831.
PDF: Notes About the Author(s): Aleesa Pitchamarn Alexander is Assistant Curator of American Art at the Cantor Arts Center at Stanford University
: Magic City Modern: A Short History of the Birmingham-Bessemer School
Who is the Inspector General of Alabama?
Alabama Department of Corrections – Inspector General Mark Fassl | Facebook.
What is the phone number for the director of Public Safety in Alabama?
What’s the number to the Department of Public Safety and where is it located? – Phone: (334) 242-4400. They are located at 301 S. Ripley Street, Montgomery, Alabama 36104.
What does DPS do?
About the Department – 2020 Accomplishments Highlights of DPS’s role in COVID-19 response, election security, public protection, disaster response and more. See More #2 Largest Patrolled State Highway System State Troopers patrol 78,000 miles of state-maintained roads (the second largest system in the country) to keep roadways safe.
What happened in Birmingham in 1962?
events The climax of the modern civil rights movement occurred in Birmingham, The city’s violent response to the spring 1963 demonstrations against white supremacy forced the federal government to intervene on behalf of race reform. City Commissioner T.
- Eugene “Bull” Connor ‘s use of police dogs and fire hoses against nonviolent black activists, led by Fred L.
- Shuttlesworth, Ralph Abernathy, and Martin Luther King Jr.
- Enraged the nation.
- The public outcry provoked Pres. John F.
- Ennedy to propose civil rights legislation that became the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
The act opened America’s social, economic, and political system to African Americans and other minorities, including women, the disabled, and gays and lesbians. The legislation addressed the principal goal of the movement of gaining access to the system as consumers but also set in motion strategies to gain equality through affirmative action policies. Shuttlesworth Home Bombed Having witnessed the organization of the Montgomery Bus Boycott, Shuttlesworth organized his own group, the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights (ACMHR), in June 1956 after the state outlawed the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People,
- In December 1956, when the federal courts ordered the desegregation of Montgomery’s buses, Shuttlesworth asked the officials of Birmingham’s transit system to end segregated seating, setting a December 26 deadline.
- He intended to challenge the laws on a bus on that day, but on the night of December 25, Klansmen bombed Bethel Baptist Church and parsonage, nearly assassinating Shuttlesworth.
He emerged out of the rubble of his dynamited house and led a protest the next morning that resulted in a legal case against the city’s segregation ordinance. Coinciding with school desegregation in Little Rock, Arkansas, Shuttlesworth arranged a challenge to Birmingham’s all-white Phillips High School in September 1957, nearly suffering death at the hands of an angry mob.
Segregationist vigilantes again greeted Shuttlesworth when he desegregated the train station. In 1958, Shuttlesworth organized a boycott of Birmingham’s buses in support of the ACMHR legal case against segregated seating. Shuttlesworth’s aggressive strategy of direct action alienated him from Birmingham’s established black leadership.
Many people in the black middle class found as too extreme the intense religious belief held by ACMHR members that God was going to end segregation. Freedom Riders Prompted by the national sit-in movement begun by four black college men in Greensboro, North Carolina, in February 1960, a group of black students in Birmingham from Miles College and Daniel Payne College held a prayer vigil. Shuttlesworth and the ACMHR supported their efforts.
- When a national group of black and white demonstrators undertook the Freedom Rides in May 1961, Shuttlesworth and the ACMHR provided assistance, rescuing the stranded protesters outside Anniston as well as those who suffered a Klan attack at the Birmingham Trailways Station.
- In spring 1962, Birmingham’s black college students initiated the Selective Buying Campaign and, with support from Shuttlesworth and ACMHR, it became the catalyst for the spring 1963 demonstrations.
Chosen as secretary of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) when it organized in 1957, Shutttlesworth had been an active member of the region’s leading civil rights group. But he was frustrated because he believed that the SCLC lacked clear direction under King’s leadership.
Shuttlesworth watched the SCLC intervene in Albany, Georgia, in 1961 and fail to successfully challenge segregation in a manner that forced reforms in local race relations. Aware that King’s reputation had suffered from this defeat, Shuttlesworth invited the SCLC to assist him and the ACMHR in Birmingham.
Believing that a success would restore his reputation as a national civil rights leader, King agreed. Shuttlesworth hoped King’s prestige would attract the black masses and thus mobilize Birmingham’s black community behind the joint ACMHR-SCLC campaign. “Bull” Connor in 1963 Leaders from the ACMHR met with SCLC officials to plan strategy. Having learned from prior mistakes, King’s lieutenant, the Reverend Wyatt Tee Walker, proposed a limited campaign of sit-ins and pickets designed to pressure merchants and local business leaders into demanding the city commission repeal the municipal segregation ordinances.
- Some scholars have argued that the strategy called for violent confrontations with Bull Connor leading to mass arrests that would force the Kennedy Administration to intervene on behalf of civil rights, but this was not the case.
- The tactic of filling the jail had failed to alter race relations in Albany, and the noncommittal Kennedy Administration had yet to offer support for the movement and in fact had aided the segregationists.
Indeed, the best ACMHR-SCLC could hope to achieve was some modicum of change in local race relations that might point the way toward regional reform of the South’s segregated social structure. Police Dog Attack The joint ACMHR-SCLC Birmingham campaign began quietly with sit-ins on April 3, 1963, at several downtown “whites-only” lunch counters. From the outset, the campaign confronted an apathetic black community, an openly hostile established black leadership, and Bull Connor’s “nonviolent resistance” in the form of polite arrests of the offenders of the city’s segregation ordinances.
With no sensational news, the national media found nothing to report, and the campaign floundered. But when Connor ordered out police dogs to disperse a crowd of black bystanders, journalists recorded the attack of a German shepherd on a nonviolent protester, thereby revealing the brutality that underpinned segregation.
The episode convinced Walker and King to use direct-action tactics to generate creative tension for the sake of media coverage. The ease with which the campaign changed directions reflected the fluidity of the movement. Shuttlesworth led the first of many protest marches on City Hall to emphasize the refusal of the city commission to issue parade permits to the protestors. Good Friday March As the number of demonstrations increased, police arrested more ACMHR members, consequently draining the financial resources of the campaign. Black bystanders gave the campaign the appearance of mass support, but the vast majority of Birmingham’s black residents remained uninvolved.
A more serious threat came from established black leaders who opposed the civil rights campaign and actively worked to undermine Shuttlesworth by negotiating with the white power structure. Although King’s decision to seek arrest marked a turning point in his life as a leader, it did little to increase support for the faltering ACMHR-SCLC campaign.
From behind bars, he penned the ” Letter From Birmingham Jail,” which became the clearest statement on the righteousness of civil rights protest. But after a month of exhaustive demonstrations, the stalemate with white authorities suggested another Albany and the looming defeat of the Birmingham Campaign. Birmingham Campaign Demonstrators In a desperate bid to generate media coverage and to keep the campaign alive, King’s lieutenants launched the Children’s Crusade on May 2, 1963, in which black youth from area schools served as demonstrators. Trying to avoid the use of force, Bull Connor arrested hundreds of school children and hauled them off to jail on school buses.
When the jails were filled, he called out fire hoses and police dogs to contain large protests in the black business district along the city’s Kelly Ingram Park. African American spectators responded with outrage, pelting police with bricks and bottles as firemen opened up the hoses on not just the nonviolent youngsters but also on enraged black bystanders who had nearly begun a riot.
The media captured the negative images of Connor and his men suppressing the nonviolent protest of school children with brutal blasts from water cannons and attacks from police dogs. Front-page photographs in the nation’s newspapers convinced Kennedy to send Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Burke Marshall to Birmingham to secure negotiations that would end the violent demonstrations.
- Previous federal policy regarding civil rights issues had left enforcement to local law and order officials without direct intervention by the national government.
- At first, Marshall succeeded in fashioning a similar resolution by convincing King to call off the protests without winning any real concessions from the local white power structure.
Shuttlesworth held out for more concrete results, and his opposition led to a re-evaluation of the terms for an ultimate truce that announced limited local race reforms. Desegregation Settlement Reached The national media attention helped to spread the fervor of the ACMHR-SCLC Birmingham Campaign well beyond the city’s borders, and national demonstrations, international pressure, and inner city riots followed in the wake of the agreement.
- These actions convinced a reluctant Kennedy administration to propose sweeping reforms that Congress ultimately passed as the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
- With this legislation, the civil rights movement achieved its goals of gaining access to public accommodations and equal employment opportunities, thereby ending acquiescence to white supremacy and opening the system to African Americans and other minorities.
In hindsight the moderate success of inclusion only expanded access and did not alter or challenge the class structure, thus leaving movement members with a wistful sense for the need for economic justice. In the years that followed, white resistance exaggerated the significance of the limited racial inclusion. Sixteenth Street Baptist Church Bombing White vigilantes attempted to scuttle the race reforms by bombing sites related to the civil rights struggle. When court-ordered school desegregation arrived in the city in September 1963, Klansmen bombed the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church, killing four black girls.
Only with the implementation of the Civil Rights Act, adopted the next year, did the city completely desegregate, and then only following the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in the Heart of Atlanta Motel v. the United States case, which also involved Birmingham’s Ollie’s Barbecue. When Congress passed the Voting Rights Act in 1965 many African Americans in Birmingham won the right to vote for the first time, foreshadowing a sea change in local politics.
Birmingham police officer shot in the line of duty
Although members of the black middle class and working class enjoyed access to the system, many African Americans remained shut out, having gained little from the reforms won in Birmingham. Nevertheless, the appointment of Arthur Shores to the city council in 1968 and the election of Richard Arrington as mayor in 1979 represented the strength of the growing black electorate and the success of black political empowerment that grew directly out of the Birmingham campaign.
Additional Resources Bass, S. Jonathan. Blessed Are the Peacemakers: Martin Luther King, Jr., Eight White Religious Leaders, and the “Letter from Birmingham Jail.” Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2001. Eskew, Glenn T. But For Birmingham: The Local and National Movements in the Civil Rights Struggle,
Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1997. Garrow, David J. Birmingham, Alabama, 1956-1963: The Black Struggle for Civil Rights, Brooklyn.N.Y.: Carlson Publishing, 1989. Manis, Andrew M. A Fire You Can’t Put Out: The Civil Rights Life of Birmingham’s Reverend Fred Shuttlesworth.
Who led the Birmingham Children’s Crusade?
The Birmingham Children’s Crusade (May 1963) Birmingham Children’s Crusade, 1963 This entry is for juvenile audiences. To see the full version of this entry, click, What Happened: In May of 1963, thousands of Black children ages 7-18, conducted peaceful protests around the city of Birmingham, Alabama.
They were organized by activist James Bevel, and their purpose was to draw attention to the Civil Rights Movement. They were met with anger by white Birmingham citizens, hostility by the police, and many of them were thrown in jail. Despite these reactions these young people bravely continued their protests.
Why it is important to know about: Even though they were children, these kids were still met with brute force. Seeing children treated this way, however, brought national attention to what was happening in Birmingham, and how Black people were being treated across the South.
This event became one of the major factors in the success of the Civil Rights Movement, one that directly affected change. Details of the event: In April 1963, civil rights activists including Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., met in Birmingham, Alabama to conduct protests against segregated facilities throughout the city.
It was during this time, April 12 to be exact, that Dr. King was arrested and wrote his famed “Letter from a Birmingham Jail.” One of the activists, James Bevel of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, suggested getting the youth involved in the protests.
- Though not everyone agreed, on May 2, 1963, thousands of young Black boys and girls gathered at the 16th Street Baptist Church (the church that was later bombed killing four little Black girls in September 1963) in Birmingham.
- Their mission was to engage in a series of peaceful protests and marches around the city.
These children, who ranged in age from 7 to 18, were trained in the art of non-violent protest and told to expect negative reactions. Knowing this, they decided to go forward anyway. Over the course of the next few days, hundreds of them were attacked by the police and police dogs, sprayed with water hoses, and carried off to jail by the bus loads.
The display of courage shown by these young people, and the way they were treated gained national attention. By May 10, 1963, after eight days of protesting, the city came to an agreement to desegregate businesses and free all the protesters from jail. Lasting impact: This event, that would become known as the Birmingham Children’s Crusade, put fuel back into the Civil Rights Movement.
People across the nation, including public officials such as U.S. President John F. Kennedy were inspired to act. What these children accomplished would eventually lead to passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. What we learned from this event: Civil Rights is not just an adult issue, or a Black person issue, it’s an everyone issue. Do you find this information helpful? A small donation would help us keep this available to all. Forego a bottle of soda and donate its cost to us for the information you just learned, and feel good about helping to make it available to everyone. BlackPast.org is a 501(c)(3) non-profit and our EIN is 26-1625373.
What did Martin Luther King Jr do as a call for action in Birmingham in 1963 quizlet?
What did Martin Luther King Jr. do as a call for action in Birmingham in 1963? He wrote a letter describing the violence African Americans faced.