Back to Birmingham: Richard Arrington, Jr., and His Times

Back to Birmingham: Richard Arrington, Jr., and His Times

Back to Birmingham: Richard Arrington, Jr., and His Times

Back to Birmingham: Richard Arrington, Jr., and His Times

Excerpt

During the 1960s, Birmingham became a major battleground in the struggle for human rights in the American South. Undoubtedly, it was one of the most segregated cities in the United States, and its name became virtually synonymous with violence and the callous suppression of black civil rights. The unrelenting fight for racial equality in Alabama brought significant results with the passage of national legislation that directly addressed the issue of injustice in American society Federal laws gave blacks long-overdue civil rights and the ballot, which further increased their political consciousness and their participation in the democratic process.

In October 1979, the city that had once used dogs and fire hoses to crush protest demonstrations elected a black mayor, Richard Arrington, Jr. A man of quiet demeanor, Arrington was born in the small, rural town of Livingston, less than 150 miles from the office he now occupies in downtown Birmingham. Although he lived through the era of the civil-rights revolution in the South, he played little direct part in it as an activist, but Arrington was destined to bring about historic changes in the city that for years had defied racial harmony. Hardly anyone who knew him intimately expected the shy, scholarly Arrington to pursue politics, especially in Birmingham, Alabama.

This study of Richard Arrington is not conventional political or civil-rights history, but rather the story of a man who has demonstrated incredible faith in his region and in its people. Not surprisingly, there is in this work a subtle yet powerful subtheme that often appears with remarkable clarity, namely, sense of place, a quality that enables a person to claim sentimentally a portion of the natural and human environment. Too often writers who have examined black southerners have failed to give adequate emphasis to the attachment of blacks to the land, to place. Because of the presence of southern racism, perhaps, those authors have ignored . . .

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