Last Thursday I attended a meeting in Centreville where a group of leaders were talking about events that are planned for Centreville & Brent in coming days. One group represented local government. In one group were several religious leaders planning a July 18 unity prayer event with a theme of “unity, not separation”. A BLM group was planning another voter registration drive for June 27. I will save names for later.

A quiet stillness came over the room when the topic shifted to a question about the future of the Confederate Monument that sits on the Court House square in Centreville. Every eye in the room became suddenly laser focused on the county administrator as he was suddenly and unceremoniously thrown the hot potato of the day. He immediately transformed into the county diplomat and left the response elsewhere, as it belongs.

As I sat there listening to comments I was struck by a single line of thought that came from one of our county leaders. I will name him later too. I will paraphrase his words. He said something like this:

The county court house is the only place where we can all go to get justice and expect to be treated fairly and equally at all times, in all cases, as all men are promised under the law and as all men should be treated. The confederate monument has been there for a long time and has served its purpose but it does bear racist language and we should not have to walk by it to enter the halls of justice.

I go in and out of the court house often. I have photographed the monument several times myself. I was immediately defensive when told the monument bears racist language. It is a symbol of the confederacy, true enough I thought, put there to honor the soldiers who fought and died and to remember the cause they fought for, but facially racist by modern standards; no way I thought. So I went to check for myself again.

And there it is. “No Nation Rose So White And Fair Or Fell So Pure of Crime

This monument was placed in 1910. We should consider what was going on in our State in that contemporary time, almost 50 years after the Civil War ended. 

So before all of the defenders of the Civil War, the Confederacy, and Lincoln haters start bombarding this Opinion I suggest you keep your powder dry and save your ammunition. The remainder of this Opinion, if you are still reading, is not about the Confederacy my friend, it is about the post-confederacy blunt and brutal history of Alabama.

Let us be honest about who we are and who we have been in our own lifetimes and the generations we feel closely connected to. What was happening in Alabama at the turn of the Twentieth Century relevant to equal justice for the black population of our state?

One resource worthy of consulting is the textbook Alabama: The Making of An American State published by the University of Alabama Press. The book describes how Alabama while becoming highly industrialized from 1875 to 1914 government leaders were enacting new laws for preserving white control and created a repressive and awkward system of racial separation known as segregation. No document made white supremacy in Alabama clearer than the State Constitution of 1901.

Maybe that is why the 1901 Constitution has now been amended more than 946 times.

The purpose of the 1901 Constitution was to replace the 1875 Constitution and to intentionally disenfranchise black voters. Don’t believe me? The convention kept a verbatim record of its deliberations. Here are the exact words from the President of the Constitutional Convention John Knox of Anniston:

And what is it that we want to do? Why it is within the limits imposed by the Federal Constitution, to establish white supremacy in this State…But if we would have white supremacy, we must establish it by law..not by force or fraud.”

The new constitution established a cumulative poll tax system, preventing blacks and poor farmers from gaining access to the ballot box for many years to come.

Under the post civil war constitutions, a lawful system of convict leasing became pervasive and operated well into the twentieth century. Public officials, sometimes called Justices of the Peace, earned their salaries by arresting vagrants and blacks charged with petty crimes, and leasing them to private industries, such as coal mines and steel mills, to serve out their sentences.

The ugly history of convict leasing, and its connection to Bibb County, is well documented in a book written by Pulitzer Prize winning author Douglas Blackmon called Slavery By Another Name. If you want a shock to your system, take up this book. If you read it through you will never be the same again. That is a promise.

We all know the ugliest chapter of extra-judicial history in the State of Alabama is the history of the KKK and the history of mob lynching. One outstanding and shocking fact is highlighted in a 2015 study by the Equal Justice Initiative, a non-profit civil rights organization in Montgomery. They identified 326 recorded lynchings of African Americans in Alabama between 1877 and 1950.

I personally witnessed a parade of white clothed and hooded men march around the court house square and the sidewalks of Centreville in the late 1950’s and I never want to see that again.

I have had a connection to statewide politics since the gubernatorial race of 1958. My Dad was county campaign manager for George Wallace. I gave speeches at every Bibb County political rally for Lurleen Wallace in 1966. I know a lot about politics and politicians.

I have worked in the judicial system and seen its strengths and weaknesses under a microscope. My experience has shown me that both white & black absolutely must have faith in our legal system and our court houses as a means of accessing it.

I have pointed out only a couple of issues here. I could go on.  But these issues highlighted are earthquakes in our own local history and they relate to the Bibb County Court House and the basic principle of Equal Justice for all men. We say that the fundamental principles of our society are based on Equal Justice for all. We must live by those words.

There is no argument with the Confederacy or its supporters. They have their time and place in history that cannot be erased. We have no time or energy to spend on confederate lineage and memorialization. We support you and your place in history, but no longer should you take your stand at the court house door.

So I ask you my friend and reader this simple truth:

Does the Bibb County Court House symbolize equal justice for all men?

Think it through. Give it considered thought before your self-answer. The question is not going away any time soon. We’ll just keep inching along.


Song reference above is from the book, "Inching Along; or, the Life and Works
 of an Alabama Farm Boy, an Autobiography, by DAVIDSON, HENRY DAMON", 1869-1955.
 Nashville; National Publication Company, 1944. 

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the writer and not necessarily those of the Bibb Voice or its Editorial Board. Your comments are welcomed. 


27 COMMENTS

  1. Very well written, Mr. Hobson. I appreciate your willingness to call attention to the matters we are facing in our county as we move to progress with solidarity into the future. Your article was very refreshing, and reading suggestions highly respected.

    Thank you dear sir. God bless you mightily.

  2. Mr. Hobson, your article as always is well-written. It brings to mind one thing about the Klan that is never mentioned and that I’d like your readers to know if, indeed, they don’t already. I’ll preface this by saying that I’m not a supporter of the Klan by any means, but, in spite of all their heinous beliefs and crimes, they stood up for at least one helpless wife and mother against a despot of a husband (and I suspect several others) in the late 1950’s & early 1960‘s, and we were White. Once when my family was living in poverty in TN and then again in Brent AL the Klan came to call on my father. You see, dad had a habit at the time of staying gone for long periods of time while he drank and gambled and womanized his paycheck away, his wife and 5 children stuck in a rented hovel without food, transportation or decent clothing. Mother was often sick, the landlord and other creditors would come for their money, and we were forced to beg for food from our good neighbors. I have many sad memories from that period of time in my life that I could tell but I won’t do so here. My point is that the Klan came to our house at night, terrified me by burning a cross in our front yard, and gave my dad a talking-to that I imagine he had a hard time forgetting (but which apparently he did forget because they came back again about a year later in Bibb County when he continued to do the same things). I believe this caused my father to change his way of living at least a little because he found a better job, moved us to a better house and was home most of the time after that. I’ve always wanted to know how many other White families were visited by the Klan during those dark days. It may be a subject for you to research. So you see, although images of the Klan in their robes & hoods burning crosses had the power to terrorize me most of my life even though I’m White, I now in retrospect (almost) hold a grudging gratitude towards them for what they tried to do to help at least one family who desperately needed it. Of course that does not by any means make them any less loathsome. Any decent man (or relative) could’ve talked with dad to try to help us, but to my knowledge, no one did. I truly wish they had. Then my poor mother and we children wouldn’t have had to go through those nightmares.

    • Sandra — taking a moment here to thank you for sharing this bit of your history. I am so sorry you had to go through that. I want you to know this really moved my soul, and if anything, motivates me to figure out why the church didn’t step in more often to intercede for women and children in these situations. My heart is with you tonight.

  3. The statue has nothing to do with whether or not justice is received in the courthouse. That is determined by the one being tried and the court system itself, not the statue.

    • Dot, I agree with you that justice is ultimately at the hands of the judge and jury, and determined in large part by the representation of the accused in court – good and bad. Unfortunately, there are bad judges and lawyers everywhere. No statue, even the beloved Justitia with her scales and sword, can ensure true justice for anyone.

  4. Mike – What is your proof of the intent of the language, “No Nation Rose So White And Fair Or Fell So Pure of Crime“ as racist by the United Daughters of the Confederacy?

    • Mr. Needham: You won’t find a statement in my article that the cited language was intended to make a racist statement by the good citizens who erected the monument in 1910. The opinion article is about contemporary symbolism and our justice system, not about civil war fact checking sir.

      • Your opinion piece says, “I was immediately defensive when told the monument bears racist language.” then you gave as your evidence, “No Nation Rose So White And Fair Or Fell So Pure of Crime“. Your response to me was clear, “You won’t find a statement in my article that the cited language was intended to make a racist statement by the good citizens who erected the monument in 1910.” So, I am confused. YOU made a CLEAR statement that you think the word “WHITE” is racist. And it was the women who raised the money in and around the community to build the monument. To me, you would be calling the good citizens of the county “racist”.

  5. FACT as to the intent of the Confederate Monument in downtown Centreville, AL as reported in the Centreville Press – July 29, 1910 – “Misses Mayberry Ann Pratt, acting as a committee of the Daughters of the Confederacy were in Centreville on Thursday Ann selected and gave the order for the Confederate Monument that is to be erected in Centreville in memory of the brave men who wore the Gray that went from this County. A great many of them were left on the battlefield and their graves are unknown an unmarked, but these loyal daughters of the Confederacy, are going to erect a monument that will cause the rising generation to remember their forefathers, who fought gallantly against an unequal foe. The contract was made with McNeil Marble Works, of Georgia are reliable and trustworthy firm that have erected numerous monuments over the state. The monument when erected will stand 30 feet and will have a soldier on top in military pose. When the work is completed and placed in position it will cost $2000. The ladies made the selection from something like 20 designs submitted, and it is our opinion that they have secured the handsome missed piece of work in the list. All of the money for this laudable undertaking has not yet been raised, but the ladies are working if friends of the old soldiers will contribute the money will shortly be forthcoming.” SOURCE: NEWSPAPERS.COM

    • Mr Needham: Thank you for quoting the historic article from our local newspaper. This history confirms the symbolic purpose of the monument from the day it was erected. 110 years later the symbolism of the monument has not changed for those who live here. Need I say more?

        • Sorry Mr. Needham but you won’t succeed at twisting my words into name calling or race baiting. My written words are carefully chosen to avoid what you are trying to accuse me of. Mind reading may be what you do; it is not the equivalent of what I write.

  6. The Confederate cause is honorable and just. And the war was not fought over slavery. Southerners black, white, jewish, hispanic, all fought in the defense of their homes against Lincoln’s bloody and immoral invasion.

  7. JMO. But all of the Founding Fathers who signed the Declaration of Independence, The Articles of Confederation or deliberated for days the creation of the Constitution of Theses United States, were what you call (White) Western European. So what you are implying is that the wording on the Monument is Racist and there is a hidden or ulterior motive for the UDC to have it in the Commission of said Monument is not only Ludicrous, but dumb. Those who know History immediately recognize its meaning. Those who don’t, read it as something other than what it is. Let me finish the phrase on the Monument. The mentioning of Crime also has meaning. It means that after Lincoln’s War of Northerner Agression. During the Reconstruction years of the South. The Radical Government of the North tried to enforce their will upon the South by introducing their biased Jim Crow Laws that were Northern to begin with. The Carpetbaggers and Scalawags and those Yankee Bankers further tried to steal the Wealth of the South. Inflicting Crimes perpetrated against the South and its diversified Culture and Races and Creeds. Thus driving a wedge between the People of Bibb Cojnty as well as Alabama and the Southern States that Legally Seceded and Legally formed a new union callef the Confederate States of America. The Northerners and their Radical Government sat up Puppet Local and State Governments to help ensure that was possible. The time was Lawless and many Atrocities occurred during this time. Especially the treatment of the poor whites and the ExSlaves. Its sad but programs to help the Blacks such as “40 Acres and A Mule” never happened because the Northern Leadership didn’t care or help the blacks out. They just found a way to further enslave and rob the People of the South. The problem that we face today is because of the enmity caused then.

    • You just made a great defense of the opinion article sir and laid out the reasons the monument symbolizes an era gone by. Your landslide of writings on our pages points in one direction only, the monument does not belong on the courthouse lawn. The soldiers, widows and descendants have no reason to be offended by the idea of a new home for the confederate sentinel.

      • So are the articles you write Mike. They are ALL ONE-SIDED and BIAS. By the way, when are you going to show your evidence of the intent of the word “WHITE” was racist? Third request.

        • I already gave you an answer to your first question Mr. Needham. You have ignored it 3 times.

          There is a uniqueness to Editorials and Opinion articles that you may not have noticed. They are the opinions of the writer. And they contain a disclaimer at the bottom, in bold print, that says so.

          The purpose of an Editorial or Opinion article is generally to stimulate the reader to consider a thought that is probably different than his own, if the reader is capable of doing so. Many people are not.

          Don’t make the mistake of thinking that you are capable or reading my mind or divining my personal agenda from reading a few sentences. I may be just firing for effect.

  8. Why do you keep erasing or hiding my comments? I am a quarter native American and 3/4 White i am noy apologizing for being white. I am proud of my Heritage and Legacy that my ancestors left.

    I am proud to be a American. That Monument needs to stay right there where it is At in Bibb County! I have At least one Family member who was a CSA veteran buried in Bibb County. I have at least 4 Family members who were from Bibb County and honorably served in Bibb County Companies and are Heroes and Great Americans from the South. They are CSA Veterans. I personally have 306 CSA Veterans Direct Ancestors and Family members anf over 100 Federal Union Veterans Family members. Both the South and the North are descendants of 217 Revolutionary War Patriots and War of 1812 Veterans. My Family Members who are white have been in the New World for over 400 years. I am very Proud of my History and theirs.

    The answer is very simple to those that think there is Unequal justice! The Law doesn’t mess with Citizens who are Law abiding! If you Stop Breaking the law then you don’t have anything to worry about! So to fix the problem of those screaming there’s inequality in the Justice System, STOP BREAKING THE LAW! The removal of a Monument is not the Answer. The Monument doesn’t make them break the Law, nor does it make Justice unequal. Those who think that Justice is Unequal are committing the mlst Crimes! You do not have to believe me. Look at the FBI Crime Statistics and see for yourself the Truth!

    • Mr. Parks: you have made your position quite clear regarding the monument and we have allowed your posts on our FB page and now on our BV page. We do not allow comments to post that contain links to articles, blogs, youtube, etc. We reserve the right to disallow posts that contain offensive language, even when it is a quote from another source. You may continue your “Lost Cause” defense on your own website or FB page as you wish. We are not attempting to discourage you, rather we are not interested in continuing a discourse about the civil war. The discussion for the day has to do with whether the monument, almost 200 years after the beginning of the conflict, is in the appropriate location resting on the courthouse lawn. We prefer to allow space for commenters to address that issue and to not be distracted by the arguments you seem determined to repeat in our comments section.

  9. If the words inscribed on the monument on the Bibb County Courthouse lawn offends people, my suggestion would be to remove the inscription and not the monument. The monument is dedicated to the brave men who fought & died in the Civil War. I would like to see the monument remain on the Courthouse lawn.

  10. So my 3rd great grandfather, who was 2nd Lieutenant of Co. F, 44th Alabama Infantry and later in life a hotel owner in Centerville, named Presley Berry Arnold, doesn’t deserve to be honored? What about his 3 brothers in Co. D, 20th Alabama Infantry or his brother in Co. F, 11th Alabama Infantry? I suppose their lives and sacrifices don’t matter to the history of Bibb County, Alabama! Or is their history merely just not to your liking??? What about his great grandson Sgt. James Gerst USMC of Bessemer, who gave his life on the bloody beaches of Tarawa to protect his brothers and received the Navy Cross posthumously for his actions. Is his sacrifice the next target on the social justice agenda. Are we to sink the USS Alabama into Mobile Bay?

    • Thank you for your comments Mr. Gerst. Of course your ancestors should be appropriately honored for their military service. Without your message I would have no reason to know their names because the Confederate Monument in Centreville does not identify any person by name nor recognize the service of any particular family. I too have close family members that I would appreciate their service remaining known to residents of Bibb County and there is no appropriate way to do that today. I am including the veterans of all wars in my statement. There is a WWII stone on the property with names but the historical perspective is un-demonstrated. There should be much more information available to history seekers about the proud history of all Bibb County veterans, in an appropriate place.

      I took the liberty of researching the Navy Cross documentation on USMC Sgt. James Gerst while serving as Scout Sergeant in an Artillery Forward Observation Party attached to the Third Battalion, Tenth Marines, SECOND Marine Division, during action against enemy Japanese forces at Betio Island, Tarawa Atoll, Gilbert Islands, on 27 November 1943. His courage and valor under fire cost him his life for his country. I know that your family is proud of his memory. We salute his service to our country.

      By the way, the risk to the USS Alabama is fairly low since it already rests on the bottom to prevent tidal movements.

Comments are closed.