Montgomery, Alabama, Elects Its First Black Mayor

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Steve Reed (Steve Reed Website)

Steven Reed won the mayoral vote in the majority-Black city known as a flashpoint in the struggle for civil rights.

By Sanjana Karanth, Huffington Post

Montgomery has elected Steven Reed to become the Alabama capital’s first Black mayor, a landmark in a city known for heroic stands and violent clashes during the civil rights movement.

Reed, who has been Montgomery County’s probate judge since 2012, won the election with about 67% of the vote in Tuesday’s mayoral runoff against TV station owner David Woods, WSFA-TV reported. Reed will replace Todd Strange, who’s been Montgomery’s mayor since 2009 and was not running for reelection.

“Let the record show that this is what we can do, as a community, as a city, and let this go far beyond Montgomery, let it go far beyond Alabama and let it go far beyond this nation,” Reed said Tuesday night at his victory party, saying the election showed “what we can do when we come together in this city and we build around positivity, around opportunity and all the things that tie us together versus those that keep us apart.”

“Tonight isn’t the end. Tonight is the beginning,” added Reed, who local media said was also Montgomery County’s first Black probate judge. “Tonight sent a signal, not just to all of us here in Montgomery, all of us in Alabama; it sent a signal throughout this country about what kind of community we are right now, not what we were.”

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, about 60% of the population is Black in the city of about 200,000. The Alabama capital was integral to the Black community’s voting rights movement, making Reed’s win a fitting milestone in its 200-year history.

Among the city’s marks on the civil rights struggle was the Montgomery bus boycott of 1955, a nonviolent protest to desegregate the city’s public transit system, sparked by the arrest of Rosa Parks after she refused to give up her seat for a white man. In 1961, the city became a flashpoint again when a mob attacked Freedom Riders at the Greyhound bus station.

Montgomery was also home to Martin Luther King Jr., who grew in prominence as a pastor at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church and helped organize the bus boycott, eventually leading the civil rights movement nationwide that would influence lawmakers to pass the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Montgomery was the final destination on the four-day march from Selma, Alabama. That same year, lawmakers passed the Voting Rights Act, a year after the Civil Rights Act became law.

Several museums and memorials in the city commemorate civil rights history. The Equal Justice Initiative opened the National Memorial for Peace and Justice and the Legacy Museum last year to pay tribute to thousands of lynching victims.

“This is a historic day for our nation,” said Karen Baynes-Dunning, interim president and CEO of the Southern Poverty Law Center, a civil rights legal organization based in Montgomery. “The election of Steven Reed … symbolizes the new inclusive & forward thinking South that so many have worked to achieve.”

Reed will be sworn in Nov. 12, according to The Montgomery Advertiser. The publication said the mayor-elect wants to focus on food deserts and poor water quality in the city, as well as implementing a universal pre-K program and expanding the police force. He received an endorsement from presidential candidate Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), according to WSFA-TV.

This article originally appeared in the Huffington Post.

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