People the world over have heard of Martin Luther King
Jr., the dogs and water hoses of Birmingham, and the Bloody Sunday events of Selma. Few,
however, have heard of John LeFlore, Joseph Langan, or Albert Foley, or of the bombing of
LeFlore's home or the protests over segregated seating in Mobile.
Presented below are a few of the photographs and images
that tell the story of the African-American struggle in the Deep-South port city of
|Click on an image to see it larger
||Civil rights activist John L. LeFLore was
born in Mobile in 1903. In 1925, he reorganized the
citys insolvent NAACP Branch and inaugurated a fifty-year career of service to
African-Americans in Mobile. LeFlore recruited Vivian Malone to desegregate the University
of Alabama, Birdie Mae Davis to desegregate the city's schools, and Wiley Bolden to change
the city's form of government. He died of a heart attack in 1976.
||A 1957 campaign bumper sticker of E. C.
Barnard, leader of the local Ku Klux Klan. Barnard ran against Joseph Langan, who was, at
the time, a racial progressive.
||Blacks in Mobile were expected to adhere to
segregation laws and customs, just as they were required to all over the South. This 1935
photo shows the segregation signs aboard the Alabama Dry Dock and Shipbuilding Company's
ferry. Erik Overbey Collection.
||Father Albert Sidney "Steve" Foley
(1912-1990), a Jesuit priest and sociology professor at Spring Hill College, worked
closely with John LeFlore and Joseph Langan in their efforts to bring about peaceful
change in race relations in Mobile. Albert Sidney Foley Papers, Spring Hill College.
||One of Joseph Langan's campaign signs.
Langan (1912-2004) was a lawyer, state representative, state senator, and city
commissioner in Mobile from 1953 to 1969.
||In an effort to calm the situation, on April
9, 1968, Marshall Strickland, pastor of the Big Zion AME Church, spoke with University of
South Alabama students at a memorial service for slain civil rights activist Martin Luther
King Jr. University of South Alabama Public Relations Collection.
||The aftermath of a bomb that destroyed
LeFlores home in 1967. Luckily, no one was injured. LeFlore was secretary of the
Mobile NAACP until 1956 when the organization was briefly banned from operating in the
state. He then became the director of casework for
the Non-Partisan Voters League.
we have one of the Non-Partisan Voters League's pink sheets. The NPVL used the pink sheets
to influence city and state elections. The sheets left no doubt for whom the League wanted
Mobile's black population to vote. From 1953 to 1965, the NPVL's choice of candidate
always carried the citys African American vote. Ironically, on this sheet, from
1982, the NPVL has selected George Wallace as its preferred gubernatorial office seeker.
broadsheet from the Neighborhood Organized Workers (NOW), which today we often label as a
Black Power group. NOW rejected the tactics of the NPVL and John LeFlore -- working within
the white power structure. Rather they wanted the city's blacks to rely on their own
ability to harness their economic strength and independence. In doing so they
echoed many of the sentiments of those who led the larger Black Power movement. While the
language is crude, this circular drove home the point that white merchants kept black
shoppers at their mercy.
||On March 20, 1981, Bennie Hays, his son
Henry Hays, and Henry's young friend Tiger Knowles, lynched Michael Donald (1961-1981) in
retaliation for the mistrial of a black man accused of killing a white Birmingham police
||By 1969 attitudes about the ethics of the
Pink Sheets among Mobile's white community and NOW members had converged. In
the city commission campaign that year, whites used racial imagery to successfully link
Langan to John LeFlore and NOW decided to boycott the election altogether. The
effectiveness of the Pink Sheet was severely hampered and Langan went down to defeat.
||The year before NOW's election boycott the
group invited Black Panther prime minister Stokely Carmichael to Mobile to deliver a
speech. This image shows a draft of a letter sent from city commissioners to NOW president
Noble Beasley in which the city rescends NOW's ability to rent an auditorium for the
speech. Beasley was a target of city leaders and was soon arrested, tried, and sent to
prison -- where he still resides -- on extortion and drugs charges. In 1969 Carmichael
moved to Guinea, where he died at the age of 57 in 1998. Lambert C. Mims Papers.
||Henry Francis Hays escorted by police after
his arrest for the murder of Michael Donald. Hays was executed by the state in 1997. Azalea
City News Collection.
||Article from the local paper reporting on
the Donald lynching. Mobile Press Register.
||A black man proudly walks in front of a Ku
Klux Klan rally down Royal Street in the aftermath of the Donald murder. Photo by Dave