Montgomery, Alabama has first Black mayor in its two-century history
Montgomery Mayor-elect Steven Reed speaks at his victory party, Tuesday, Oct. 8, 2019, in Montgomery, Ala. Reed becomes the first black mayor in the Alabama capital's 200-year history after defeating businessman David Woods by a decisive margin. | Mickey Welsh/Montgomery Advertiser via AP

This article won a third place Saul Miller Award in the Political Action category at the 2020 Labor Media Awards, presented by the International Labor Communications Association.

A historic election victory in Alabama this week shows that the “worst of times” in American politics can, if the people rise up, also become the “best of times.”

Montgomery was the birthplace of the confederacy but in the next century, after Rosa Parks took a seat on a bus, became the birthplace of the Civil Rights movement. This week it was revealed that Trump and top Republicans are illegally taking hundreds of thousands of dollars from international gangsters and U.S. mobsters while in Montgomery, Alabama decency prevailed as the voters chose that city’s first-ever African-American mayor.

Probate Judge Steven Reed, 45, and the people who elected him defeated businessman David Woods by a decisive margin. Reed won 67% of the vote after the counts were completed.

“This election has never been about me. This election has never been about just my ideas. It’s been about all of the hopes and dreams that we have as individuals and collectively in the city,” Reed said in his acceptance speech.

This was not the first time Reed has made history. He had the strong support of the LGBTQ community in Montgomery and had members of that community rooting for him all over the state. He was among the first, if not the first probate judge in Alabama to issue marriage licenses to gay couples.

His victory in Montgomery has incredible symbolic significance when considering some of the past periods of Montgomery’s history. Southern politicians and so-called “delegates” gathered in Montgomery in 1861 where, without a popular vote, they carried out the wishes of the slavocracy and “voted” to form the Confederate States of America. After that undemocratic break from the United States, the city of Montgomery served as the first capital of the Confederacy.

In the following century, Montgomery was at the center of the historic civil rights movement that changed the nation forever. Rosa Parks sat down on a city bus in violation of segregationist laws that said she had to give up her seat to a white man. She was arrested and jailed.

There followed the historic Montgomery bus boycott led by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in which hundreds and then thousands walked miles to work and back home every day until the city could no longer afford to resist the massive peaceful revolution taking place. The segregationist laws were defeated and the movement that ended these laws all across the South and wherever else they existed in the United States was well underway.

The movement culminated in the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts of the 1960s, laws that are now under attack by President Trump and his Republican Party. The GOP and Supreme Court attacks on the Voting Rights Act are designed, of course, to prevent the type of election victory that happened in Montgomery this week, making that victory a particularly sweet one for the new mayor’s supporters.

Reed takes over from current Montgomery Mayor Todd Strange.

Montgomery has 200,000 people, about 60% of whom are Black.


John Wojcik
John Wojcik

John Wojcik is Editor-in-Chief of People's World. He joined the staff as Labor Editor in May 2007 after working as a union meat cutter in northern New Jersey. There, he served as a shop steward and a member of a UFCW contract negotiating committee. In the 1970s and '80s, he was a political action reporter for the Daily World, this newspaper's predecessor, and was active in electoral politics in Brooklyn, New York.