Huntsville celebrated its first Black women voters Sunday as “mothers of the nation’s Civil Rights Movement,” leaders in women’s suffrage and the foundation of a close-knit Black community in the city a century ago.
More than 400 people crowded into downtown’s William Hooper Council High Memorial Park on a sunny fall afternoon to watch Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey, Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle and some of the suffragettes’ grandchildren praise six women who were among the first 1,300 women in Alabama to register to vote in 1920 after passage of the 19th Amendment.
Many women came to the event dressed in white, the color of the suffrage movement, while others carried signs and told the stories of early fighters for the vote.
Two of the four now-grown grandchildren present said they didn’t know their grandmothers’ role in history until research by the Historic Huntsville Foundation and Lakeside Methodist Church revealed it. Donna Castellano, president of the foundation, led that research.
Officials and family members unveiled a historic marker recognizing the efforts of Black suffragists in Madison County. The six women whose names are on the plaque are Mary Wood Binford (Jordan), Ellen Scruggs Brandon, India Leslie Herndon, Lou Bertha Johnson, Dora Fackler Lowery and Celia Horton Love (McCrary). Lowery was also the mother of national Civil Rights movement leader Dr. Joseph Lowery.
Read more: Finding Black women who fought for the votein Alabama
Ivey thanked the city and historic foundation for seeking to honor the women’s stories.
“What incredible ladies these women were, incredible Americans,” Ivey said. “It’s because of their great strength that many of us can participate in the democratic process and in many other positions in our society as well, even running for public office.”
Ivey noted that Alabama resisted women’s right to vote even after the 19th Amendment was passed. Women got the right to vote in 1920, she said, but Alabama didn’t officially recognize that right until 1953.
The women honored Sunday “would be pleased to see how far we’ve come,” Ivey said, and she read their names aloud.
Joan Carter, granddaughter of Mary Binford, said she knew her grandmother was active in Lakeside Methodist Church, a center of Black life in Huntsville, but did not know of her role as a civil rights pioneer.
“She was Grandma,” Carter said. “You knew she was an English teacher, and she was a stickler for subject and verb agreement. One day she heard me say something like, ‘I ain’t gonna do that,’ and she grabbed me and said, ‘Joan, don’t you ever let me hear you say anything like that again.’”
But Carter thanked the historic foundation for providing her family “new information about Grandma and making us so proud that we had discovered we had our own hidden figure.”
Source : https://www.al.com/news/huntsville/2021/10/black-alabama-family-had-our-own-hidden-figure-and-didnt-know-it.html765