Saturday, February 26, 2005

Professor Wants UA Apology for Slavery
Alfred Brophy will present proposal for university to consider reparations to slave descendants
By JEFF AMYAL.com Staff Reporter

A University of Alabama law professor wants the school to apologize for its pre-Civil War ownership and use of slaves, and to consider a commission to study the history of slave use at the school and the possibility of reparations to slave descendants.
Alfred Brophy, who studies the legal history of slavery, plans to present his proposal at today's Faculty Senate meeting. The faculty body isn't scheduled to vote on Brophy's resolution until April.
Brophy, who is white, said Monday that he has discovered numerous links between slavery and the Tuscaloosa school, established in 1831. The school owned a handful of slaves for much of its early existence, and rented others, according to Brophy's research. Professors, students and at least two university presidents owned slaves, he said.
Slaves cleaned buildings, planted trees, served students and aided professors, according to records Brophy has found. Though the professor hasn't found any direct evidence yet, he believes slaves helped build at least some of the seven surviving buildings that escaped destruction by Union troops in 1865.
But Brophy believes what UA really needs to atone for is the intellectual defense of slavery made by many of its leaders. Brophy points particularly to two university presidents and a Mobilian who founded the forerunner of the university's medical school. All three were prominent public defenders of slavery and the idea that blacks were naturally inferior. All three have buildings on the Tuscaloosa campus named for them.
So far, the resolution has caused little stir on the 20,000-student campus. Cathy Andreen, a university spokeswoman, declined comment on behalf of administrators.
"At this point, we're not ready to comment on it, because we haven't seen it," Andreen said.
Robert Turner, a senior from Tuskegee, said he had heard about some of Brophy's work, and said he hoped university leaders would support further inquiry.
"It should be something we look into, discovering the role the university played," Turner said.
Turner, who is black, is the outgoing executive chief of staff for Alabama's Student Government Association.
Success in race relations:
The University of Alabama, though famous for George Wallace's 1963 attempt to prevent integration, known as the "Stand in the Schoolhouse Door," is in some ways a success in today's race relations. The school's student body is more than 13 percent black, a higher share than Auburn University or some other Southeastern Conference schools.
Even if the Faculty Senate adopts Brophy's proposal, UA President Robert Witt or University of Alabama System trustees would have to take a similar position for the faculty action to mean anything. For example, student and faculty resolutions last fall calling for the university to condemn discrimination against gays and lesbians have so far garnered little public recognition from top UA leaders.
Among campus structures that survived the Union Army destruction are outbuildings of the 1841 President's Mansion that have been identified in the past as slave quarters. Today, they appear on university maps under names like "President's storage."
At least six buildings on the campus are named for people who owned slaves or advocated slavery, according to Brophy. He notes that Basil Manly, university president from 1837 to 1855 and Landon Garland, president from 1855 to 1865, both owned large numbers of slaves who worked the presidents' personal plantations. Manly and Garland encouraged their students to believe that slavery was part of the natural order ordained by God, according to their surviving papers and other accounts.
Brophy also points to Josiah Nott, a physician in Mobile who founded the forerunner of the University of Alabama Medical School in 1858. Nott wrote and lectured about claims that blacks were genetically inferior, based partly on skull measurements he made in his medical practice. Slavery suited black people, Nott said, because the race could never hope to achieve the level of accomplishment and civilization that whites had reached.
The question of whether universities profited from slavery, and what they should do to make up for it, has been a prominent subplot in a larger national debate about reparations in the last 15 years. Up until now, most attention has focused on Ivy League universities -- Brown, Harvard, Princeton and Yale.
Most recently, Ruth Simmons, the first black president of Rhode Island's Brown, appointed a committee to examine the school's ties to slavery, teach students about that history, and consider whether Brown should do something to compensate for that past.
Some black leaders have called for economic payments -- typically called reparations -- as a way for the nation to erase some of the damage caused by slavery, and share the economic gains that slave owners enjoyed. They point to reparations paid to citizens of Japanese descent whom the American government imprisoned during World War II. They also note payments by Germany and German companies to Holocaust victims.
But opponents say that idea is logistically difficult at best, and an ideological travesty at worst. Those against reparations say its unfair to tax people for the sins of previous generations. A federal judge in Chicago recently dismissed a lawsuit seeking reparations, in part because there are no slave owners or slaves still alive.
A 2002 Mobile Register-University of South Alabama poll found the state's citizens racially polarized over the question of reparations. While 67 percent of black respondents favored the federal government making cash payments to slave descendants, only 5 percent of white respondents agreed. Pollsters said some white people became so upset that they had trouble finishing telephone interviews for the poll.
Favors reparations:
For his part, Brophy has favored reparations. As a law professor in Oklahoma, he counseled black residents of Tulsa in their efforts to gain compensation for a 1921 race riot that left numerous blocks of a black business district in ruins and may have killed 300 people.
He thinks it might be possible to track down descendants of slaves owned by the university and its early professors, to offer them scholarships or some sort of symbolic payment. He acknowledged, however, that such an effort would provoke widespread opposition.
"I'm not going to fall on a sword for reparations," Brophy said.
He said other measures, such as an open debate about UA's slave past, headstones for unmarked slave graves, a university apology, and maybe a museum in one of the former slave quarters, would all be healthy for the school
"It's not like we don't have the buildings built with slave labor," Brophy said. "Having benefited from that labor, this institution has a moral duty to make amends."
From the Montgomery Advertiser, Feb. 25, 2005:

The Alabama Legislative Black Caucus wants all black athletes to rule out the possibility of attending Auburn University.
Caucus members are calling for a nationwide boycott of Auburn athletics because the AU athletic department fired two black administrators as part of a reorganization. One white administrator also was fired in the restructuring of the department.
"Next season, when they get ready to recruit football players and basketball players, we are asking black athletes not to come to Auburn University and to go to other schools until Auburn University can resolve the issue of discrimination against the employment of blacks," said Rep. Alvin Holmes, D-Montgomery, and head of the civil rights section of the Legislative Black Caucus.
Last week, the 35-member caucus asked AU Interim President Ed Richardson to rehire associate athletic director Stacy Danley and assistant athletic director Eugene Harris or place the two men in other positions with salaries equivalent to their former positions. The group also asked Richardson to provide a racial breakdown of Auburn University's athletic department.
In a written memorandum to the panel this week, Richardson provided the breakdown, but didn't say whether he would rehire the two black employees. Dissatisfied with that response, caucus members unanimously voted Thursday to declare a boycott.
Richardson offered no immediate response Thursday, but Deedie Dowdle, an Auburn University spokeswoman, said the university is "working in good faith to increase diversity on this campus."
"We have a comprehensive diversity plan that is nearly completed and have already begun to implement segments of that plan," Dowdle said. "The university wants to increase the participation of African Americans on our campus, so we hope that everyone, including our elected officials, will support our plan to achieve that goal."
In his memorandum, Richardson also pointed to the college's diversity plan. He noted, too, that the athletic department reorganization resulted in the first black representation in the department's senior management ranks.
A black employee of the department was promoted to senior associate athletic director for student services. A second black person has been promoted to assistant athletic director for compliance, the interim president said.
Again, the Legislative Black Caucus was unimpressed.
Holmes said the caucus is contacting the Congressional Black Caucus and several civil rights groups, including the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the Rev. Jesse Jackson's Rainbow/PUSH Coalition, and the Rev. Al Sharpton's National Action Network.
"We want them to join with the Alabama Legislative Black Caucus in asking black players not to go to Auburn University to play football and basketball until they resolve the racial problem up there as it relates to the employment of blacks," Holmes said.
Some caucus members want the boycott to extend beyond the athletics program.
"We should not limit ourselves to athletics," said state Rep. Eric Major, D-Fairfield, who would rather see the boycott extended to the entire university.
At least one other caucus member suggested the college be punished financially.
"Research grants come through the Legislature," said Rep. John Rogers, D-Birmingham. "You can really drive a stake through their heart."
James Hood, who in 1963 was the first black man admitted to the University of Alabama, has long fascinated audiences with a story about seeing his uncle hanged and burned by Ku Kluxers in the 1950s. A typical public airing was at an April 26, 1998 “racial unity” rally in Madison, Wisconsin, where he said: “I crawled over to the window and pulled aside the drapes, and I saw a man hanging, burning. And the next morning, I learned that the man was my uncle.” His listeners reportedly “groaned and murmured in shock.”
A local newspaper, the Wisconsin State Journal began looking into the story and contacted the Times of Huntsville, Alabama. Mr. Hood was informed that there was no record of such a lynching. At first he stuck to his guns: “These things happened every day, particularly in that area. I can verify it as a human being. Yes, it happened. I saw it. And I know there won’t be any written record of it. If I had to stand on a stack of Bibles, I would do it. But ask me to show documentation, I can’t do it.” Later he admitted he made up the story. Mr. Hood is now chairman of police, firefighting, and paramedic training education at Madison Area Technical College. He appears to be in no danger of losing his job. [Activist Admits Lynching is a Lie, Washington Times, May 8, 1998.]

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