Montgomery elected its first black mayor in 200 years. This is why it matters

In the two centuries since its founding, Alabama's capital of Montgomery and the birthplace of the civil rights movement has never had a black mayor.T...

Posted: Oct 9, 2019 9:51 AM
Updated: Oct 9, 2019 10:00 AM

In the two centuries since its founding, Alabama's capital of Montgomery and the birthplace of the civil rights movement has never had a black mayor.

That changed Tuesday when Montgomery County probate judge Steven Reed won a runoff election to become the first black mayor of the city founded in 1819. He defeated television station owner David Woods by more than 16,000 votes.

'Let the record show tonight, above all ... 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 things that keep us apart,' Reed told supporters at a rally turned victory party.

Alabama's second-largest city is a city of contrasts. While it's the birthplace of the civil rights movement, it was also the first capital of the Confederacy early in the Civil War, and many streets and schools still bear Confederate names.

Montgomery later became the site of Rosa Parks' famed bus boycott in 1955 and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s Dexter Avenue Baptist church, as well as the destination of the 1965 Selma-to-Montgomery protest marches that were met with brutal police violence and led to the Voting Rights Act.

Just last year, the nation's first memorial to the more than 4,000 victims of lynchings was opened in Montgomery.

Residents stunned by historic win

Montgomery resident Janay Smith, 48, said her heart has not stopped racing since Reed won.

'I am a lifelong resident of Montgomery. My family, I come from maybe about four generations of activists and community leaders. Many of those who came before me are now deceased and didn't get a chance to see this. But I'm so proud of my city,' Smith said. '... My city, little bitty Montgomery, Alabama, a place known for racial tension actually came together and did something positive and historic.'

Sixty percent of Montgomery's roughly 200,000 residents are black or African-American, according to the US Census.

Tiffany Pickens, 31, said the city has never been represented in a way that mirrors its demographics.

'Tonight is important, as a person of color, from a place with the history that Montgomery has, to see the city being represented by a person who shares values and understands the history of the city and who understands the struggle of this space is a huge deal ... makes me feel like I did when I watched President Obama take office.'

A lot of people never thought this day would come, Pickens said.

'It was something that you never fathom but you hope for, you never expect to actually see it. And I did.'

Dorsey Nelson, 67, who was born and raised in Montgomery, said he hopes the new mayor will continue to build on the progress made by the previous one.

'Not only that, he's gonna bring this town together, black and white people. I mean it's like - know I use the term black simply because he's black, but we're not gonna measure him by his color. We're going to measure him by what he does for the city of Montgomery,' he said.

The sentiment was not just limited to African-Americans.

'I am a woman. I am white. I live in Montgomery, Alabama and I voted for Steven Reed,' said Elizabeth Woodson, 26. ' ... I grew up in Connecticut. I've lived in Montgomery since the beginning of last year. It was an obvious logical and correct choice. Reed's extremely experienced, but more importantly ... he represents the majority of the city and democracy is about majority. So that I think is very important.'

With about 98% of precincts reporting, according to the Montgomery County Election Center, Reed won 32,511 votes while Woods got 15,891 votes.

Reed and Woods received the most votes in August in the city's 12-person primary, leading to Tuesday's run-off. In that vote, Reed got 42% while Woods earned about 25%, CNN affiliate WSFA reported.

Todd Strange, Montgomery's mayor since 2009, was not running for reelection.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 498560

Reported Deaths: 9939
CountyCasesDeaths
Harrison34150535
DeSoto31916399
Hinds31878624
Jackson24352379
Rankin21928388
Lee15450235
Madison14547279
Jones13789241
Forrest13428250
Lauderdale11944315
Lowndes10966185
Lamar10491135
Pearl River9454237
Lafayette8462138
Hancock7703126
Washington7371157
Oktibbeha7118130
Monroe6740174
Warren6656176
Pontotoc6620102
Neshoba6613206
Panola6466131
Marshall6398132
Bolivar6268146
Union596794
Pike5794152
Alcorn5646101
Lincoln5421134
George494979
Scott471198
Tippah466081
Prentiss464881
Leflore4631144
Itawamba4605105
Adams4577119
Tate4553109
Copiah445692
Simpson4423116
Yazoo440386
Wayne438572
Covington427894
Marion4222107
Sunflower4217104
Coahoma4127104
Leake407687
Newton381079
Grenada3700108
Stone358764
Tishomingo358091
Attala330589
Jasper328565
Winston313491
Clay306775
Chickasaw297867
Clarke290694
Calhoun278145
Holmes267287
Smith262450
Yalobusha232847
Tallahatchie225851
Walthall217763
Greene216048
Lawrence211440
Perry204855
Amite204055
Webster201845
Noxubee185940
Montgomery179356
Jefferson Davis170942
Carroll168238
Tunica159039
Benton147538
Kemper141341
Choctaw133026
Claiborne131637
Humphreys129038
Franklin119128
Quitman106328
Wilkinson104539
Jefferson94234
Sharkey64020
Issaquena1937
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 814363

Reported Deaths: 15179
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson1141131910
Mobile722941323
Madison52048686
Shelby37315341
Baldwin37098540
Tuscaloosa34973599
Montgomery33996725
Lee23158240
Calhoun22168470
Morgan20675372
Etowah19770496
Marshall18258300
Houston17314405
St. Clair15924337
Cullman15333290
Limestone15239198
Elmore15095284
Lauderdale14163294
Talladega13728272
DeKalb12575259
Walker11096366
Blount10104174
Autauga9904146
Jackson9795180
Coffee9182189
Dale8866181
Colbert8794200
Tallapoosa7045195
Escambia6747127
Covington6688179
Chilton6595160
Russell626358
Franklin5936105
Chambers5562142
Marion4960126
Dallas4897199
Clarke473482
Pike4721105
Geneva4564126
Winston4478101
Lawrence4269117
Bibb421786
Barbour356075
Marengo334189
Monroe330662
Randolph327763
Butler324894
Pickens314082
Henry311265
Hale309487
Cherokee300557
Fayette291079
Washington251151
Cleburne247058
Crenshaw243775
Clay240867
Macon230762
Lamar218146
Conecuh185752
Coosa179038
Lowndes174161
Wilcox167838
Bullock151744
Perry138040
Sumter131138
Greene125844
Choctaw87027
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