Alabama

Vernon Madison and the Death Penalty

On April 18, 1985 Mobile County Police Officer Julian Schulte responded to a report of a missing child. Upon arriving at the home of Cheryl Ann Green, Schulte was informed that there had been a miscommunication — the child was not missing and was on her way home thanks to a family friend. While Schulte waited in his police car for a second unit to arrive at the home, an argument broke out between Ms. Green and her then-boyfriend Vernon Madison. Schulte intervened, requesting that Madison calm down and leave the residence. Madison left briefly, but returned shortly after with a gun and shot Officer Julian Schulte twice through the driver side window of his unmarked police vehicle. A week later, Corporal Julian Schulte — by all accounts a good officer and better person — was pronounced dead.

Two weeks ago on Thursday, May 12. Vernon Madison was supposed to die.

If someone were to make an argument against the death penalty, Vernon Madison may indeed be the poster child. Not because there’s ambiguity in the crime — he most certainly murdered Officer Julian Schulte — but because Madison’s story highlights so many of the flaws which come along with state-sanctioned executions.   (more…)

Eugene Patterson: A Flower for the Graves

Yesterday was the 51st anniversary of the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing in which four little black girls lost their lives. In the days that followed, politicians, community leaders and journalists rushed to shape the narrative around the tragedy.

Perhaps better than almost anyone else, Eugene Patterson of the Atlanta Constitution made an eloquent plea for the neutral population of Southern whites to stand up and reclaim the South from the hateful extremists which threatened to keep it forever in a state of anarchy and lawlessness.

I’ve included Patterson’s editorial below in full. And just like Dr. King’s eulogy for those girls, Patterson’s words ring just as true today as they did the day following the bombing. We must all continue to examine how our own inaction contributes to and allows for the suffering and oppression of others. (more…)

The Civil Tube: 4 Little Girls

Our Civil Tube video is not so short today. But rather a documentary which looks at the lives of four little girls who through no choice of their own became martyrs in the struggle for freedom and civil rights. It’s only fitting since today is the 51st anniversary of the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing.

Give it a watch. Perhaps most jarring is the fact that many of the people who speak in the documentary — and were first-hand witnesses to the violence of 1960s Birmingham — are still alive. It serves as a reminder that while we may learn about these events as long-ago history from a bygone era, in fact, many people remember this tragedy as vividly as 9/11 or the Boston marathon bombing.

A Eulogy Which Still Rings True Today

On September 15, 1963 at 10:20 AM a small group of young black children were gathering inside of the 16th street Baptist church in Birmingham, Alabama. Sunday school had already ended and the children were busy getting into their choir robes and preparing for service. The sermon scheduled for later that day was entitled “The Love that Forgives.”

At 10:22 AM — a full box of dynamite erupted from under the front steps of the church near the basement. More than twenty people were injured. Four children — Addie Mae Collins, Cynthia Wesley, Carole Robertson and Denise McNair were killed. The sermon was never given.

A few days later, three of the children were laid to rest. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr gave the eulogy. And in his words, we find a message that resonates as powerfully today as it did some 51 years ago. In particular, he spoke to the lessons we can all learn from their deaths (more…)