Winning Proposal to the Hanes Walton, Jr. Endowment: 2017 Competition

Project Title: The Political Aftermath of Racial Hate Crime

Faculty Sponsor: Robert Mickey

Graduate Student: Kiela Crabtree

Project Description

The title of "Bomingham" has clung to the city of Birmingham, Alabama since 1963, when the city's Sixteenth Street Baptist Church was bombed by white segregationists, resulting in the murder of four black girls who were preparing for church service in building's basement. This incident turned the nation's attention to the city, which had been deemed the\most segregated in America," nally shining a light on what had become regular occurrences for Birmingham's African-American residents (Connerly 2005). Between 1945-1963, the city of Birmingham was shaken by over 50 racially-motivated bombings, and data collected on these events will form the basis of a project that seeks to understand the lasting political consequences of hate crime in the United States.

With this project, I ask, under what circumstances are hate crimes ine ective means of political oppression? More speci cally, do such acts of violence and terrorism, which are intended to suppress minority groups, actually incite increased political activity over time? To answer these questions, I will apply a new lens of analysis to collections of archival material from 1945-1965 to gauge local political responses of African-Americans (and segregationists) to racially-motivated hate crimes committed against the black community in Birmingham, Alabama.

As Hanes Walton pieced together a vivid picture of African-American political behavior over the course of his career, I build on his endeavors with this project. Like Dr. Walton, I emphasize the importance of nuanced and contextual study of black politics. I do this by examining African- American political behavior in the aftermath of hate crime, but also by proposing to measure a concept where contemporaneous survey data falls short.