Edward R. Murrow Awards/Best Radio Series-- Alabama Public Radio "Dr. King and Alabama"

Jan 29, 2019

Please find enclosed Alabama Public Radio’s entry for the Edward R. Murrow Award for best radio series, titled “Dr. King and Alabama.” The three member Alabama Public Radio news team spent five months, with no budget, examining the connection between Alabama and Dr. Martin Luther King, junior’s fight for civil rights. King’s crusade began in 1955 with the Montgomery bus boycott, and it almost ended violently in March of 1968 in the rural town of Greensboro, two weeks before he was struck down in Memphis.

The Ku Klux Klan learned King was speaking in the town of Eutaw and sent an armed hit squad to kill him. The civil rights leader hid overnight in a safe house owned by a childhood friend of his wife, Coretta Scott King. APR listeners heard from Theresa Burroughs about that long night and her less-than-favorable first impression of MLK when Coretta Scott introduced her fiancée to her friend. “He wasn’t impressive at all,” recalled Burroughs. “Not what I expected.”

Jim Peppler had a unique vantage point to King’s work and of his funeral. The civil rights photographer for the Southern Courier newspaper in Montgomery first learned about King’s work in college. That’s what motivated him to move to Alabama to document MLK’s activism. The emotional toll of covering King’s funeral prompted Peppler to end his career as a news photographer.

King’s impact goes beyond the United States. In 2016, Alabama Public Radio hosted journalist Ousmane Sagara from the West African nation of Mali, where roads, parks, and even an English language education club are named for the slain civil rights leader. Sagara reports from Mali on how his nation feels about King fifty years after his death. During the production of this feature, Sagara and I communicated using Facebook Messenger. That included pre-production meetings on the gathering of “public radio” style interviews and background sound in Mali, and the editing of Sagara’s script. The final elements were delivered by Dropbox for posting here in Alabama.

In 1965, the childhood home of Jawana Jackson became the headquarters of King’s civil rights efforts during the voting rights marches across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma. Jackson preserves artifacts and furniture in the house where she grew up as a museum to that part of Alabama history. She was five years old at the time, and remembers the civil rights icon as “Uncle Martin.”

Finally, Alabama is one of only two states in the nation where the birthday of Confederate General Robert E. Lee is observed on the same day as the national holiday for Martin Luther, King, Junior. APR student reporter Allison Mollenkamp headed to Montgomery for competing remembrances. One as at the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church to celebrate the life and work of MLK, while the other was attended by members of the Sons and Daughters of the Confederacy remembered Lee. “Why do we remember Robert E. Lee?” asked group spokesman Carl Jones. “Well, if Lee’s birthday isn’t worth celebrating, apart from Jesus Christ, I don’t know whose is!”

Respectfully submitted,

Pat Duggins

News Director

Alabama Public Radio

Safe House/Pat

Next month marks fifty years since the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Junior. All month long, the Alabama Public Radio news team has been examining Dr. King’s work and impact here in Alabama. You heard from a photographer from Montgomery recalls who chronicled the civil rights icon. APR guest reporter Ousmane Sagara of the West African nation of Mali reported on how his countrymen remember Dr. King. APR also examined how Alabama is one of only two states that celebrates the birthdays of Dr. King and Confederate General Robert E. Lee on the same day. Now, APR’s Pat Duggins visits the city of Greensboro where a little known standoff took place just days before King was killed…

Students from Hale County High school are heading into a small shotgun style house. This home sits on a dirt road along Main Street in the town of Greensboro, about an hour south of Tuscaloosa. It’s a museum now, but back in the late 1960’s, it was a safe house for civil rights activists, including Dr. Martin Luther King, Junior. The relationship between King, the safe house, and its owner didn’t get off on the right foot…

“He was not impressive at all. Not what I expected you know…" Teresa Burroughs is eighty eight years old. Her home sits next door to the safe house museum. She owns both. Burroughs and her neighbors like to say Alabama’s civil rights movement began in rural communities like theirs. But, Burroughs says Martin Luther King, Junior just wasn’t the kind of man she thought one of her best friends would marry… “I just imaged her with a football player…about six something, you know. Martin was not like that.”

The friend Burroughs thought would marry a football player was named Coretta Scott. The future Mrs. King was born in the town Marion, about half hour east of Greensboro. As young ladies, Burroughs and Scott would talk about boys, and about the future. Burroughs says there was someone her friend said she wanted to grow up to be like… Marion Anderson…

“She had beautiful voice. And she always told me. She said I’m going to be another Marion Anderson, and I’m going to tour the world, and sing. And you’re going to read about me, because I’m going to be star. That was just the way she was talking, and I said ‘well, alright.’ She gave up her dream and took on his.” Burroughs impression of Martin Luther King, Junior got better, though. Once he did what many people say he did best…

“The spirit seem to enter his body and comes out through his voice, and it moves you…it moves a person. After we got to know each other better, he was all right…”

King gave this speech before Union healthcare workers in New England in March of 1968. It wasn’t the only talk he gave that month…ten days later he was in Eutaw, Alabama urging supporters to elect black candidates to Congress. Burroughs says after his talk, King headed straight to Greensboro to stay in the safe house.

“It was terrible night, it was an awful night…”

The reason was because the Ku Klux Klan heard King was in Alabama. An armed group of Klansmen spent the night looking for him in Greensboro… “They would drive slowly by and you could see them inside their cars, and you could see the barrels of their guns. They had the lights on on the inside of their cars, and they had the lights off on the outside of their cars. We kept him safe.”

King left the next morning. For Teresa Burroughs and King’s supporters in Greensboro, the feeling the victory lasted just two weeks… “It seemed as if I was weak in the knees (after hearing of King’s assassination,) my knees and everything was weak, and I just had to sit down. I just couldn’t stand anymore.”

Theresa Burroughs says that’s why she made the safe house into a museum. She wants people remember what happened here fifty years ago, her long after she’s gone.

MLK/Peppler Feature/ Ingold

Next month marks fifty years since the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Junior. All month long, the Alabama Public Radio news team has been examining Dr. King’s work and impact here in Alabama. APR guest reporter Ousmane Sagara of the West African nation of Mali reported on how his countrymen remember Dr. King. We examined how Alabama is one of only two states that celebrates the birthdays of Dr. King and Confederate General Robert E. Lee on the same day. A-P-R’s Stan Ingold spoke with one man who followed Dr. King with his camera…

(Sound from King’s funeral service)

It’s not everyone who gets to deliver their eulogy.

(more sound…)

Mourners heard from Dr. Martin Luther King during his own funeral. It was a recording of a sermon gave at Ebenezer Baptist Church in February of 1968. It was called the Drum Major Instinct.

“The day I’m on the job I’m just taking pictures left and right, oh there’s Sammy Davis Junior, oh there’s Jaqueline Kennedy, Jim Peppler was a photographer for the Southern Courier newspaper out of Montgomery. “One of the shots I remember getting was Richard Nixon walking through the crowd next to Wilt Chamberlain, odd couple so to speak. Then Bobby Kennedy and Ethel and of course he was killed later that same year.”

(bring up Aretha Franklin…)

Some in the crowd were there to remember King. Peppler kept in mind the mission of The Chronicle during the turbulent times of the civil rights movement… “which was to be a weekly publication giving an honest, open, factual, it was like a demonstration of what journalism should be as well as what America should be and certainly hoping honest coverage of events going on and the attention being paid journalistically to the black communities of Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia.”

But, Peppler was aware of Dr. King long before he signed to shoot for the Courier and act as the paper’s photo editor. He had heard King speak when he was finishing up in college. It was that message that brought Peppler to the south,…

“I’d heard pieces of his speeches over the radio and was inspired by that understanding of his words but there are people that have a charisma there’s something in their presence that speaks to something in those around them when they are in that presence, it spoke to me.”

Peppler says King’s presence was even more powerful in person. Even in a room full of people, the civil rights icon spoke in a way that felt personal, like it was a one-on-one conversation… “There was a sense that he was speaking to me and everyone else in the room from his heart. He had a brilliant way of expressing deep emotional and intellectual truths and words the captured the full intention of what he meant to say with them.”

(bring up newscast of March against fear…)

Peppler followed King throughout Alabama, but it was during a demonstration in Mississippi that he felt he got to see a different side of the civil rights leader. That demonstration became known as the “March Against Fear.”

“I got to see him having breakfast and walking around, talking and walking along with him for hours on end on the march. Being there right next to him or behind him as he confronted state troopers as one issue or another would come up.” Peppler says seeing King on television was one thing, but seeing him work in person was a different story… “ But being there as he went through one thing after another in the field, it filled out the image of what he was about and what his movement was about beyond the words and the rhetoric of his marvelous speeches that I had experienced up until then.”

Peppler covered other stories during his time with the Southern Courier, tending to focus on the everyday lives of black people living in the south that were not being covered by larger papers. (some newscast of the assassination…) He was on an assignment when he heard that Martin Luther King Junior has been killed… “I was coming back from something, I forgotten what, in Selma riding with a reporter and we were driving along and heard it on the radio and we pulled over and just started crying.”

But it didn’t take long for Peppler’s journalistic instincts to kick in… “and then prepare myself to do what I next needed to do immediately to prepare from the pictures I had some kind of a visual tribute to him for the next issue of the paper and then plan to be in Atlanta to photograph his funeral.”

Once he put together a tribute for the paper Peppler he made his way to Atlanta to cover King’s funeral. He says he wanted to stop and pay his respects to King at the church… “But the line, at 3 o’clock in the morning went for way further than, if I had gotten in that line, I may or may not have gotten a picture but I wouldn’t have gotten another picture for the rest of the day.” He says he was almost too busy to be emotional during the proceedings…

“I was on the job, so there the journalistic imperative to get the job done and I’m only one person covering an event that spanned the city of Atlanta.” Covering King’s funeral took a lot out of Peppler, the way he sees it, it was his last real assignment for the Southern Courier…

“After I covered Dr. King’s funeral I kind of lost something of myself that empowered me to carry on and I didn’t know what I was going to do. Essentially, from my point of view, King’s funeral was the last thing that I felt myself committed to getting done.” Jim Peppler went on to work for other publications like Newsday in New York. (maybe the pages being peeled back at the archives And, it’s here at the Alabama Archives that Peppler hopes his photographic record of Dr. King will live. He donated his images from his work in the south to the Alabama Department of History where digital copies are publically available. For APR News, I’m Stan Ingold in Tuscaloosa.

Mali MLK/Ousmane

Next month marks fifty years since the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Junior. Throughout March, the APR news team is reporting on King’s work and impact here in Alabama. The civil rights leader’s death is being remembered in the United States, but not just in the U.S. Alabama Public Radio participated in a visiting international journalist program last year. That’s where the APR news team met Ousmane Sagara* from the West African nation of Mali His home country has its own relationship with Dr. King. We invited Sagara to file this report from Mali’s capitol city. The story begins with King’s reaction to his visit the West African nation of Ghana

MLKing: The road to freedom is a difficult, hard road. It always makes for temporary setbacks.

Ousmane: This is part of a sermon Dr. Martin Luther King gave in Montgomery in 1957.

KING: And those people who tell you today that there is more tension in Montgomery than there has ever been are telling you right…

Ousmane: The sermon was called The Birth of a New Nation. The inspiration wasn’t what was happening in the United States, but rather the African nation on Ghana. He had just returned from celebrations after Ghana declared independence from Great Britain. King looked at the fight for freedom in Africa, and he saw a reflection of what was going on in the U.S.

BAMAKO Traffic FX fade up

Ousmane: My home country is Mali. Ghana is on our southern border. But, we remember Dr. King, too. In Mali, we have living tributes to King.

KOITA: ‘’ We have an English club in Mali here which name is Martin Luther king.

Ousmane: Mohamed Koita is the chairperson of ‘’Martin Luther King’s club’’

KOITA: There, we learn his idea and also a mission that he did in American society. So, we can say that thanks to him, color people in USA are living in better conditions. I listened him more than hundred times. In his speeches, he is like a prophet. It occurred exactly as he said”

Mariam Kone: “Martin Luther king is one the greatest black leaders of civil right movement.

OUSMANE: Mariam Kone is a human rights worker in Mali. She draws inspiration from how Dr. King fought for civil rights in the U.S.

Mariam Kone: “And also he was a leader who raised up the voice of black Americans who had no voice at that time, living in precarity and who really need to get all the right to live like other Americans”

Ousmane: That is why during my time in Alabama, I wanted to visit The Birmingham Civil Rights Institute. I took part in a visiting journalist program, which is how I came to work in the newsroom at Alabama Public Radio. That led me to the Institute in the city of Birmingham, where King wrote his famous letter from the Birmingham jail.

BAMAKO TRAFFIC FX FADE UP…

Ousmane: And, as the world prepares to remember the fiftieth anniversary of Dr. King’s assassination, one might wonder what his legacy might be in the future. I asked people on the streets of Bamako on what they thought…

“What I would say to him, is to educate more the young African leaders, and also give them the ideology during the civil rights movement”.

If King were alive, what people would say to him? “I would just congratulate him, and do my best to learn with him as possible”

If King were alive, what people would say to him? “ I would say wow! His dream became reality. And I hope he could be here to see that”. I’m Ousmane SAGARA, APR news, in Mali, West Africa

Selma MLK / AuBuchon

Next month marks the fiftieth anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Junior’s assassination. All month long, the Alabama Public Radio news team has been examining Dr. King’s work and his impact here in Alabama. You’ve heard a photographer from Montgomery recall documenting King’s work. APR guest reporter Ousmane Sagara shared how people in his nation of Mali remember Dr. King. You also heard about the house where King hid from white supremacists, just days before his assassination. Now APR’s Alex AuBuchon reports on another place in Alabama connected to Dr. King. And, how his influence is being felt by a new generation…

“It was a day I will never forget. I will never forget that day and the beating that I took that day.”

We met Theresa Burroughs earlier in our series. She owns the civil rights safe house where King hid from armed Klansmen in March of 1968. It wasn’t Burroughs’ first brush with the civil rights movement…

Selma attack FX

On March seventh 1965, Burroughs and around six hundred more civil rights activists, most of them black, marched from Brown Chapel in Selma hoping to reach Montgomery. They wanted to protest measures aimed at preventing African-Americans from voting. They were met on the Edmund Pettus Bridge by police batons and tear gas. Attack FX continues

“You know, we were just knocked everywhere. They just beat the hell out of us, I tell you.”

That day became known as Bloody Sunday. And every year, civil rights advocates gather in Selma to retrace those marchers’ steps across the Edmund Pettus Bridge and remember their sacrifice. The bridge is often the focal point of Bloody Sunday. But, just a mile and a half away, there’s another monument to the fight for voting rights…

“This is the house that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. lived as he planned the Selma to Montgomery march.”

That house is Jawana Jackson’s family home, which has remained virtually unchanged since the mid-1960s. It essentially became the headquarters for the civil rights movement.

“so when Dr. King decided to do the Selma march several years later, he asked my parents if he could come and stay here and use this as a base of operation. And of course our lives changed drastically, from a house that had a mother and a father and a little girl, almost overnight became a house where the world came in.” Jawana was about five at the time.

“And I wish I had been just a little older to understand the gravity – to understand the historical significance. To the world he was Martin Luther King, Jr. To me, he was Uncle Martin.”

Jawana runs the Jackson house as a museum and foundation. And it’s filled with artifacts from the era: “Of the beds in this house, of course Uncle Martin slept in every one, and over the years my mother, for practical purposes, bought new mattresses and box springs. But this is the original mattress and box spring that was on the bed when he was here.”

Photos of King and his lieutenants fill the walls of Jackson House to document the response to the attack on bloody Sunday.

“This is the room in which Dr. King and his lieutenants booted up the morning of the second march.” And then there’s the spot where King saw all this effort pay off. “The museum contains the very chair, the very television that Dr. King was sitting in the night that President Johnson announced that he would indeed sign the Voting Rights Act, which he did several months later in August of 1965.”

“You hear so much about the march, but not what went on behind the scenes,” That’s Elisa George. She’s part of a student group from Trinity Washington University touring the Jackson House. “And just to be able to be here and experience and feel the spirit of the people who planned it, and what they probably had to endure, and the changes their decisions made in this place, was very impactful for us.”

It’s impactful because George is African-American and came to the US from the Caribbean as a child. She is a DACA recipient and she says there are parallels between the 60s and today’s debates over immigration. “In a country that's supposed to be the home of the free, people are still not free. They weren't free back then because of the color of their skin, and now they're not free because somebody has made a decision that they didn't make, and they're being punished for it. And I believe that just as Dr. Martin Luther King and the others stood up for the rights of African-Americans to be able to vote and be a people, that God is going to raise somebody to stand up for these young people, that they too can be free to live in this country, that's supposed to be the home of the free.”

Theresa Burroughs says she hates to see young people of color taking their right to vote for granted—especially considering what she and others went through.

“Somebody cried for them, and somebody died for them, and didn’t even know their name. And yet they won’t go and vote.”

Burroughs may have reason to be concerned. Attendance for the annual Selma bridge crossing jubilee is down compared to 2015. That was the fiftieth anniversary of bloody Sunday which drew huge crowds. However, young people like Elisa George seem to be recognizing Burrough’s sacrifice, and her call to action may be getting through.

SOQ MLK/Robert E. Lee1/Mollenkamp

Next month marks fifty years since the death of civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Junior. All month long, the APR news team is looking at King’s work and impact here in Alabama. Each year, America honors King on the third Monday in January. The nation takes a day off work and school as remember his accomplishments. Alabama is one of only two states that also celebrates another man on the same day as Dr. King. APR student reporter Allison Mollenkamp explains their legacies are very different...

Carl Jones: “He asked a question: why do we celebrate Robert E. Lee’s birthday? That’s Carl Jones. He’s speaking at the Sons of Confederate Veterans’ Robert E. Lee celebration. Well if Lee’s birthday is not worthy of celebration, apart from Jesus Christ, I don’t know whose is.”

Jones and his supporters all gathered in the auditorium at the state archives building in Montgomery. Men in grey confederate uniforms sit side by side with men in motorcycle jackets and women dressed in their Sunday best. The mood moves between celebration and the sense that a grand cause is under attack. Pat Godwin: “It really has been a tough year for us, hasn’t it?”

That’s Pat Godwin, of the United Daughters of the Confederacy. “But actually not just this year. It all began on the seventeenth of June, 2015, when in Charleston, South Carolina, Dylan Roof started this avalanche of cultural genocide at Mach speed, against the South, our heroes, and all things Southern.” Dylan Roof is the South Carolina man who became the first person sentenced to death for committing federal hate crimes. He shot nine churchgoers to death in 2015. The genocide Godwin is referring to is all things Southern. 

“Unfortunately, our battle changes faces. In eighteen-sixty-one they allowed us to fight with bullets.” This is Pat McMurry. He’s a member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans’ Mechanized Cavalry. Pat McMurry “They won’t let us do that now, so far. But today we’re being fought against with weapons that are far more long-reaching and powerful than a bullet.”

(some of the music from the MLK thing, probably “Wade in the water”)

The idea of an ongoing battle is shared by a very different group of people that met a few days earlier just blocks away. The Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church sits one block from the state capitol, and the sanctuary is filled to standing room only. Dr. Martin Luther King, Junior served as pastor here from the mid to late 1950’s. There are women in church hats and others in shirts emblazoned with King’s picture or quotes from his speeches. One notable difference being this event and the one for Robert E. Lee is the diversity. This crowd looks like what King would have wanted, black and white people sitting together.

Kay Ivey “I am delighted to join with you today in the forty-third annual program to celebrate the birthday of not just a former pastor of the Dexter Avenue Memorial King Baptist Church, but also one of the defining leaders of the twentieth century America: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.”

Governor Kay Ivey was one of several dignitaries that spoke at the King celebration. Together they unveiled plans for a statue of King in Montgomery. Ivey also spoke at length about the civil rights trail that includes Alabama. After all the politicians had their turn at the microphone, the main event of the day was the pastor of what was once King’s church:

the Reverend Cromwell Handy. “Forward march against those who are trying to ignorantly take America back. [applause] And my question to you here as my brothers and sisters in Christ who are sponsors today, you, ‘We the People”: back to where?” There’s a sense of a fight here too, though Reverend Handy was careful to never names who his congregation might be fighting against. It’s easy to figure out, though.

“We demonstrated the power at the polls just last month, didn’t we? In your senate race that showed the rest of the nation with a conscience, assured the nation that Alabama ain’t embarrassed when it comes to doing what’s right.” Voting was an integral victory of the civil rights movement in the sixties, so it’s no surprise it’s still a big point of pride. This event feels like a continuation of the history that lives and breathes in Montgomery.

“The state capitol, where, supposedly, the letter that started the civil war right there just a few blocks away.

Then you come down one black to Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church and many other churches all over this city, but the first meeting took place in this basement for the Montgomery bus boycott. Then you go on down to that statue, that fountain down there and you will find that that’s where the slave auction used to be. And you can go for a ride about two blocks away and you’re reminded where Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat. From the state capitol to Rosa Parks is less than a mile. I tell you, in the name of the Lord, he used Montgomery, Alabama, to be number one in civil rights!”

(change to ambi from outside the church)

Several members of the audience also remember the days of Rosa Parks and Dr. King. “[I] met Dr. King back when I was in high school.”

That’s Jacquelyn Houzz. She splits the year between Chicago and Montgomery. “I actually participated in the parade, I mean in the march from Selma to Montgomery in that I marched from St. Jude campus to the capitol.” Annie B. Lavette was a student in Montgomery when Dr. King was pastor at the Dexter Avenue Baptist church. She enjoyed the birthday celebration event. “It brought back all those good memories that he tried so hard to instill in us to be as one people with the love with the love of God in our heart for all people.”

(MAYBE SOME AMBIENCE TO SERVE AS A BRIDGE POINT BACK TO LEE…)

Christianity runs deep in discussions of King and in his own speeches. But, then so does the supporters of Robert E. Lee. Back at the celebration for the Confederate general. Here’s Pat McMurry again, describing Lee. “One of our greatest Southern leaders, and I think one of the greatest Southern men ever written in history. He emulated a man of the south, a gentleman, a father, a Christian, a good man, a leader.” When the sons of confederate veterans talk about Robert E. Lee, the focus is on Lee’s defense of his home, on Southern pride and resiliency. During the entire two and a half hour event, I heard the word slavery once.

“Our adversaries like to take that four year period, and frankly, the two hundred years leading up to it, and dumb it down to one word: slavery.” This is Carl Jones again. He closed out the Lee event with a speech entitled “the vindication of Robert E. Lee.” “If we want to look at one word causes, for the war, I’ll give you one word that caused it: Yankees.”

(“Dixie”)

The Sons of Confederate Veterans event wasn’t explicitly about race or slavery. But let’s go back to that moment where Pat Godwin mentioned Dylan Roof. She called the after effects of his actions a cultural genocide. She and her compatriots mourn the loss of flags and monuments. What she made no mention of was the nine black people that Dylan Roof murdered. The Lee event wasn’t about race, but the crowd was very conspicuously white, save for three or four exceptions. Alabama celebrates Martin Luther King and Robert E. Lee on the same day every year, despite the fact that we are one of only two states left that do so. There have been efforts to change this, to either do away with Robert E. Lee day or move it to another part of the year. For now, though, the dual holidays serve to demonstrate the reality of life in Alabama. We are still divided. The Sons of Confederate Veterans and the congregation at the Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church look back at different pasts and they dream of different futures. There was another thing that separated the two events. The average age of the Sons of Confederate Veterans is fifty-six. On Dexter Avenue, elders who marched with King stood to hold hands with a crowd that included plenty of young people, including children who before last year had never known a white president. (“We shall overcome”) SOC OUT