School marks Confederate Memorial Day with lynching teach-in
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — A historically black college in Alabama used the state’s Confederate Memorial Day observance Monday to highlight the 1981 lynching of a black teenager by Ku Klux Klan members.
An afternoon “teach-in” about the slaying of 19-year-old Michael Donald was planned at Alabama State University in Montgomery a couple miles from the state Capitol, where Confederate history buffs gathered earlier on the grounds in antebellum garb for an annual event honoring rebel dead.
Donald was killed and his body was hanged from a tree in Mobile in 1981. Two Klansmen were convicted of the killing in response to a jury’s failure to convict a black man in the slaying of a white police officer.
Teach-in organizer Derryn Moten, chairman of the history and political science department at Alabama State, said Confederate veterans founded the KKK and the event presented another side of the legacy of the Confederacy on the state holiday.
“I don’t see it as a counter; I see it as another vein in this conversation,” he said in a telephone interview.
Planned for an amphitheater on campus, the teach-in was to include a presentation by Morris Dees, who founded the Montgomery-based Southern Poverty Law Center but was recently fired by the liberal watchdog amid allegations of misconduct.
Dees sued the Klan over Donald’s killing and won a $7 million verdict on behalf of the dead man’s mother, Beulah Mae Donald.
At the Capitol, where bands played 19th century tunes and Confederate battle flags waved, the chairwoman of the Old South remembrance, Gwen Williams, lauded those who sacrificed their lives during the Civil War, or what she called “the second war for independence.”
“We do have a rich history here in Alabama, and because of those people who lived in the 1860s, we are what we are today,” Williams, a member of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, told WIAT-TV in an interview broadcast on Facebook.
Alabama, Mississippi and South Carolina are the only places where Confederate Memorial Day is still a holiday for state employees.