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Alabama - Selma: Rose Sanders Interviewee
Dent, Thomas C.
Tom Dent interviews Rose Sanders in Selma, Alabama. She talks about her family background. Her mother's family is from Wilcox County and her father's family is from Mobile, Alabama. They traveled throughout the southeast due to her father's work as a Methodist minister. She was born in Salisbury, North Carolina. They lived there and Kentucky, and she graduated from high school in Greeneville, Tennessee. She attended went on to university while her parents moved to Dynamite Hill in Birmingham, Alabama. She spent her first summer there in 1962, amid the violence. A young Black man was killed on her street and Reverend Shuttlesworth was there. Her parents' home was threatened with violence. They discuss a book on the subject, part of which she wrote. She was only in Birmingham that summer. She spent the rest of her time in Harlem, where she became involved in the arts. She moved without knowing anyone. A friend introduced her to the Adair family from North Carolina she did not know, and they took her in. She started working with children on the block, some of whom she is still in touch with, and formed a youth theater. Reverend Adair (whom she calls "Rev") was able to find her a job in youth theater. She graduated from Harvard Law School, graduating in 1969. She spent a year in New York working for National Welfare Rights and married Hank Sanders. They then spent a year in Africa before returning to Alabama. They lived in Ibadan, Nigeria and studied the Africanization of universities there following independence, discovering that there had been no Africanization. They returned with an interest in teaching at Black colleges. They came to Huntsville, Alabama, where she worked with Madison County Legal Aid Society. She and Hank took the bar exam separately, knowing they were not likely to both pass if they took it together due to the rampant racism of the Bar. Hank moved to Selma in 1971, where he had heard there were very few Black lawyers. She did not want to move there, but they decided they would stay for five years and then she could choose where they lived next. They became immediately involved in the community and stayed. They organized the Black Belt Arts and Cultural Center. They discuss Black Fire in Birmingham, who had both a dance and theater group. They were run by Vera Marcus. Black Belt did not receive any funding at the time, which is how they have managed to survive into the present, unlike other arts groups of the era. She points to Mayor Joe Smitherman as the "main issue" Selma has to deal with now. She attends school board meetings as a watchdog. She has sued the board, and plans to just listen and not speak at the meeting tonight. Education is a critical issue in the area. They have produced a generation of Black children with no skills or confidence. Sanders was one of the organizers of the 21st Century youth leadership program. She talks about the program, its organizers and funding. They talk about mutual acquaintance Jerome Smith who is active in the program. She also runs a musical theater group called Children of Selma. She also runs an adult group who will be putting on her new play about internalized racism and self-hate. Dent compares it to his play Ritual Murder. Sanders is looking for a creative person to help develop the group. She is hoping to leave Selma in the future. She feels her children have had to deal with negativity rooted in community opposition to Sanders and her husband. Files have been charged against her for her opposition to illegal activities within the school board. She talks about trying to meet with Mayor Smitherman, but being denied access to his office. A camera man taped the resulting altercation. The cameraman has since died. Sanders was arrested.
Civil rights demonstrations
Law & legal affairs
Tulane University Digital Library
Box 151, Item 11, Side 1, Tom Dent collection, Amistad Research Center at Tulane University, New Orleans, Louisiana
Physical rights are retained by the Amistad Research Center. Copyright is retained in accordance with U.S. copyright laws.