Toward democracy

A new podcast from the Alabama Humanities Alliance features conversations and poetry to explore Black Alabamians' long fight for full participation in the electoral process.

Read more from this issue of Mosaic

This article appears in the Summer 2021 issue of Mosaic, the magazine of the Alabama Humanities Alliance. 



A poem by Ashley M. Jones


Photo of Ashley Jones


“…The straitjackets of race prejudice and discrimination do not wear only southern labels. The subtle, psychological technique of the North has approached in its ugliness and victimization of the Negro the outright terror and open brutality of the South.”

Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Why We Can’t Wait

this here the cradle of this here nation—everywhere you look, roots run right back south. every vein filled with red dirt, blood, cotton. we the dirty word you spit out your mouth. mason dixon is an imagined line—you can theorize it, or wish it real, but it’s the same old ghost—see-through, benign. all y’all from alabama; we the wheel turning cotton to make the nation move. we the scapegoat in a land built from death. no longitude or latitude disproves the truth of founding fathers’ sacred oath:

we hold these truths like dark snuff in our jaw,
Black oppression’s not happenstance; it’s law.


Ashley M. Jones is the project poet for Alabama Humanities’ podcast series, Why It Matters: Black Alabamians and the Vote. This poem is from Episode 4, “Championing the Ballot.”

The vote — and beyond


This summer, the Alabama Humanities Alliance launched its first podcast, featuring a topic that is far too old. Why It Matters: Black Alabamians and the Vote examines what hard-won enfranchisement secured for African Americans statewide — and what it didn’t. The series also asks: What echoes of the 20th century’s voting rights struggle still reverberate in today’s modern voter suppression tactics?

Series host Tonya Scott-Williams explores questions like this in conversations with leading historians, scholars, and activists. Topics range from Black female suffragists in the Jim Crow South to the battle for self-agency far beyond the vote in Selma. Each podcast episode also features original poetry and readings from poet Ashley M. Jones, founding director of the Magic City Poetry Festival and co-director of PEN Birmingham.

Black Alabamians and the Vote is a six-episode podcast series. It’s part of a national initiative exploring civic participation as it relates to electoral engagement in a multivocal democracy. Funding was provided by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation for “Why It Matters: Civic and Electoral Participation,” administered by the Federation of State Humanities Councils.

Listen to the podcast