CELEBRATE & EDUCATE: Alabama Black History Stories

Dr. Sonnie Hereford, III, was a retired physician who made history in September 1963 when he and his 6-year-old son returned home after being turned away from Huntsville’s Fifth Avenue School. His son became the first black child enrolled at a white public school in Alabama six days later. In this photo, he and his son are shown moments after being denied registration at the school. (Alabama Vintage)
This is John Wallace Comer and a man he owned as a slave. Identified only as Burrell, he was taken by Comer, brother of the future governor of Alabama, to fight with him in the Confederate army. When Comer was injured during the Battle of Atlanta, Burrell, who was only 16, rowed him in a small boat on the Chattahoochee River 250 miles to Spring Hill. Comer was known to repeatedly point out that Burrell was not a soldier. However, in decades to come this photo was used in Southern textbooks as evidence to push a narrative that Black people had willing fought for the South during the Civil War. (Alabama Vintage)
Oscar Adams Jr. dances with his wife Anne-Marie on Election Night 1988. Born in 1925 in Birmingham, Adams was appointed to the Alabama Supreme Court in 1980 by Gov. Fob James and elected to a full term in 1982. He was the first Black person to hold statewide office here. Born the son of a newspaper publisher, Adams graduated from Howard Law School in 1947 because state law kept Black people from attending law school here. His work helped desegregate Birmingham schools and he was the city’s first Black bar member and he was a partner in the city’s first Black law firm. His first wife, Willa, died of breast cancer the year Adams was elected. He retired from the bench in 1993 and died in 1997 at age 72. (Alabama Vintage)