Archive for the 'Jim Crow and Me' Category

Solomon Seay on post-racial America with Stetson Law Project

Thursday, July 7th, 2011 by Sam Robards

Jim Crow and Me: Stories from My Life as a Civil Rights Lawyer by Solomon S. Seay, Jr.

Renowned civil rights lawyer Solomon Seay Jr. talks with Stetson University law professor Bob Bickel about Seay’s personal and professional struggles for equality, including discussion of his well-received memoir Jim Crow and Me, in a new online documentary as a part of Stetson University College of Law’s Oral History Project (registration required to view videos).

As one of only three African American lawyers in Montgomery, AL, in the late 1950s, Seay braved the Ku Klux Klan, Jim Crow laws, and the state of Alabama’s entrenched racism in order to desegregate public schools and facilities, to protect Freedom Riders and voting rights activists, and to ensure equal justice under the law to African American citizens. During his legal career across the state of Alabama, Seay focused primarily on civil rights cases, including race-based and gender-based employment discrimination, access to public accommodations, and police brutality.

In the online video, Seay talks about the need for young lawyers, regardless of race, to have empathy and resist complacency when they see injustice:

That, really, is my biggest interest as it relates to Jim Crow and Me. That is getting something to our young folks, especially the young lawyers so that they will have some notion, at least, of where the black lawyer has come from. And a better understanding of where he has to go and, perhaps, a greater knowledge of how to get there.

Seay also discusses how he would receive help, albeit conditional help, from white lawyers during his first days in Montgomery:

When I first came to Montgomery to practice law in Alabama, there were two black lawyers here: Fred Gray, who was perhaps the best-known civil rights lawyer in the country, and Charlie Langford. But both of them had only been here a year or so. I started a solo practice, and, of course, there were a lot of things I just didn’t know about the practice in Alabama. And Fred and Charles didn’t know much more about Alabama practice than I at the time. And whenever I ran into a situation that was just foreign to me, I would stop and think about who in this area is an expert in this field and I’d give them a call … There was a never a single time that a white lawyer whom I called turned me down. Not one time, but, at the end of the conversations, there was always the caveat: “But now, nobody needs to know that I helped you with this.” But I was never turned down.

Finally, Seay tells Bickel about his discomfort with the notion of America as a “post-racial society”:

I was really taken by surprise by the inauguration of [President Barack] Obama … after the ceremony … I was shocked and dismayed at the number of folks, black and white, who said that the inauguration of Barack Obama was the culmination of the dream of Martin Luther King. And if we have the audacity to believe than, then we have problems … because that does not signify a post-race society. And even though [civil rights lawyers of the ’50s and ’60s] had gotten together and pretty much buried Jim Crow, bigotry, at that time, arose like the Phoenix from the ashes, and yet more sinister … and more subtle and more difficult … to attack … And even though [the civil rights lawyers] were successful in really doing away with all of the Jim Crow laws, we’ve not reached a post-race society, and … you still experience it everyday.

You can access all the videos at Stetson University College of Law’s Oral History Project.

Jim Crow and Me: Stories from My Life as a Civil Rights Lawyer is available from NewSouth Books,, or your favorite online or local bookseller.

John Hope Franklin Remembered by Historian and Author Paul Gaston

Thursday, March 26th, 2009 by Brian Seidman

Noted historian and scholar John Hope Franklin died Wednesday, March 25, 2009 at the age of 94. He was the author of the bestselling book From Slavery to Freedom and known for his work on the Brown v. Board of Education court case.

Paul M. Gaston of the University of Virginia, author of The New South Creed and the forthcoming Coming of Age in Utopia: The Odyssey of an Idea (NewSouth, 2009) sent this remembrance:

I saw John Hope for the last time two years ago. I was in a large auditorium where he was to speak about his autobiography. He entered by a side door, spied me, walked to where I was standing and gave me one of those John Hope Franklin bear hugs with which I had been familiar for almost half a century. He stood tall as he strode toward me, shoulders back, smile broad. He was 92 at the time and I thought he must be immortal. 

The world knows John Hope through the multitude of his books, essays, and speeches that have shed powerful light on the hopes, failures, achievements, and complexities of our nation. The hundreds and more who have known him up close, as counselor and friend, are now bereft of one who was always there with praise and prodding, formed by his abiding care for who we were, what we needed, and how he might help.

John Hope Franklin recently contributed an introduction to Jim Crow and Me: Stories from My Life as a Civil Rights Lawyer by Solomon Seay, from NewSouth Books.

Read John Hope Franklin’s obituary from the Associated Press.

Solomon Seay Talks Jim Crow and Me with Radio, Television

Tuesday, January 13th, 2009 by Brian Seidman

Renown civil right attorney Solomon S. Seay, Jr., speaks out about his new memoir Jim Crow and Me: Stories from My Life as a Civil Rights Lawyer on WBHM Birmingham radio’s Tapestry with Greg Bass, WTSU Troy radio’s Community Focus with Carolyn Hutcheson, and “Talk With Tonya” with Tonya Terry on WSFA Montgomery television.

In the interviews, Mr. Seay discusses his experiences as one of the first African American lawyers in Montgomery, Alabama. He describes for Greg Bass one experience in 1957 where he represented a group of black men wrongfully imprisoned in Chilton County. While at the jail, the sheriff’s wife accused Mr. Seay of insulting her, and Mr. Seay feared the armed sheriff might kill him before he was allowed to leave. Mr. Seay recounts in Jim Crow and Me, “Fewer than ten black lawyers practiced in the entire state of Alabama at the time. Along with Fred Gray and Orzell Billingsley, I stayed busy in Chilton County for months before we succeeded in getting every single case dropped. I also managed not to take on the sheriff … I have never been afraid to die [but] to die for nothing–that’s a different ball game.”

Said Carolyn Hutcheson, “Mr. Seay is a fascinating guest and a natural storyteller. What a great opportunity, too, to set the record straight on some of the Civil Rights era happenings.”

In Jim Crow and Me, Mr. Seay chronicles both heartening and heartbreaking episodes of his first-hand struggle to achieve the actualization of civil rights. With an eloquence befitting one of Alabama’s most celebrated attorneys, Seay manages to not only relay his personal struggles with much fervor and introspection, but to acknowledge, in each brief piece, the greater societal struggle in which his story is necessarily framed. Jim Crow and Me is more than just a memoir of one man’s battle against injustice–it is an accessible testament to the precarious battle against civil injustice that continues even today.

Jim Crow and Me is available from NewSouth Books,, or your favorite local or online book retailer.