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William Hooper Councill’s Letter to the White People of Alabama, 1901

Most scholars of today imagine Booker T. Washington as the major accommodationist and black political conservative of the era.  There were others including Professor William Hooper Councill, the founder and  first President of the Huntsville Normal School which today is Alabama A.A & M University.  Councill founded the school in 1875, six years before Booker T. Washington established Tuskegee in South Central Alabama, and led the school until his death in 1909.  In the public letter below written on November 28, 1901, Councill outlines his views regarding the recently passed Alabama Constitution which effectively denied the vote to its African American citizens.  Couched in the language of deference, Councill, nonetheless, protests the new level of denial of rights to blacks in the state and the language of racial hate that accompanied that denial.

I have served you in slavery and in freedom for over half a century.  I have stood with you for “good government” for a quarter of a century.  As all of past life has been devoted to your service and to the welfare of my race, I believe that you will grant me a hearing now.

I love Alabama.  I have been true to her at home and abroad.  I have never breathed one work against her.  I have all along trusted her white people.  I revere the names of her long lines of noble sons with untarnished honor, who scorned wrong and hate injustice. Their faith in right gave birth to your Confederate monument which stands on Capitol Hill representing what they regarded as truth.  But today, I am alarmed! I tremble for the future of my people in Alabama, unless you come to our rescue.  

The recent [political] campaign was one of bitterness and abuse of my people.  Many of the public speakers did not appeal to the highest sentiment in man, but held up the Negro in a manner to make the white masses hostile to him.  With all your best efforts for many years to come, it will be hard to undo the harm which was done to my race by the campaign into which was put so much unkind feeling.  Not