Huntsville’s history of racial segregation, part infinity

December 25, 2023 | By Cathy Reisenwitz

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If you didn’t get enough of Huntsville’s history of racial segregation from our conversation with John O’Brien, and of course you didn’t because it’s just way too interesting for one podcast alone, I can’t recommend episode 51 of the HSV Progressive Podcast more. In it, Joy interviews Beth Patin, granddaughter of Huntsville civil rights icons Sonnie Hereford III and Martha Hereford. 

I, for one, find it very interesting that in 1963:

  • A pregnant Martha Hereford sat down at a white-only Walgreens lunch counter in Huntsville and ordered a drink
  • Sonnie Hereford III, sued the Huntsville Board of Education in federal court in Birmingham to desegregate Alabama public schools
  • The Huntsville City Council adopted the Zoning Ordinance of the City of Huntsville, Alabama

It almost looks like Huntsville’s wealthy white voters either lost or knew they’d lose in court so they implemented an exclusionary zoning ordinance that would keep the poorer, non-white families from being able to afford to live in the same neighborhoods, and therefore the same school districts, as the wealthy white families. 

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