Montgomery, Ala., a city known as the birthplace of the civil rights movement, just elected its first Black mayor, Judge Steven Reed.
Montgomery is a majority-black city but had been one of three cities with a population over 100,000 in the Deep South that had never elected a Black mayor, according to the Montgomery Advertiser.
Reed won by 67% against white television station owner David Woods. During the campaign, Reed was one of 10 Black candidates. In August, Woods and Reed received the most votes in the city’s election, but neither candidate achieved a 50% majority, so a runoff election occurred this month.
Reed’s campaign was built on helping the poorest communities in the city known for being Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s hometown, the site of protests and marches, the site of the iconic 1955–56 Montgomery Bus Boycott and the town in which Rosa Parks refused to give up her bus seat to a white man.
In his campaign, Reed promised solutions for issues like food deserts and poor water quality. He also said he aims to draw more young people and businesses to the city by improving its economic condition. Montgomery’s city budget is limited, and officials have recently dedicated many resources to reducing crime rates in the city.
The poverty rate in Montgomery is 22.1%, according to Data USA.
Montgomery struggles with its crime rates. According to NeighborhoodScout, one’s chance of becoming a victim of either violent or property crime in the city is one in 20. In an interview with the Montgomery Advertiser, Reed addressed the issue of crime by suggesting the city needs to work on staffing and maintaining more law enforcement officers.
Reed has received congratulations from advocacy groups like the Southern Poverty Law Center, as well as politicians like Kamala Harris, who tweeted, “The birthplace of the civil rights movement has a new era of leadership for the first time in its 200-year history. Montgomery is in good hands.”
Congratulations @stevenlouisreed on making history in Montgomery tonight. The birthplace of the civil rights movement has a new era of leadership for the first time in its 200-year history. Montgomery is in good hands.
— Kamala Harris (@KamalaHarris) October 9, 2019
"This is a historic day for our nation. The election of Steven Reed, the first black mayor of Montgomery, AL, symbolizes the new inclusive & forward thinking South that so many have worked to achieve." – SPLC Interim President & CEO Karen Baynes-Dunninghttps://t.co/zJIUBx7zfa
— Southern Poverty Law Center (@splcenter) October 9, 2019
Before being elected mayor, Reed also achieved a number of other “firsts.” He was the county’s first Black probate judge and the first Alabama judge to issue same-sex marriage licenses.
For a city which has seen a long and sometimes violent road to achieving civil rights, Reed’s victory is not only historic, but also monumental and even sentimental.
“Do not underestimate what this means to generations of people who fought hard for the man who looks like Reed to hold the city’s highest office,” Montgomery Advertiser executive editor Bro Krift wrote in an op-ed. “Do not depreciate what it means to parents of the youth of this city who look like Reed and who now have a man they can hold up as an example.”