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Montgomery, Alabama Elected A Black Mayor For The First Time In 200 Years

ryan.ford 9 Oct 2019

Montgomery, Alabama has been at the crossroads of American history almost right from its founding in 1819. The state's capital city was also the first capital in the Confederacy at the start of the Civil War.

It's also considered the birthplace of the civil rights movement, as the site of Rosa Parks's 1955 bus boycott, the home of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, and the scene of brutal police violence at the end of the Selma-to-Montgomery march that led to the Voting Rights Act.

Another piece of history took until 2019 to be achieved: the election of the city's first black mayor.

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But, in Tuesday's mayoral runoff election, Judge Steven Reed emerged victorious, beating TV station owner David Woods by more than 16,000 votes.

This isn't the first time Reed has made history in Montgomery, as he became the first black man elected as the county's probate judge in 2012, and became the first probate judge to issue same-sex marriage licenses in Alabama in 2015.

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In his victory speech, Reed credited a unified vision for his win.

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"This election has never been about me," he said. "This election has never been about just my ideas. It's been about all of the hopes and dreams that we have as individuals and collectively in the city."

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While many in the city thought Reed's victory was inevitable, it still took many residents by surprise.

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About 60% of Montgomery's 200,000 people are black or African-American, census data shows. And yet, the city had never seen a black mayor, and many weren't sure it would ever have one.

"All these years and only having a white mayor, I think it's definitely time that the city's leadership reflects the city's population, the communities here," Seth Levi told Alabama News Network.

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Some likened it to another momentous election victory.

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"Tonight is important, as a person of color, from a place with the history that Montgomery has, to see the city being represented by a person who shares values and understands the history of the city and who understands the struggle of this space is a huge deal ... makes me feel like I did when I watched President Obama take office," Tiffany Pickens told CNN.

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Now, with so much history behind it, the city is looking forward.

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"We're a city that wants to move forward and a city that wants a vision for the future, and a city that wants to see better opportunities across the board," Reed told The Associated Press.

In his concession speech, Woods urged unity. "As I continuously say, Montgomery is a special place populated by special people," he said.

"And that hasn't changed. And we're just going to go forward and we'll try to support Steven Reed as mayor. And I just want to encourage everyone just to try to continue to work together to bring Montgomery into a unified city. You know, a unified Montgomery is a lot stronger than a divided Montgomery."

h/t: USA Today, CNN, CBS News

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