Tag Archives: 1960s

President signs bill to review civil rights-era cold cases

Racially motivated, civil rights-era killings that are now cold cases will get fresh looks under legislation signed by President Barack Obama.

Obama signed the bill earlier this month. It indefinitely extends a 2007 law that calls for a full accounting of race-based deaths, many of which had been closed for decades. The law was set to expire next year.

The bill is named after Emmett Till, a 14-year-old black boy killed in 1955 after whistling at a white woman. His killers were acquitted of murder but later admitted their crimes to a reporter and couldn’t be retried.

Many other similar cases were poorly investigated and prosecutions were rare.

The law provides federal resources to local jurisdictions to look into the cases and extends the time span of cases to be considered to Dec. 31, 1979. It will also require the Justice Department and the FBI to consult with civil rights organizations, universities and others who had been gathering evidence on the deaths.

There has so far been one conviction as more than 100 cases from the 1960s and earlier have been reviewed. New racially suspicious deaths have been identified for investigation.

North Carolina GOP Sen. Richard Burr and Missouri Democrat Claire McCaskill sponsored the bill in the Senate.

In the House, the bill was negotiated by civil rights icon John Lewis, D-Ga.; John Conyers, D-Mich., the top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee; and Republican Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin.

Remembering Tom Hayden as activist who helped shape the 1960s

When news broke that Tom Hayden had died, many remembered him as the Vietnam War protester, former husband of Jane Fonda or the California legislator. But classmates and fellow activists at the University of Michigan still think of the impassioned and eloquent student who more than anyone shaped a signature document of the 1960s: the Port Huron Statement.

“He was intensely alive, hardworking, indefatigable and courageous,” said Todd Gitlin, who later wrote “The Sixties,” “Occupy Nation” and several other books about activism. “He exhibited this capacity to put a name on things and invoke the possibility of changing the world.”

Completed in 1962, the Port Huron Statement was the manifesto of the Students for a Democratic Society, one of the leading youth groups and representatives of the New Left for much of the decade. The statement’s language had an urgency and historical consciousness that recalled the Declaration of Independence and other foundational American texts, beginning with its opening statement: “We are people of this generation, bred in at least modest comfort, housed now in universities, looking uncomfortably to the world we inherit.”

A 25,000-word rejection of the so-called silent generation of the 1950s, the statement captured the hope and anxiety of the new decade, the awareness of material comfort and the distress over a society the students viewed as complacent, unjust and misguided. The Port Huron paper linked the civil rights movement to the nuclear arms race and other causes and advocated participatory democracy, whether through voter registration, peaceful protests or through candidates who would challenge political machines.

“When we talk about the ‘spirit of the ‘60s,’ you have to think of the Port Huron Statement. It was idealistic and aspirational, but also practical. And one of the extraordinary things about it was its elevation of political language,” Gitlin said.

Authorship of a group statement is often disputed, but friends of Hayden, who died Sunday at 76, agree that his was the essential voice and liken his role to that of Thomas Jefferson and the Declaration of Independence. Both documents were critiqued and altered by quarrelsome peers, but both needed an individual capable of synthesizing and making poetry out of collective ideals.

“He was the best writer among us and was able to articulate so well all the ideas and philosophies we had been debating,” said Sharon Jeffrey Lehrer, another University of Michigan student who worked on the Port Huron Statement.

“A lot of work was done on that statement after Tom first wrote it,” says former SDS member Robert J.S. Ross, a research professor of sociology at Clark University. “There were a lot of sentences pulled out, and others pulled in. Everybody had a hand in it. But Tom was channeling us all.”

The statement was widely circulated and championed, but it was tested as the decade’s traumas accumulated, from the assassinations of President John F. Kennedy and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., to the growing and seemingly endless U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War. By the mid-1970s, the SDS had broken apart, and many young people had despaired that peaceful change _ or any change _ was possible.

But Hayden’s friends say that he never gave up on civic engagement and that the document remains vital, even if few current students have read it.

“I was on a panel with Tom once that was well publicized and had about 70 there. And half of them were old,” Ross said with a laugh. “But I think the statement really speaks to democracy being an active, not a passive process. And in that regard I see it as a living document.”

Lehrer, who became a leadership coach and co-owner of an art gallery in Northern California, said Hayden was deeply committed to democracy.

“What stands out for me about Tom, fifty plus years ago, was his commitment to a lifetime of participatory democracy,” she said. “I remember him getting up and saying he wasn’t only going to be in activist for this period (as a student). I can still see him saying that, and I remember saying, ‘Right on.’ “

Jimmy Page revels in new Led Zeppelin re-masters

Jimmy Page started the project because he couldn’t believe how bad Led Zeppelin sounded.

The legacy of the band he’d devoted much of his life to was being muddied by the way its classic studio albums sounded when reproduced on the ubiquitous MP3 players that are popular today.

Instead of accepting that future generations would have to hear a cramped, compressed version of Led Zep’s sonic booms, Page has devoted several years to completely re-mastering the band’s extensive catalog in a labor of love — “Physical Graffiti,” which was released on this week.

“This whole re-mastering process is a result of listening to Led Zeppelin on MP3. It almost sounds as if someone has got into the master tapes and done a really horrendous mix of it,” Page said of the MP3 versions in a recent interview. “It just wasn’t representative of what we’d done in the first place. So many textures were missing. The whole beauty of Led Zeppelin, the air of it, these instruments coming in here and here and over here, was just totally destroyed.”

The re-mastering has taken several years, and the new editions include previously unreleased companion disks of outtakes, live performances and alternate versions of many songs. Page listened to hundreds of hours of tapes looking for gems. The 71-year-old guitar master, who wears his long silvery hair in a ponytail, is confident that the new versions will last and be easily adapted for the next round of technological innovation.

“At this point, we’re prepared for whatever may come, as far as high-resolution digital,” he said. “And we have the new versions on high quality vinyl, the CDs and digital. The object of the exercise has been achieved.”

Page is part of a select group of British guitarists — Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, Keith Richards and a few others — who emerged in the mid-1960s to put a new take on American rock ‘n’ roll. They were for the most part self-taught, Page said, and the technology they relied on was primitive indeed: They would buy singles of American songs designed to be played at 45 rpm and played them instead at 33 rpm, the speed designated for long playing records, not singles.

Page listened to Elvis Presley’s singles this way — to decode the guitar work — and Ricky Nelson, whose session guitarist was the revered James Burton.

“The way we all learned was from records,” he said. “You’d put on the 45, slow it down to 33, and try to work out these solos, note for note. That’s it. Everyone learned that way, as far as I can tell.

“I’d save up my pocket money and get every Ricky Nelson single, because you knew James Burton wasn’t go to let you down, ever,” Page added.

On the Web…

http://www.ledzeppelin.com/

Andre Benjamin finds a new rhythm in Hendrix biopic

Andre Benjamin was uniquely qualified to play Jimi Hendrix in the film “Jimi: All Is By My Side,” and not just because his colorfully cosmic style has long owed something to the ‘60s icon.

The film, written and directed by “12 Years a Slave” screenwriter John Ridley, is a portrait of Hendrix in 1966 — a then somewhat aimless 24-year-old playing backup guitar — finding himself as a frontman and being elevated by the blues-rock scene of Swinging London. As the often reticent half of hip-hop duo Outkast, Benjamin, too, knows something about the psychology of a performer discovering his onstage swagger.

“I had to grow into being an entertainer and Jimi had to grow into being an entertainer, too,” Benjamin said in a recent interview. “I can say from being an entertainer and a star, my very first shows were horrible. The shyness. You’re put on stage in front of all of these people, and you’re kind of in your head a lot. It takes the confidence of knowing, ‘Hey, people dig this.’”

“All Is By My Side,” which opens in theaters Friday, eschews the usual cradle-to-the-grave biopic trajectory, focusing instead on Hendrix’s discovery by Linda Keith (Imogen Poots), his formation of The Experience and his breakthrough in a town dominated by the Beatles and Eric Clapton. Made without the cooperation or approval of the Hendrix estate, the independently produced “All Is By My Side” doesn’t include any of Hendrix’s familiar hits.

“I don’t really see the point of just showing people what they already know. I never felt that that was going to impede our ability to tell the story,” says Ridley, who won an Oscar for “12 Years a Slave.” “We’ve all seen films before that have had access to artifacts or intellectual property, and they put their best foot forward, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that the story’s going to be there.”

The film is Benjamin’s first since the 2008 Will Ferrell comedy “Semi-Pro.” He turned down Ridley several times before agreeing to tackle the role, for which he studied with a vocal coach and strove to learn to play guitar left-handed. As a naturally right-handed player, he compares the task to walking backward.

For Benjamin, who dabbled in movies in the ‘00s most notably with the Prohibition musical “Idlewild,” it’s easily his most ambitious acting work. “All Is By My Side” is opening during a kind of crossroads for Benjamin, who has been touring with his Outkast partner, Big Boi, for the first time in years, celebrating the 20th anniversary of their debut album.

It’s been nearly a decade since Benjamin put out an album, solo or with Outkast. He’s limited himself largely to appearances on the records of others (Frank Ocean, Lil Wayne). Now 39, he’s said he’ll give up rap when he turns 40.

“I can’t say I was gearing up to make this huge acting jump, but if that’s the way my life goes, I’m wit it,” says Benjamin. “In music, I still write almost every day. I don’t know how I feel about it at this age. I always write. But I don’t know if I believe in it enough to want to present it. You have to believe in it to work.

“I really don’t know what’s going on,” he adds. “I’m kind of in a limbo place.”

Ridley flew to Atlanta to meet with Benjamin, who had been sought for other Hendrix films.

“Being around him for about five or 10 minutes you realize that he really is the right person to try to attempt something like this,” says Ridley, who’s currently prepping a series for ABC, “American Crime.” “He’s very intellectually curious. He’s very much a true artist. He’s very much a music historian.”

In order to capture Hendrix’s far-out, mellow voice, Ridley had Benjamin stay in character during production: “John basically ordered the set not to talk to me unless I was in Hendrix’s voice so I could always be in it,” says Benjamin. 

The film also shows Hendrix’s less savory side, including a scene in which he strikes girlfriend Kathy Etchingham with a phone _ an incident Etchingham has resolutely denied ever happened. Ridley stands by the depiction as accurate to other viewpoints. Either way, it’s the kind of scene that surely wouldn’t have made it into an authorized biopic. (Another, estate-endorsed project is in development, with Anthony Mackie to star as Hendrix.)

“The minute that you cede editorial control to any one person or any one entity, it goes from being an attempt at an honest story to propaganda,” says Ridley. “Anybody’s life story deserves a little better than that.”

Marked forever by the 1960s

The 50th anniversary of President John F. Kennedy’s assassination brings back many memories. It reminds me how growing up in the 1960s was as traumatic as it was exhilarating.

I was 5 years old in 1960, when JFK was elected. I still remember the ditty that we kids from proud Democratic and Catholic families sang at the time: “Kennedy, Kennedy, he’s our man! Nixon belongs in the garbage can!”

I was 15 when the dramatic decade ended in 1970. Richard Nixon was president. His invasion of Cambodia in April of that year expanded the Vietnam War and led to the shooting of student protesters by National Guardsmen at Kent State in Ohio.

Those years were a kaleidoscope of wild events. From the Cuban missile crisis to Beatlemania to civil rights protests, it was all brought up close and personal through TV and AM radio. 

I remember being scared out of my mind at age 7 in 1962 when I walked down the hall in my house to use the bathroom. I was sure that once I was in there alone that bad guy Castro, who my parents were talking about in alarmed whispers, was going to get me.

On Nov. 22, 1963, I was in my third-grade class at St. Mary’s when the principal came on the PA system to announce that President Kennedy had been killed. It was disturbing to see the teachers so distraught. We were marched to church to pray for the president. Then the buses came to take us home.

What followed were three days in front of the TV watching the national tragedy. I remember how sad everyone was. It seemed like everyone in my family and everything on TV moved in slow motion. The only thing that’s come close since were the days after 9/11, when we were all in a state of shock. 

It was about the time of Kennedy’s assassination that the Beatles invaded the United States, bringing us all a blessed distraction. I screamed along with everyone else, and all the kids on my block started garage bands. I recently listened to my Beatles records again and found, to my delight, that I haven’t forgotten a word.

By age 12, I had to think hard about the civil rights and anti-war protests. My working-class dad used racial slurs. My mom wasn’t a lot better, but she sometimes said, “Elmer!” in a chiding tone to curb his tongue. I knew it was wrong and I remember thinking how dumb it was to hate people you didn’t know and to call them names. I was a fat girl and I knew how hurtful name-calling was. It may seem like a shallow analogy, but it was the beginning of empathy.

Civil rights marches and our napalm attacks in Vietnam spurred my critical thinking. The parish priest grew impatient with my questions and demanded  that I “believe and obey!” Then Martin Luther King Jr. was killed in Memphis and Bobby Kennedy was murdered on his way to the presidency. WBBM had just started 24/7 news radio, and I listened on my transistor for days.

What doesn’t crush you makes you stronger. What I gleaned from the 1960s was a profound cynicism tempered by the necessity for questioning authority. I always question authority and urge others to do the same. This one’s for President Kennedy and all the children of the ’60s who grew up too fast.

Lloyd Webber’s new show mines ’60s sex and scandal

He’s done the Bible, felines, operatic phantoms and Argentine politics. So what is Andrew Lloyd Webber’s latest musical about?

Sex – as well as politics, spying, social revolution and the Cold War.

“Stephen Ward” centers on a sensational real-life scandal, the 1963 revelation that Britain’s war secretary, John Profumo, was involved with model Christine Keeler, who was also sleeping with a Soviet naval attache.

The “Profumo affair” rattled Britain’s establishment and fascinated that nation.

But Lloyd Webber says the show, which opens in London in December, is about more than the scandal – it’s a portrait of a “febrile time” of tumultuous social change.

At a preview of songs from the musical this week, the “Phantom of the Opera” composer said, “It’s just extraordinary, really, the ramifications of what went on.”

Kerouac fans want to restore writer’s Florida home

Some Jack Kerouac fans are trying to raise money to restore the Tampa Bay-area home where the writer once lived.

The “On the Road” author lived in the St. Petersburg home in the 1960s with his mother and his third wife. He died of gastric hemorrhaging at a St. Petersburg hospital in 1969.

“I’m glad to see you, because I’m very lonesome here,” Kerouac told a St. Petersburg Times reporter who visited him shortly before his death.

The house is still owned by Kerouac’s brother-in-law. It’s been mostly uninhabited since the 1970s, but it still contains some of Kerouac’s things. A 1969 telephone directory for Lowell, Mass., is shelved on Kerouac’s desk in the bedroom, and an official mayoral proclamation for “Jack Kerouac Day” in Lowell hangs on one wall, near a Buddha statue and a crucifix.

Pat Barmore tells the Tampa Bay Times that Kerouac’s legacy is strong enough to merit and fund repairs to the home. Kerouac’s brother-in-law, John Sampas, who lives in Massachusetts, asked Barmore to take care of the property.

Barmore is working with other fans to start a nonprofit called Friends of Jack Kerouac. They host Kerouac-themed concerts at the Flamingo, a St. Petersburg bar where Kerouac drank and played pool.

Among the problems that need attention: a window replacement, broken furniture and some resident rats. Barmore and the other fans hope to clean up the house to make it look like it did when Kerouac lived there, and then perhaps open it for the public or for other writers.

The mailbox still contains fan mail for Kerouac.

“Dearest Jack,” reads one note. “Thank you for everything. Your work is why I write, and write to live.”

“Hey Jack, We came by to say hello,” says another. “Sorry we missed you.”

Civil rights leader Guyot dies

Lawrence Guyot, a civil rights leader who survived jailhouse beatings in the Deep South in the 1960s and went on to encourage generations to get involved, has died. He was 73.

Guyot had a history of heart problems and suffered from diabetes, and died at home in Mount Rainier, Md., his daughter Julie Guyot-Diangone said. She said he died sometime Nov. 22; other media reported he died Nov. 23.

A Mississippi native, Guyot (pronounced GHEE-ott) worked for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and served as director of the 1964 Freedom Summer Project, which brought thousands of young people to the state to register blacks to vote despite a history of violence and intimidation by authorities. He also chaired the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, which sought to have blacks included among the state’s delegates to the 1964 Democratic National Convention. The bid was rejected, but another civil rights activist, Fannie Lou Hamer, addressed the convention during a nationally televised appearance.

Guyot was severely beaten several times, including at the notorious Mississippi State Penitentiary known as Parchman Farm. He continued to speak on voting rights until his death, including encouraging people to cast ballots for President Barack Obama.

“He was a civil rights field worker right up to the end,” Guyot-Diangone said.

Guyot participated in the 40th anniversary of the Freedom Summer Project to make sure a new generation could learn about the civil rights movement.

“There is nothing like having risked your life with people over something immensely important to you,” he told The Clarion-Ledger in 2004. “As Churchill said, there’s nothing more exhilarating than to have been shot at – and missed.”

His daughter said she recently saw him on a bus encouraging people to register to vote and asking about their political views. She said he was an early backer of gay marriage, noting that when he married a white woman, interracial marriage was illegal in some states. He met his wife Monica while they both worked for racial equality.

“He followed justice,” his daughter said. “He followed what was consistent with his values, not what was fashionable. He just pushed people along with him.”

Susan Glisson, executive director of the William Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation at the University of Mississippi, called Guyot “a towering figure, a real warrior for freedom and justice.”

“He loved to mentor young people. That’s how I met him,” she said.

When she attended Ole Miss, students reached out to civil rights activists and Guyot responded.

“He was very opinionated,” she said. “But always – he always backed up his opinions with detailed facts. He always pushed you to think more deeply and to be more strategic. It could be long days of debate about the way forward. But once the path was set, there was nobody more committed to the path.”

Glisson said Guyot’s efforts helped lay the groundwork for the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

“Mississippi has more black elected officials than any other state in the country, and that’s a direct tribute to his work,” she said.

Guyot was born in Pass Christian, Miss., on July 17, 1939. He became active in civil rights while attending Tougaloo College in Mississippi, and graduated in 1963. Guyot received a law degree in 1971 from Rutgers University, and then moved to Washington, where he worked to elect fellow Mississippian and civil rights activist Marion Barry as mayor in 1978.

“When he came to Washington, he continued his revolutionary zeal,” Barry told The Washington Post. “He was always busy working for the people.”

Guyot worked for the District of Columbia government in various capacities and as a neighborhood advisory commissioner.

D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton told The Post in 2007 that she first met Guyot within days of his beating at a jail in Winona, Miss. “Because of Larry Guyot, I understood what it meant to live with terror and to walk straight into it,” she told the newspaper. She called Guyot “an unsung hero” of the civil rights movement.

“Very few Mississippians were willing to risk their lives at that time,” she said. “But Guyot did.”

In recent months, his daughter said he was concerned about what he said were Republican efforts to limit access to the polls. As his health was failing, he voted early because he wanted to make sure his vote was counted, he told the AFRO newspaper.

University of Michigan celebrates Port Huron Statement, New Left

The University of Michigan is hosting a conference to examine the effect of the drafting 50 years ago of The Port Huron Statement, a founding document of the New Left movement that fueled civil rights and anti-Vietnam War activism on the nation’s college campuses in the 1960s.

The conference began Wednesday and runs through today. It features Tom Hayden, Al Haber and other founders of Students for a Democratic Society.

Hayden was an ex-editor of The Michigan Daily when he and others drafted the 75-page manifesto outlining goals for the New Left and calling for “participatory democracy” in America.

The university says the conference focuses on the New Left’s early period, with discussions of the civil rights, women’s liberation and anti-war movements.

The statement began, “We are people of this generation, bred in at least modest comfort, housed now in universities, looking uncomfortably to the world we inherit.”

On the Web…

The statement: 

http://books.google.com/books/about/The_Port_Huron_Statement.html?id=Qy57wrJoSngC

The conference: http://www.lsa.umich.edu/phs/program

Alabama voting on whether to remove segregation from constitution

Segregation is still mandated by the Alabama Constitution, and voters on Nov. 6 will get only their second chance in years to eliminate an anachronism that still exists on paper.

Election Day in this Deep South state could be the day Alabama amends history.

Amendment 4 – the proposal to delete the constitution’s archaic language affirming segregation – is tucked amid routine issues of sewers, bonds and city boundaries on a crowded Election Day ballot. It’s a striking call to see if Alabama will repeat what it did in 2004, when the state narrowly voted to keep the outdated and racially controversial language, bringing national ridicule upon the state.

The second time won’t be any easier than the first because Alabama’s two largest black political groups are urging a “no” vote. They say the proposed changes would wipe out some racially charged language, but would retain segregation-era language saying there is no constitutional right to a public education in Alabama. And they’ve been joined by the state’s main teachers’ group in refusing to go along.

Supporters say it’s time to shed the last reminders of an era of discrimination and project a more welcoming image of a modern state eager to draw companies and jobs to Alabama.

Alabamians haven’t been reluctant to amend the 111-year-old constitution in the past. In fact, they’ve approved more than 800 amendments in their history, making theirs the nation’s longest state constitution. It is now four times longer than the average constitution and, come Nov. 6, could get 30 more amendments added to its heft.

But making changes involving segregationist language often is vexingly difficult. The U.S. Supreme Court declared anti-miscegenation laws unconstitutional in 1967, for instance. But it wasn’t until 2000 that Alabama voters removed the state constitution’s ban on interracial marriage. Even then, 40 percent voted to keep the ban.

This time, black groups are leading the opposition to change. The Alabama Democratic Conference and the Alabama New South Alliance say the change, backed largely by white Republicans with a pro-business approach, looks like a “feel good” change but is not.

Amendment 4 would excise outdated language about poll taxes and separate schools that many consider racist. But the critics say the language being proposed as a substitute undermines funding for public education by reaffirming that there is no right to a public education at taxpayers’ expense in Alabama.

“It is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. It seems so good but is so bad,” said black Democratic Sen. Hank Sanders of Selma, a New South founder.

Alabama’s constitution once provided for “a liberal system of public schools throughout the state for the benefit of the children.” But attitudes changed after the U.S. Supreme Court banned school segregation in 1954. Angry Alabama citizens voted in 1956 to amend the constitution to say there is no right to a public education at taxpayers’ expense and that “students shall attend schools provided for their own race.” Both changes were meant to thwart integration.

The school segregation language was voided by federal court rulings. A few years later, voting rights legislation negated another provision in Alabama’s constitution requiring the payment of poll taxes, which were designed to keep poor blacks from voting.

Supporters of Amendment 4 say retaining the two outdated provisions from an era when African-Americans attended separate schools from whites sends a harmful message. They argue that it could drive off businesses from a state struggling to lower an 8.3 percent unemployment rate that remains above the national average.

Alabama has had success in recent years luring major industries, including an Airbus assembly plant for Mobile, and securing expansions at its auto assembly plants. But the governor, who has vowed not to take a salary until unemployment drops to 5.2 percent, is still a long way from drawing a paycheck.

Amendment 4’s sponsor, Republican state Sen. Arthur Orr of Decatur, said he knows other states have used the racist language against Alabama when competing for industries.

“It’s important symbolically to send a message to our sister states and to the world that Alabama is a different place than it was 50 years ago,” he said.

Orr’s proposal has drawn support from Republican Gov. Robert Bentley, Alabama’s chief recruiter for new industry.

No black members of the Legislature voted for Orr’s proposal last year when lawmakers decided to put it on the Nov. 6 ballot.

Sanders and Joe Reed, chairman of the Alabama Democratic Conference, said no one pays attention to the school segregation and poll tax language because it has been effectively dead for a half-century. They said removing it is not worth the cost of restating that there is no right to a public education.

As Election Day neared, opponents of Amendment 4 were joined by the Alabama Education Association, the influential state teachers’ organization. AEA has seen funding for public education drop by more than $1 billion in the past five years, teaching positions cut, class sizes increased, and some school revenue shifted to non-education functions of government. The teachers’ group worries that if voters reiterate there is no right to a public education, a cash-strapped Legislature will move even more money away from public schools to other functions.

“It has all kinds of implications in the future for the diversion of education funds and for the funding of education generally. That’s why we are opposed to it,” AEA attorney Bobby Segall said.

But supporters say those fears are unwarranted. They insist the proposed amendment wouldn’t affect public education in Alabama.

Many of the current opponents, including AEA, were proponents of change in 2004 when Alabama voters narrowly voted down a similar constitutional amendment that failed by 1,766 votes out of nearly 1.4 million cast. That measure would have struck the 1956 language about not having a right to a public education. Opponents defeated it by creating fears it would lead to tax increases.

Orr said he sought to word Amendment 4 seeking to strip out the offensive language on segregation without entangling himself in the tax issue.

“In 2004, Alabama took a black eye because the amendment was voted down. … What they heard outside the state is Alabama votes to reaffirm its commitment to segregationist language and poll taxes. They didn’t understand the argument over the full potential for increased property taxes,” he said.

Retired University of Alabama law professor Martha Morgan, an expert on Alabama’s constitution, says voting “no” on Nov. 6 is likely to give the state another black eye. But she said it’s better to get a black eye than “to inflict a mortal wound to public education by taking away the right to public education.”

No matter the outcome Nov. 6, the half-century-old issue could divide Alabama again next year.

Othni Lathram, director of the Alabama Law Institute, said a state commission working on updating Alabama’s constitution is already scheduled to take up the document’s education provisions in 2013.