Brighton in Jefferson County, Alabama — The American South (East South Central)
Lynching In America / The Lynching of William Miller
Thousands of black people were the victims of lynching and racial violence in the United States between 1877 and 1950. The lynching of African Americans during this era was a form of racial terrorism intended to intimidate black people and enforce racial hierarchy and segregation. Lynching was most prevalent in the South. After the Civil War, there was violent resistance to equal rights for African Americans and an ideology of white supremacy led to violent abuse of racial minorities and decades of political, social, and economic exploitation. Lynching became the most public and notorious form of terror and subordination. White mobs were usually permitted to engage in racial terror and brutal violence with impunity. Many black people were pulled out of jails or given over to mobs by law enforcement officials who were legally required to protect them. Terror lynchings often included burning and mutilation, sometimes in front of crowds numbering in the thousands. Many of the names of lynching victims were not recorded and will never be known, but over 300 documented lynchings took place in Alabama alone. Jefferson County had the highest number in Alabama (29) and the ninth highest total lynchings in the nation during the era of terror lynching.
On this spot in August 1908, a group of white men took William Miller from his Brighton, Alabama jail cell in the middle of the night and lynched him in the woods nearby. Mr. Miller a black leader advocating for better labor conditions in the coal mines when he was arrested on false charges of violence. Coal mining in Alabama began with the use of slave labor in the 1840s. The industry boomed in the late 1800s as Birmingham became "The Magic City," but after slavery was abolished, coal companies’ success depended on the labor of black workers forced into bondage through convict leasing, a notorious scheme where tens of thousands of black people were arrested for trivial “offenses” and then “leased” to private companies who worked them mercilessly. In Jefferson County, leased convicts and poorly paid black miners posed a threat to white laborers seeking higher pay. and there were efforts to organize labor unions. Despite the workers’ common interests, the sight of formerly enslaved people challenging labor practices represented a threat to the existing racial hierarchy that many whites would not tolerate. Mr. Miller's lynching was an act of racial terror intended to discourage challenges to the existing racial order in Alabama's industrial and agricultural economies.
Location. 33° 25.808′ N, 86° 57.074′ W. Marker is in Brighton, Alabama, in Jefferson County. Marker is at the intersection of Woodward Street and Huntsville Avenue on Woodward Street. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 3700 Huntsville Avenue, Bessemer AL 35020, United States of America.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within 6 miles of this marker, measured as the crow flies. Union Baptist Church And Cemetery (approx. 1.6 miles away); Bright Star / Koikos Restaurant (approx. 1.9 miles away); Sweet Home / Henry W. Sweet (approx. 2.1 miles away); Doughboy Monument (approx. 2.1 miles away); Hosea Holcombe (approx. 2.8 miles away); Belview Heights Neighborhood (approx. 5˝ miles away); Lover’s Leap (approx. 5.6 miles away); Shades Crest Road Historical District (approx. 5.6 miles away).
Related marker. Click here for another marker that is related to this marker. Marker about another lynching in Alabama.
Also see . . . Equal Justice Initiative article about dedication of this marker. (Submitted on January 31, 2017, by Mark Hilton of Montgomery, Alabama.)
Categories. • African Americans • Civil Rights • Industry & Commerce • Labor Unions •
Credits. This page was last revised on January 31, 2017. This page originally submitted on January 31, 2017, by Mark Hilton of Montgomery, Alabama. This page has been viewed 224 times since then and 12 times this year. Photos: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. submitted on January 31, 2017, by Mark Hilton of Montgomery, Alabama.