For hundreds of years we, Americans, have lived under the passionate words penned by Thomas Jefferson in the 1770’s, “all men are created equal”, but we have not always lived them out. In fact, almost two hundred years after the third President penned those words of equality, white southerners were still disenfranchising African Americans in the south. This marker honors a group of African Americans who gathered at Butler Chapel AME Zion Church in the 1950’s to stand up to injustice. The injustice was disallowing African Americans to vote through gerrymandering and other political back channeling, all of which were later found to be violations of the 15th Amendment.
After being disenfranchised by the white majority of
Alabama, African Americans were fed up with their treatment and decided to seek
change. However, their change was much different than the way change and revolution
had been sought in the past. Instead of attacking their adversaries with guns
in their hands and hatred in their hearts, like so many of us are accustomed
to, the African Americans who wanted change met peacefully at Butler Chapel
African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Zion Church on June 25, 1957. This meeting
spurred a series of meetings that eventually gave way to grass roots political
activism that became known as the Crusade for Citizenship.
Reverend Kenneth L. Bufurd, pastor of Butler Chapel AME Zion
Church, was the unofficial leader of the movement. He and other clergy urged
their congregations and fellow African Americans to boycott white businesses
and protest the political leaders who had kicked them to the curb. Upon hearing
of the movement, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., sent a letter of encouragement to
the leaders and participants of the protests, as well as a donation to the
Crusade for Citizenship. The movement was undeniably picking up steam and was
heading towards re-adoption of the once discarded African Americans.
Although the NAACP was not directly involved with this
movement, the movement nonetheless made its most ground in true Thurgood
Marshall fashion by taking what they thought was unjust laws to court.
Eventually, the protestors prevailed and the gerrymandering disenfranchisement
of African Americans was put to rest. As the marker states, by the mid 1960’s
Macon County Georgia was made up of a predominantly black electorate, which had
elected black officials. Included on this list black elected officials was the
leader of the Crusade for Citizenship, Reverend Kenneth L. Bufurd. The crusade
was a success.
The Butler Chapel AME Zion Church was added to the Alabama
Register of Landmarks and Heritage in 1985. The Butler Chapel was then added to
the National Register of Historic Places in 1995. The Alabama Historical
Commission erected this marker in 2009 to honor those who participated in the