Letter to the Editor: When celebrating what this area is today, please remember the unsung heroes
Editor’s note: I recently made the trip to Georgia Bearden’s home in Huntsville to pick up a letter to the editor she wrote for the paper. This sweet 90-year-old woman wanted to add her thoughts to the recent celebrations of Huntsville being named the number one place to live in the United States and Madison celebrating having the number one school district in the state.
With a deep love for her hometown, she had worked and volunteered countless hours with her husband, the late James Bearden, to do their part in helping make Huntsville what it is today. We cannot forget what her generation endured and fought for, and the victories they won for all of us today.
Mrs. Bearden calls herself a “well-seasoned, sweet, still kindhearted grandmother” and that does describe her very well. But she is also very thoughtful and insightful with a sharp mind and great memory. It is that memory that brings her back to a different time when Huntsville was a different place to live. Thankfully, a lot of people fought very hard to overcome the old way of life and forge a new future for the city — the one that is celebrated today.
Georgia Bearden’s letter to the editor reminds us that we have a lot to be thankful for, and while we celebrate this area’s prosperity let us also celebrate a generation that is too quickly leaving us and remember to say thank you. – John Few, editor
By GEORGIA BEARDEN
Recently Huntsville, Alabama was named the number one best place to live, which is such an honor. It makes us all so proud! Since the city was nominated by U.S. News & World Report on May 7, 2022, I have only heard two words used “inclusive” and “diversity”. I would like people to know how we became inclusive and how we became diverse.
I would like to explain what it meant to have a front-row seat to segregation, and be treated like the scum of the earth, but have proudly survived it.
If it had not been for my generation of freedom fighters and the role we played, this great honor we have today may not have been possible. What we did changed Huntsville.
So, to celebrate these lives that are well lived, and a job well done, it is my honor. I am not telling a story; I lived the story. It was with “boots on the ground” and “voices in the air.”
We started from the ground up and had to figure everything out on our own, and oh, what a smart race of people we were! Very shrewd, very brilliant, very good at strategy, very peaceful, very law abiding — and how we stood up to hate! We, for sure, own the finish line — we pulled off the impossible.
We made all this progress, and rejoiced in all the victories and milestones, without any of the communication tools we have today, such as the internet, smartphones, emails, and social media. There were no TikTok, Zoom, Facebook, Snapchat, or Instagram. Also, we had to speak different languages: ghetto language, common language, and upper-class language. So, we had to be able to navigate all three. We had to think outside the box at all times. We showed what real strength looks like!
Please allow me to explain why Huntsville would not have been nominated as the best place to live if it had not been for the role of the black race.
1. We wouldn’t be number one if blacks were still at the back of the bus.
2. We wouldn’t be number one if blacks were still drinking out of the “black water fountain”.
3. We wouldn’t be number one if blacks had to use the “Black restroom”.
4. We wouldn’t be number one if Huntsville still called me the “n” word, instead of Georgia Bearden.
5. We wouldn’t be number one if our schools were still segregated.
6. We wouldn’t be number one if we couldn’t sleep in the motels.
7. We wouldn’t be number one if the churches were still segregated.
8. We wouldn’t be number one if we couldn’t eat at restaurants.
9. We wouldn’t be number one if we couldn’t go to libraries, parks, and theaters.
10. We wouldn’t be number one if we had to still stand in line until all the whites were waited on in department stores.
11. We wouldn’t be number one if we still had segregated hospitals, where black doctors had no staff privileges and couldn’t eat in the cafeteria.
12. We wouldn’t be number one if we were still picketing — had to go to the New York Stock Exchange and stand out in front handing out flyers that said, “To invest in Huntsville, Alabama is to invest in segregation”. Also, the same in Nashville, Chicago, and Louisville.
These are the things that really got Huntsville’s attention.
I also want to thank our white brothers and sisters who have stood shoulder to shoulder with us, supporting us, being thoughtful of us, and being kind to us. They showed that they felt our pain and that they knew our Jericho Road was a tough road.
These are the major roles mentioned that played a part in making the Huntsville area number one, and rightfully so, namely sending man to the moon, NASA Space Launch Syetem, Home of the Redstone Arsenal, and being home to Alabama’s top tourist destination – the US Space and Rocket Center. But people will be happy to know the whole story, and how, and what sacrifices it took to overcome segregation.
We cannot forget what we endured and the strives of those unsung heroes who worked diligently to change Huntsville’s future to make us the best place to live in the U.S. This story may seem scarcely unbelievable if my husband and myself had not lived it ourselves.
We must honor all the courageous work done to make this wonderful city and area the best place to live.