Jalen Drummond, a senior from Wedowee, Alabama, finished first nationally in informative speaking at the 41st American Forensics Association National Individual Events Tournament Championships in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
The individual champion, Drummond, prepped and presented his topic on the DOJ response to the shooting of Michael Brown in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson and the rise of propaganda and false news in the internet age — you may have heard of a few of these things. The topic of Drummond’s presentation was notable not just for the national prescience, but in that he hails from Wedowee (AL.)
— Side Bar: History ahead —
First, it’s laudable that a local kid from a poor county school system made good at a university which now boasts a majority of its students from out-of-state. In-state students are becoming harder and harder to find.
Second, Randolph County, and Wedowee in particular, was the home of one of the darker recent periods in Alabama race relations. It began with a school principal, Hulond Humphries, threatening to cancel prom over the fear of interracial couples. From there it became a national civil rights cause celebre, with walkouts, strikes and the NAACP, SCLC and ACLU hosting “Freedom school” events. Counterprotestors from the KKK and other white nationalist organizations descended on the small town. As with the counterpart movements in the 60’s, physical attacks and ugly racial epithets were directed at protestors. The matter came to a head when the son of a local preacher and black activist attempted to burn the school down (68% white majority) and was later charged by the FBI with arson. The school reached a deal with the US Department of Justice whereby Humphries would be removed as principal and be banned from school properties.
But, if you think arson was a wake-up call and that cooler heads would eventually prevail when the school was rebuilt, then you must new to Alabama. Just three years later in 1997, Humphries was again on top — this time as the elected superintendent of the Randolph County schools. Fresh wounds were reopened, bad feelings remained, and the county was nearly bankrupted by legal fees and reconstruction costs for the school. This isn’t ancient news either: the RCHS stadium was named after Humphries in 2016.
To the best of our knowledge, Humphries is retired from the state but still hog farming in Northeast Alabama.
It was against this backdrop that Drummond was raised, and from the crucible of Wedowee that Drummond emerged. So, yeah, Ferguson makes a lot of sense.
— End of side bar: just thought there were some interesting parallels —
Alabama entered 24 students, who competed in 66 total events, at nationals. The Crimson Tide reached the quarterfinals or better 13 times, and, as a team, Alabama finished fifth nationally. Let’s go out on a limb and say most of these folks will be toiling over hornbooks in law school the next few years.
But for now, clear some finger space — there’s another ring to add.
Congratulations to all. Roll Tide