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Ceremony remembering Black women suffragists draws hundreds to Huntsville park

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. — A ceremony headlined with local and state leaders unveiled a long-awaited historical marker Sunday, honoring six history-making Huntsville women more than 100 years after becoming some of the first Black women in the South to vote.

The history books don’t always acknowledge Black women who also led the charge for women’s suffrage, but the City of Huntsville along with Gov. Kay Ivey ensured they won’t be forgotten at the event at William Councill High Memorial Park.

The names of Mary wood Binford, Ellen Scruggs Brandon, India Leslie Herndon, Lou Bertha Johnson, Dora Fackler Lowery, and Celia Horton Love speak to Huntsville’s place in America becoming a more inclusive democracy from the time they first cast ballots in 1920.

To their grandchildren who spoke at the historical marker’s unveiling, it brought a sense of awe.

“I have asked myself since this event was brought to my attention, ‘What did my grandmother think as she walked into that building to put her paper ballot in the box?'” Herndon Spillman said.

“I’m very proud to be (Dora Fackler Lowery’s) granddaughter and to see the courage that it took to go forward in the kind of environment that existed at that time,” Patsy Harris said.

It was environment known to discriminate in the Jim Crow era.

“Property ownership, arbitrary literacy tests, and poll taxes kept most Black women from the polls,” Historic Huntsville Foundation Executive Director Donna Castellano said.

The ceremony served as a lesson in history for more than 500 attendees to witness, many who are young voters themselves.

“Being here today just makes it more memorable for me as an African-American woman being in Huntsville not knowing about things like this, to really learn my history and get to know people and the historic downtown (of) Huntsville,” Miss Black Rocket City 2021 Nevaeh Eggleston said.

The historical marker will also empower, according to Ivey.

“I hope they get the message that voting is important,” the governor said. “And that now women can have the right to vote, we’ve had it for over 100 years and we can do most anything we want to do: go to space, be a member of the U.S. Supreme Court, and even run for governor.”

Castellano said Sunday’s ceremony was attended by the most of any historical marker’s unveiling in recent memory.