Bull Connor

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Democrat voter suppression in the Bull Connor era.

Theophilus Eugene “Bull” Connor was born in Selma, Alabama, on July 11th, 1897. Alabama was a hard-core Confederate state which was still coming to terms with the end of the American Civil War and the emancipation of the slaves. The Ku Klux Klan was strong in the state and the ‘Jim Crow’ laws were rigidly enforced. Lynching was a common way of keeping the African-American community ‘in their place’ and those responsible invariably simply got away with their crime. Connor is most associated with the civil rights demonstrations in Birmingham, Alabama where to many the very public role of Connor and what took place in Birmingham seemed to epitomise the racial problems that existed in the South.

Connor was first elected to the Alabama House of Representatives as a Democrat in 1934.[1] Connor remained a loyal Democrat throughout his career and life. In 1936 he was elected Commissioner of Public Safety of Birmingham, Alabama and served in that position for the better part of three decades. A white supremacist,[2] Connor enforced racial segregation laws passed by the Democratic party-controlled state legislature and denied civil rights to black citizens. He is notorious for directing the use of fire hoses and police attack dogs against civil rights activists in the early 1960s, including against children supporting the protests.[3] National media broadcast these tactics on television, horrifying much of the world. The outrages served as catalysts for passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.