Singing in a Strange Land: A Phenomenological Examination of Government-Sponsored Forced Displacement of African Americans in Madison County, Alabama -- Victoria L. Joiner Miller
Victoria L. Joiner Miller has been General Manager of Oakwood University radio station 90.1 FM WJOU for over 22 years. She is an instructor in the department of Communication and Fine Arts at Oakwood University, Alabama A & M University, and Calhoun Community College and has also served as Assistant Vice President for Advancement and Development at Oakwood University in Huntsville, Alabama.
Victoria is the founder of Genesis Week Ministries and is a noted advocate for survivors of sexual abuse. Her seminar entitled: Finding Your Voice: How to Live After the Damage is Done, has been widely received and featured at numerous women’s and youth groups around the country. She is a feature writer for numerous magazines and her poster presentation entitled: Resistance is Futile: Subversive Urban Planning in the Tennessee Valley was featured at the 2010 Fielding Graduate University National Session in Tucson, Arizona.
Victoria has also served on the executive committee of the Adventist Radio Broadcasters Association and has been a member of the National Association of Female Executives, the Society of Adventist Communicators, and the North Alabama Association of Black Journalists. She is a graduate of Oakwood University, holds a masters degree in Rhetorical Communication from Regent University, and now holds a doctor of education in Educational Leadership and Change from Fielding Graduate University. She is also the proud mother of two children, Jennifer, 19, and David, 11
This inquiry explores the question: What is the impact of cyclical government-sponsored dismantling of African American communities in Huntsville and Madison County, Alabama? Three groups of “purposely selected” (Creswell, 2009) African American citizens of Madison County, Alabama illuminated their own lived experiences through phenomenological interviews. I focused on distinct themes, the generation of meaning, and “the analysis of significant statements” in keeping with phenomenological methods devised by Moustakas (1994).Three overarching themes emerged as a framework for the phenomenological methodology – Community, Land Loss and Urban Renewal, and Civil Rights.
Seven of the nine subjects described their own personal accounts of losses. Although two of Civil Rights leaders did not experience direct losses, they provided insight into the historic political processes and current issues facing the black community. The oldest members of the study in each group still held very strong negative emotions regarding the loss of lands and businesses. Despite the most demoralizing of circumstances in the African American communities of the Tennessee Valley, there is a strength and resolve that has sustained the people. All of the respondents have positive feelings about their hometown and see some, if not, most of the changes made through urban renewal as positive.
This project also revealed the political connection of Huntsville’s urban renewal projects to the national thrust of Urban Renewal and Fair Housing of the 1940s – 1970s through the work of Alabama Senator John J. Sparkman. A historical-critical examination of public and private documents reveal Sparkman’s role in procuring Redstone Arsenal and Marshall Space Flight Center, as well as, his role the organized battle for state’s rights, and the maintenance of Southern “culture and traditions"(The Sparkman Papers, 1944;1964).
This study offers evidence supporting concepts of Critical Race Theory (CRT) as espoused by Bell (1987), Ladson-Billings and Tate (1995) Ladson-Billings (1998), Harris, (1993), Delgado (1995), and Guinier (2003) and provides evidence of the long-term implications of the cyclical nature of oppressive practices in American culture. Continued study on the history of federal housing policies, historic and current African American land loss, and the displacement of African Americans is called for.
Key Words: Phenomenology; Urban Renewal; Critical Race Theory; Black Land Loss; African American displacement; Civil Rights Movement; Brown v. Board of Education; Military Industrial Complex; Redstone Arsenal; Tennessee Valley Authority; Housing and Urban Development History; Housing Act of 1941; Housing Act of 1961; Senator John J. Sparkman; Madison County, Alabama; Huntsville, Alabama; Tennessee Valley; white resistance movement; Model Cities Program