In a shocking case of racial discrimination and power dynamics, Patrick Braxton, a Black man who won the mayoral election in the rural town of Newbern, Alabama, has been barred from assuming office by white leaders. Here’s the full story.
The Racial Conspiracy
Braxton, along with other plaintiffs, has filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the town’s acting mayor, Haywood Stokes, and the council members, alleging a conspiracy to deny him the position and suppress the legislative power of the town’s Black community.
Black Majority Town
Newbern, a town where approximately 85% of the population is Black, has a long history of white mayors and an absence of democratic elections.
The White Domination
However, white residents who exercised total control over the government dominated the mayoral office and the town council.
Mayors Were Hand-Picked
The mayoral position was “inherited” by hand-picked successors, who then appointed council members without holding any elections.
Black Community Needs Were Not Met
Patrick Braxton’s decision to run for mayor in 2020 was driven by his concerns over the town council’s lack of responsiveness to the needs of the majority Black community, especially during the challenging times of the pandemic.
False Information Was Provided
However, his path to the office was fraught with obstacles. Stokes allegedly provided Braxton with incorrect information on how to qualify for the election, and public notice about the election was not provided to residents.
The First Black Mayor of the Town
Despite these hindrances, Braxton submitted his candidacy and qualified as the sole candidate for mayor, effectively making him the first Black mayor of Newbern since the town’s founding 165 years ago.
The Racial Divide
Following the mayoral election, when Braxton attempted to assemble a town council comprising both Black and white residents, no white individuals agreed to join, further revealing the entrenched racial divide.
The Secret Election
Soon after Braxton’s election, Stokes and his council members secretly organized a special election, conveniently keeping it hidden from public knowledge.
They Rigged the Election
As a result, only Stokes and his council members qualified for the positions, leading them to reappoint themselves unlawfully.
An Unfortunate Situation
Braxton, who was in the process of forming his own town council, found himself effectively barred from assuming office and exercising his duties as the duly elected mayor.
The lawsuit argues that the actions taken by Stokes and his council were racially motivated, with the sole purpose of preventing the town’s first Black mayor and majority Black town council from exercising their rightful positions and legislative powers.
Evidence of Discrimination and Suppression
The defendants deny many of the allegations, but Braxton’s legal team highlights the evidence of discrimination and suppression of representation.
The battle for justice didn’t end with Braxton’s election defeat. Stokes and his council members allegedly went to great lengths to restrict Braxton’s access to essential resources and information.
Town Hall locks were changed multiple times, preventing Braxton from entering and accessing official documents. And Town financial information, crucial for governance, was also kept out of Braxton’s reach.
In another sinister act, important town documents were moved to undisclosed locations, further obstructing Braxton’s ability to function as mayor.
He Was Kept From Performing His Duties
The city clerk, who was related to Stokes, was allegedly instructed not to cooperate with Braxton or provide him with necessary town documents, adding to the conspiracy to keep him from fulfilling his mayoral duties.
They Denied All Allegations
In response to the lawsuit, the defendants have denied many of the allegations and claimed that their actions were conducted under the “color of law.”
“This Is So Wrong”
Several social media users expressed their thoughts on the incident. One Twitter user wrote, “I hope he wins his lawsuit. This is so wrong and sadly could have happened in hundreds of small towns, particularly in the Deep South.”
“This Story Brings Out Many Emotions for Me”
Another user wrote, “This story brings out many emotions for me, from sadness to anger, but I can’t even begin to understand what the mayor and his Black constituents feel.”
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Featured Image Credit: Shutterstock / Roman Samborskyi. The people shown in the images are for illustrative purposes only, not the actual people featured in the story.