Steven Reed made history Tuesday when he was sworn in as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. spoke on the steps of the State Capitol in 1965 following the march from Selma., the city that was the first capital of the Confederacy during the Civil War. It’s also the city where
Now Reed, 45, envisions a Montgomery that is unified, which has not always been the case in a city known as the “Cradle of the Confederacy,” CBS News correspondent Jericka Duncan reports.
“Because our hearts and our actions, I stand here in a position that many of those who were sold on the banks of the Alabama River, just a few feet from here, could only have imagined. This is the culmination of those distant dreams,” Reed said at his swearing-in. “We must be a city for everyone. We must not just talk about equality. We must act in the interest of equity.”
Sheyann Webb-Christburg, 63, attended the packed inauguration ceremony at a performing arts center Tuesday. She was just 8 years old when she marched alongside King from Selma to Montgomery in 1965 to support voting rights for African Americans. She was there on Bloody Sunday when state and local lawmen beat and injured more than 50 peaceful marchers.
“I have had the opportunity since being that little girl to see the first African-American mayor in Selma, the first African-American president, and today, the first African-American mayor,” Webb-Christburg said. “Steven Reed is a man that has really set the tone in the ‘Cradle of the Confederacy’ here in Montgomery.”
Reed’s story began in Montgomery, where he was born and raised. His father, Joe L. Reed, was a longtime chairman of the Alabama Democratic Conference.
“Did you know you always wanted to be mayor of this city?” Duncan asked.
“No. No way,” Reed said. “Definitely did not know that I wanted to be mayor and didn’t plan on it.”
“So what happened? What changed?” Duncan asked.
“I think for me, I grew frustrated with the lack of initiative in some of our political leaders and the lack of political courage,” Reed said.
Some of the most courageous actions taken, which catapulted the civil rights movement into the national spotlight, happened in Montgomery. The day before being sworn in, Reed took CBS News on a tour through the city’s history.
“As we’re walking closer and closer to this plaque memorializing Rosa Parks, this is significant. This is arguably where it all started,” Duncan said.
“Yes,” Reed said. “Protesting and change has always, I think, been in the DNA of people here.”
The steps of the capitol were where King spoke of a time when injustice would no longer prevail. “How long? Not long, because the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice,” he said in 1965.
“It’s a great sense of honor to be able to lead a city with such significance, with such a history, like Montgomery,” he said.
For a nation still at times embroiled in conflicts over Confederate monuments and race, it appears Montgomery is making strides.
“What do you think Dr. King is saying right now, as you’re standing in the same place that he stood many years ago?” Duncan asked.
“I hope he’s proud. … It took too long,” Reed said. “If you rewind the history of this country, it is complex, it is complicated, but it’s one that is ongoing. So, I’m just a person that’s kind of carrying the baton right now and hopefully I’ll be passing it on to a new generation with a little bit more progress being made than we are where we stand today.”
Reed said key issues he plans to focus on first are the public education and criminal justice systems in Montgomery.