Bringing back historic name

Published 12:57 am Saturday, April 7, 2012

Former Selma Fire Chief Henry Allen, and other R.B. Hudson High School alumni, are working to bring back the school’s name. The former high school is now CHAT Academy. -- Desiree Taylor

For many, the 1960s in Selma was a time of great unrest and inequality, pushing many to find solace in their churches and schools. For former Selma Fire Chief Henry Allen and his high school classmates, participating in the civil rights movement was their reasonable service.

Allen said thousands of students, who attended Richard Byron Hudson High School (now Selma CHAT Academy) from 1963-1965, participated in the demonstrations for the right to vote and were arrested and taken to city and county jails in Dallas, Camden and Marengo counties.

Erected in 1949, the school was named in honor of Hudson, who was a post-Reconstruction educator and minister. For many, Allen said, the school was a training ground.

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“We were trained by Bernard Lafayette and John Lewis — they were our teachers and members of SNCC (Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee),” Allen said. “We weren’t radical, we were trained. We had character, respect and, we were obedient. Our main objective was nonviolence.”

Around 1971, Hudson High was changed to Westside Middle School and later to Selma CHAT Academy. Allen is pushing for the school’s current name to be changed back to include Hudson’s name.

“We’re the people that initiated the civil rights movement,” Allen said of his classmates and those who graduated from the school in 1964 and 1965. “It’s a historic site (and) has made a great impact on this city … the name should’ve never been changed; we want the name to change to R.B. Hudson Middle School.”

Allen believes the name change would inspire today’s generation.

“I volunteer with the Selma Interpretive Center and park service and there are a lot of historic sites in Selma that are not tied to the (Selma-to-Montgomery) historic trail. We want this school to be a part of the trail. It’s a motivator for the kids that are here (at CHAT) — they don’t know their history.”

Allen, who has attended Selma City School Board meetings in times past to discuss the name change, plans for the board to address the issue during its scheduled meeting on Thursday. From there, Allen hopes the public can address their thoughts during a series of future meetings to be held at the school.

Board members Brenda R. Obomanu and Udo Ufamado feel the name change would be beneficial.

“As a little girl in the early 1970s, I used to go over there at night to get my hair done by the ladies who were going to school for cosmetology,” Obomanu said. “It does have a lot of history.”

The school currently sits in Ufamado’s district, district 4. Ufamado believes the school’s history should be showcased.

“Children missed school to march in the civil rights (movement),” Ufamado said. “I don’t have any problem against it (the name change). Overall, I don’t see any loss if the name changes — I believe it will be gainful for us (the city).”

If voted on by the board, the name must still be approved by the attorney general’s office.

With the name change, Allen hopes children can finally embrace a part of their history.

“None of the schools in Montgomery — (George Washington) Carver, (Robert E) Lee and Jeff Davis, not a single one have changed their name,” Allen said. “When you change the name to R.B. Hudson, the children will have something to identify with. It will have a great impact.”