Selma Bridge Crossing Jubilee
Founders Hank & Rose Sanders
Hank and Rose were best friends at Harvard Law School in the turbulent 60’s. They dreamed together, worked together and struggled together against racism and other injustices.
In 1968, they were both arrested in Aretha Franklin’s father church in Detroit, Michigan. They, along with everyone in the church, were terrorized, arrested and charged with attempted murder. They were released the next day and cleared of all charges thanks to Judge George Crockett, Jr., a courageous African American judge. The event strengthened their bond and their commitment to fight injustice.
Three years later Hank and Rose returned to Alabama after spending a year in Africa. Somewhat disillusioned by the impact of the organization of African people, they returned to the South where they worked as legal services attorneys in Huntsville, Alabama.
After a few months, Hank heeded the call to go to Historical Selma, Alabama to start a law practice. A half year later Rose reluctantly joined him. A few months thereafter the legendary J.L. Chestnut, Jr. joined them forming Chestnut, Sanders & Sanders. At one point the law firm of Chestnut, Sanders, and Sanders was the largest African American law firm in the State of Alabama.
In the early 70’s, Rose became the first African American female judge in Alabama. Hank was the first African American State Senator from the Alabama Black Belt since Reconstruction. The trio of Hank Rose and J.L. took tough legal cases and built productive community institutions. Hank and Rose founded the Alabama Black Lawyers Associations, the Black Belt Art & Cultural Center, McRae Learning Center, The National Voting Rights Museum, The Slavery & Civil War Museum, 21st Century Youth Leadership Movement, The Bridge Crossing Jubilee and a host of other institutions. The couple also used original plays and music to involve, inform and inspire young people to excel.
In 1983, Hank commenced serving in the Alabama Senate with Rose actively involved in every campaign. Hank Sanders has served the people of Alabama in the State Senate for over 27 years. When Hank announced that he was resigning from Senate in 2010, Rose was by his side and deeply involved in the decision.
The couple has been married for 41 years. They have three biological children, four foster children and nearly thirty other children who have shared their home, love and hearts. Alabama New South, founded by the couple with other notable citizens, has significantly impacted politics in Alabama.
The Bridge Crossing Jubilee, which commemorates Bloody Sunday and the Selma to Montgomery March and the death of Jimmy Lee Jackson, draws tens of thousands to Selma every year and is the largest annual black history event in America. The couple is also class counsel for the Black Farmers Cases, the largest civil rights law suits in the Country with over two billion dollars provided for black farmers. Not surprisingly, neither the couple nor J.L. Chestnut took a dime from a single black farmer for their work.
For the past 20 years, the couple has fought racial tracking in public education and is currently committed to placing African American history in every public school. Hank and Rose are truly partners in marriage and struggle.