Alabama Archives - StoryCorps
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“It’s Like This Invisible Golden Lasso.” A Son Reflects on Coming Out, and His Mother’s Love

Corey Harvard has dedicated his life to advocating for LGBTQ+ youth in Mobile, Alabama through his organization Prism United

He was raised in Mobile, and grew up in a deeply religious home. But in middle school, he realized he was queer, and struggled to come out to his parents. 

Corey and Lisa Harvard at a skating rink in Columbus, Ohio in 1996. By Benjamin Harvard, courtesy of Corey Harvard.

Above all he worried it would change how much they loved him. But it didn’t.  At StoryCorps, Corey sat down with his mother, Lisa Harvard, to reflect on that time.

Lisa and Corey Harvard out to dinner together in Mobile, Alabama on May 3rd, 2016. By Jennifer Clark-Grainger, courtesy of Corey Harvard.

Top Photo: Corey and Lisa Harvard at their StoryCorps interview in Mobile, Alabama on October 29, 2023. By Chapin Montague for StoryCorps.

This broadcast is supported in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a private corporation funded by the American people, and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Originally aired January 26, 2024, on NPR’s Morning Edition.

Everything Together

People often come to StoryCorps to reflect on life’s big moments. This week, we’ll hear from two families who have tackled some of those larger moments together, but with the kids leaving for college, are now entering a new phase in their lives more or less apart.

Sylvia Grosvold and her father, Josh Weiner, first came to StoryCorps in 2019. Sylvia was a junior in high school, and the two sat down to remember Sylvia’s mother (Josh’s wife), Kari Grosvold.

Sylvia Grosvold and Josh Weiner at their StoryCorps interview in Portland Oregon on July 9, 2021. Courtesy of Josh Weiner.

Josh Weiner, Kari Grosvold, and Sylvia Grosvold, age 4, in 2008. Courtesy of Josh Weiner.

In the summer of 2021, Sylvia and Josh returned to StoryCorps to talk about how each of them are preparing for another big change — Sylvia going away to college.

Sylvia Grosvold and Josh Weiner at their StoryCorps interview in Portland Oregon on July 9, 2021. Courtesy of Joshua Weiner.

Next we’ll hear from Jennifer Sumner, who brought Kaysen Ford, her youngest of seven children, to StoryCorps in 2015 to learn more about Kaysen’s experiences inside and outside the classroom.  

Jennifer Sumner and her son, Kaysen Ford, at their StoryCorps interview on April 17, 2015 in Birmingham, AL. Photo by Christina Stanton for StoryCorps.

Six years later, Kaysen and Jennifer came back to StoryCorps to reflect on their previous conversation and share their hopes for the future.

Kaysen Ford and Jennifer Sumner at their StoryCorps interview in Birmingham, Alabama on  June 17, 2021. Courtesy of Jennifer Sumner.

Kaysen also checks in with StoryCorps’ podcast host, Kamilah Kashanie, and shares an update on their college life thus far.

Top photo: Artwork by Rosalyn Yoon.

Released on September 21st, 2021.

If you or anyone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts, you can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline for help at 1-800-273-8255. Or text TALK to 741-741.

The 2019 interview was recorded with The Dougy Center in Portland, OR. It is part of Road to Resilience, a project from StoryCorps in partnership with the New York Life Foundation, which leverages the power of stories and storytelling to help children cope with the death of a parent, sibling, or loved one. 

Mother and Teen Reflect on the Pride and Joy of Growing Up Transgender

Kaysen Ford had just finished 5th grade in Tuscaloosa, AL, when they started to tell friends and family that they were transgender.

Their mother, Jennifer Sumner worried that Kaysen would face bullying as a transgender kid growing up in the South. In 2015, when Kaysen was 12, they came to StoryCorps to talk about being comfortable in their own skin.

During that conversation Jennifer shared how proud she was of Kaysen for being courageous and true to themself. Kaysen explained that, “It shouldn’t be scary to be who you are.” 

Kaysen has since moved with their family from Tuscaloosa, AL, to Birmingham for access to local services that empower transgender people to live more authentically, like Point of Pride — an international network of gender-affirming support programs — and Magic City Acceptance Center a drop-in center for LGBTQ youth and their allies.

Six years later, Kaysen, who now identifies as nonbinary, has graduated high school. They came back to StoryCorps to mark the occasion — and to reflect on their first conversation.

Top Photo: Jennifer Sumner and Kaysen Ford during their road trip celebrating Kaysen’s graduation June, 2021. Courtesy of the family.

If you or someone you know is feeling suicidal or just needs someone to talk to, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

Originally aired June 25, 2021 on NPR’s Morning Edition.

A Pastor Who Was Once A Mischievous Child, Pays Tribute To “The People That Nurtured Me”

Growing up in the 1950s in Montgomery, AL., Rev. Farrell Duncombe or “Little Farrell,” as he was known by his family and friends, had a mischievous side. But he had many role models who kept him in line. One such person was his own father, Rev. Henry A. Duncombe Sr., who was the pastor of their church, St. Paul A.M.E. Church of Montgomery. 

It was at that church, where Farrell also drew inspiration from his Sunday school teacher, Miss Rosalie — eventually known to the rest of the world as Rosa Parks.

Later on, Farrell took all the lessons he’d learned growing up and went on to become a public school band teacher, and then a principal. He also stepped into his father’s shoes and became a pastor at his childhood church.

In 2010, Farrell came to StoryCorps with his friend and fraternity brother, Howard Robinson, to reflect on the people who nurtured him, and the humility he feels standing at his father’s pulpit. 

Rev Farrell Duncombe died on June 2, 2021 in Montgomery, Alabama.

Top Photo: Rev. Farrell Duncombe and Howard Robinson at their StoryCorps interview in Montgomery, AL on November 24, 2010. By Elizabeth Straight for StoryCorps.

Originally aired June 11, 2021, on NPR’s Morning Edition. 

Listen to Rev. Dumcombe’s story on the StoryCorps Podcast.

Almost 65 Years After Father’s Lynching, Two Daughters Are Still Looking for Justice

Warning, the following story includes a description of racial violence.

On January 23, 1957, Willie Edwards Jr. was eating dinner with his family in Montgomery, Alabama when he got a call from his boss at the Winn-Dixie asking if he could cover a shift for another driver. He left his two small daughters and pregnant wife at home that evening and never made it back…

Years later a former Klansman said that he and other Ku Klux Klan members pulled Edwards out of his truck at gunpoint, beat him and brought him to a high bridge over the Alabama River. They told Edwards to jump… or they’d shoot him. He jumped. 

Willie Edwards Jr. Courtesy of the participants

His daughter, Malinda Edwards was just three years old at the time. With StoryCorps, she told her sister Mildred Betts about the moment she learned what happened to their father. 

Top Photo: Malinda Edwards and Mildred Betts. Courtesy of the participants.

This story was produced in collaboration with the PBS series FRONTLINE as part of Un(re)solved — a major initiative documenting the federal effort to investigate more than 150 cold case murders dating back to the civil rights era. More such stories can be explored in an interactive documentary at Un(re)solved.

Originally aired June 4th, 2021 on NPR’s Morning Edition.

“He Did His Own Eulogy”: An Eyewitness Recalls Dr. King’s Final Speech

In 1968, more than 1,300 Black sanitation workers began to strike in Memphis, Tennessee, demanding better working conditions and fair wages. Clara Jean Ester, then a 19-year-old college junior, joined the protests in solidarity.

Photo: A young Clara Jean Ester, who graduated from Memphis State College, now known as the University of Memphis, in 1969. Courtesy of Clara Jean Ester.

When Clara wasn’t in school, every spare moment she had was spent on the picket lines or at the strike headquarters, Clayborn Temple. And later that year, Clara witnessed Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. give his final speech in Memphis. The next day, she was at the Lorraine Motel when Dr. King was assassinated. 

Clara, now 72, sat down for StoryCorps in Mobile, Alabama, to talk about bearing witness to Dr. King’s final days.

Top Photo: The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. stands on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, TN, a day before he was assassinated at approximately the same place. From left to right, Hosea Williams, Jesse Jackson, King, and Ralph Abernathy. (AP Photo/Charles Kelly, File).

Originally aired January 15, 2021, on NPR’s Morning Edition.

Love In The Time Of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”: “I Was Ready To Bust Out Of The Closet With Rainbows And Glitter.”

Mike Rudulph grew up near Birmingham, Alabama and enlisted in the Marines when he was 20 years old. At the time, he hoped that the military environment would bring him the sense of purpose he had been missing.

This was in 2000, during the era of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” when LGBTQ people in the military couldn’t serve openly.

Mike went on his first deployment to Iraq in 2003. When he got home, he met the man who would later become his husband, Neil Rafferty.

Photo: Mike Rudulph and Neil Rafferty at their StoryCorps interview in Birmingham, Alabama on April 18, 2015. By Carolina Escobar for StoryCorps. 

They got married in 2018, the same year that Neil ran for public office in Alabama — and won! He is the first openly gay man to serve in the Alabama State legislature. 

At StoryCorps in Birmingham, Alabama, Mike and Neil sat down to remember the early days of their relationship.

Top Photo: Mike Rudulph and Neil Rafferty in 2019. Courtesy of Mike Rudulph.
Bottom Photo: Mike Rudulph and Neil Rafferty. Courtesy of Neil Rafferty.

Originally aired August 15, 2020, on NPR’s Weekend Edition Saturday. 

Brothers Pass On Their Father’s Lessons From The Farm

Arguster and Lebronze Davis grew up on their family’s farm in Wetumpka, Alabama. As two of 17 siblings, they had little time for anything outside of school and work.

The brothers came to StoryCorps to talk about their childhood and remember their dad, Ben Davis.

Top photo: Lebronze and Arguster Davis at their StoryCorps interview in Birmingham on October 3, 2019. By Emilyn Sosa for StoryCorps.
Middle photo: The Davis family during a reunion in Wetumpka, AL, in 1969. Lebronze Davis is not pictured, because he was serving in Vietnam. Photo courtesy of Arguster Davis.
Bottom photo: Hattie and Ben Davis — mother and father to the Davis children — in Wetumpka, AL. Approximately 1951. Photo courtesy of Arguster Davis.

Originally aired November 1, 2019 on NPR’s Morning Edition. 

In Memoriam: Theresa Burroughs, Civil Rights Leader & StoryCorps Participant

We were sad to learn that Theresa Burroughs, a StoryCorps participant and champion for the right to vote, died at the age of 89 in her hometown of Greensboro, Alabama.

We were fortunate that Theresa came to StoryCorps with her daughter, Toni Love, to share her story of coming of age during the Jim Crow era. Theresa joined with other civil rights demonstrators who would appear at Alabama’s Hale County Courthouse on the first and third Monday of every month to pursue their right to vote.

Theresa describes the obstacles the board of registrars put in their place in “A More Perfect Union,” the animation we created of her story. Watch the animation here.

Theresa later founded the Safe House Black History Museum in Greensboro to document the local struggle for equality. You can watch Theresa speak to the production team of “A More Perfect Union” at the museum in the behind-the-scenes video below.

After finally gaining her right to vote, Theresa said it was a joy to finally vote, but that “it shouldn’t have been this hard.” We honor the hard work Theresa did to expand the right to vote in her community and thus strengthen our democracy, and we hope to live by her example so that it doesn’t have to be so hard for future generations.

— Rachel Hartman, Co-Executive Producer, Animation

Transgender Child Tells Mom ‘It Shouldn’t Be Scary To Be Who You Are’

Parents and children often come to StoryCorps to share the most important moments in their lives. That’s just what 12-year-old Kaysen Ford had in mind when they came to StoryCorps with their mother, Jennifer Sumner.

FordExtra (1)

Growing up in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, Kaysen is the youngest of seven children.

At StoryCorps, the two sat down to reflect.

Top photo: Jennifer Sumner and her child, Kaysen Ford, at their StoryCorps interview on April 17, 2015 in Birmingham, AL. Photo by Christina Stanton for StoryCorps.
Bottom photo: Kaysen Ford and Jennifer Sumner at their home on October 24, 2018. Courtesy of the Ford family.

Originally aired October 26, 2018, on NPR’s Morning Edition.