James A. Scott

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James A. Scott was an attorney, newspaper editor, publisher, and organizer of the Magic City Guards.

Scott's weekly newspaper, The Advance originated in Montgomery around 1876 before moving to Birmingham and publishing briefly as the Birmingham Advance. The paper boasted a circulation of 500 in 1877, and was billed as the, "only outspoken Democratic paper in the United States published by colored men." In May 1878 Scott, representing the "colored Democrats of the city of Montgomery," petitioned the Montgomery County Democratic Party to appoint a representative number of African-American delegates to the county convention, in part to, "show to the Radicals that the Democrats are willing to accord to the colored Democrats the privilege of fair representation." Scott and three other black men were elected as delegates.

In 1879 Scott served as president of the Industrial Fair Association which organized a "Colored State Fair" at the city's fairgrounds in November, with planned addresses by Frederick Douglass and former Senator Hiram Revels.

In March 1882 Scott, who was already licensed to practice law in Mississippi, was admitted to the Birmingham bar at the Jefferson County Chancery Court. He was said at the time to be working to complete a book to be titled, The South and North from a Colored Man's Standpoint, which promised to contain some "rare and racy" passages.

In 1883 Scott kept offices above Roden's Book Store, on 1st Avenue North between 19th and 20th Streets. In early November of that year he participated in a mass meeting of "about three hundred prominent and representative" colored citizens at the A. M. E. Church gathering to protest the United States' Supreme Court ruling that the public accommodations clause in the Civil Rights Act of 1875 was unconstitutional. He served on the committee on resolutions, which produced a statement saying that while the members had never sought social equality with white citizens, that "it is natural of men of all races to desire equal accommodations for the same amount of money in public places of amusement and in traveling." The group made plans to present its grievances to the Alabama State Railroad Commission in hopes of developing a plan for equal train accommodations.

On November 16, 1883 Scott gave testimony before the United States Senate Committee on Relations Between Labor and Capital, which was holding hearings at the Relay House. He largely agreed with the preceding testimony given by Isaiah Welch. He explained to the committee his view that African-Americans had flocked into cities for protection, given the animosity between lower-class whites and former slaves in rural areas, and those unable to find work adopted the habits of idleness after resettling. He recommended that the state should appoint a superintendent for colored education, and discussed his efforts to win equal accommodations on railroads by petitioning the state railroad commission. In this setting, Scott told the members that he had never had confidence in the 1875 Civil Rights Act, which he thought of as "political clap-trap," because he, "never saw any colored men in the South that exercised the privileges it conferred on them."

Scott organized the Magic City Guards as the first African-American unit of the Alabama State Troops in 1883, and served as Captain. The state organization soon dropped Scott from its rosters, citing absence from duty. The Magic City Guards were issued arms under the reorganization of the Alabama State Troops in 1886, but the unit was formally disbanded in August 1887.

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