Elected Black Alabama Mayor Says Town’s White Leaders Conspired To Block Him From Taking Office

Patrick Braxton filed a federal lawsuit to end the White monopoly on political power in the majority-Black town.

A Black man alleges in a federal lawsuit that he was elected mayor of Newbern, Ala., but the former mayor conspired with other White officials to stay in office to keep the power structure White in a town that’s about 85 percent Black.

CBS News reports that Patrick Braxton alleges in the civil rights lawsuit that he was elected mayor in 2020. However, Haywood Stokes III, the acting mayor of Newbern, unlawfully held a secret special election with his handpicked town council members to re-appoint themselves.

According to the allegations, Newbern has not held a legitimate election “for decades” so that the minority White population could maintain political power in the Deep South state.

The lawsuit was filed as state officials continue to fight a separate legal battle against Black Alabama voters who won a U.S. Supreme Court case in June alleging a Voting Rights Act violation in the state’s congressional district map.

Battle Over Alabama Voting District Map Now Returns To Federal Court

Braxton, a 57-year-old volunteer firefighter, said in the lawsuit that he ran for mayor in 2020 because elected White officials “were not responding to the needs of the majority Black community" during the COVID-19 pandemic.

He alleges that Stokes misinformed him about how to qualify for a mayoral run and failed to provide public notice about the election. Despite Stokes’ efforts, Braxton said he managed to find out the proper procedures and qualified for the election. In fact, the lawsuit states that Braxton was the only candidate who qualified for mayor and no candidates qualified for town council positions.

Ultimately, Braxton won the election by default, making history as the first Black mayor of Newbern in the town’s 165-year history, according to the lawsuit. County Judge Arthur Crawford advised Braxton to appoint people to town council positions because no one qualified or was elected.

Unbeknownst to Braxton, Stokes and his council members “met in secret to adopt a special election ordinance” weeks after the election, the lawsuit alleges. They did not publicize the special election. Consequently, only Stokes and his council members qualified, won re-election and were sworn into office in November 2020.

In the lawsuit, Braxton alleges that Stokes and other White officials “undertook racially motivated actions” to prevent him from taking office.

Stokes denied most of Braxton’s allegations and filed a motion in Alabama circuit court to dismiss the federal civil rights lawsuit.

In response to CBS News’ inquiries, Stokes and his council "admit that Plaintiff Patrick Braxton is Black and is the former Mayor of the Town of Newbern," claiming that "at all times relevant to this lawsuit, they were acting under the color of law."

They admitted to CBS News that Braxton was the only person who qualified to run for mayor and that no other candidates qualified for mayor or town council.

The defendants also confirmed that Stokes and his council members held a special election in which Stokes became mayor after Braxton “lost the position by operation of law."

CBS noted that it’s unclear which law permitted Stokes and others to boot Braxton from office and for them to retake their positions.

Latest News

Subscribe for BET Updates

Provide your email address to receive our newsletter.

By clicking Subscribe, you confirm that you have read and agree to our Terms of Use and acknowledge our Privacy Policy. You also agree to receive marketing communications, updates, special offers (including partner offers) and other information from BET and the Paramount family of companies. You understand that you can unsubscribe at any time.