Alabama school sacks 'racist' head: Classrooms destroyed by fire after principal banned mixed-race couples from attending dance

WASHINGTON - The headmaster who reawakened racial tensions in the small Alabama town of Wedowee after threatening to cancel a school dance if any students planned to attend with a partner of another race has been suspended, writes David Usborne.

The decision to reassign Hulond Humphries, 55, came two days after the town's high school, where he had been principal for a quarter of a century, was destroyed by a fire. Though there has been no official finding on the cause of the blaze, a link with the controversy is widely assumed. Until this week, the local school board, with only one black member, had been resisting pressure from civil rights and church groups to suspend Mr Humphries. The Justice Department in Washington also filed a complaint of racial discrimination and asked for his dismissal.

The act which destroyed any racial harmony there may have been in Wedowee, a town of just 800 people in the east of the state, came during a school assembly on 24 February. Mr Humphries asked any students who were contemplating coming to the spring dance with someone from another race to raise their hands. When a number of hands went up, he said the event would be cancelled. When, at the same meeting, a student of mixed parentage, Revonda Bowen, stood up to ask who she should bring to the dance, Mr Hulond said her parents had made a 'mistake' in bearing her. She has since been awarded a dollars 25,000 ( pounds 16,300) settlement by the school board.

The ensuing battle over Mr Humphries' future polarised the town. While the black community demanded his dismissal, most whites closed ranks around him. The main street became the scene of regular marches, by church organisations protesting at racism and by the Klu Klux Klan. Rallies had been planned for the weekend but were cancelled after the fire.

Protecting Mr Humphries further became untenable after video film was released of the principal running at a black cameraman from a local television station sent to record the fire. Mr Humphries was seen charging the newsman, shouting: 'Why don't you just get out of here?' A hand covered the lens and a voice of another man said: 'You black sons of bitches burned this school.' The cameraman was knocked to the ground and his camera destroyed.

Mr Humphries has not been sacked, but rather reassigned to oversee the rebuilding of the school. Even after the incident with the cameraman, he still has his supporters. 'I know why he did it, he was frustrated at the media circus,' an unidentified man commented. 'I still think he's the best principal in the world, but everybody wants his head. And now they've got it.'

(Photograph omitted)

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer - Junior / Mid Weight

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: To support their continued grow...

Recruitment Genius: Marketing Data Specialist

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are the go-to company for ...

Recruitment Genius: Search Marketing Specialist - PPC / SEO

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join the UK's leadin...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This caravan dealership are currently recruiti...

Day In a Page

Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
10 best statement lightbulbs

10 best statement lightbulbs

Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

Dustin Brown

Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test