Dr. Robert D. Bullard to Lead “Journey to Justice Fact-Finding Tour” in His South Alabama Hometown
Houston, TX Monday July 10, 2023 – After fighting for environmental justice and against environmental racism in the United States and around the world for more than four decades , Dr. Robert D. Bullard is leading a team of environmental justice and transportation equity experts on a “Fact-Finding Journey to Justice” tour in his hometown, Elba, Alabama , whose Shiloh community has been experiencing flooding . Longtime residents feel this has been caused by the expansion of U.S. Highway 84 into a four-lane highway. Prior to 2018, a small dirt road is what took you through the small Shiloh community.
Residents in this rural Black community feel neglected since government has been slow to acknowledge and correct the flooding problem. The community has been waiting on the state of Alabama to resolve the flooding issue, but no help has come. The community becomes a lake during heavy rainfall.
Bullard, who graduated from Elba’s all-Black Mulberry Heights High School nearly 60 years ago, is making this initial fact-finding visit back to the small south Alabama town at the request of Pastor Timothy Williams and residents of the Shiloh community whose homes and property began flooding after the U.S. Highway 84 was expanded. “All we want right now is for those who created this problem to fix it and make us whole again. We want justice. That’s why we reached out and called Dr. Bullard,” Williams states.
Bullard answered his call. “What kind of environmental justice leader would I be if I did not answer a call for assistance from Black people in my hometown,” says Bullard, who is often called the father of environmental justice . “I make this visit back home to gather facts, listen to the Shiloh residents’ environmental justice concerns and see for myself the conditions surrounding U.S. Highway 84 expansion—a project built in part with their tax dollars,” he added. Although the Civil Right Act of 1964 was passed nearly six decades ago outlawing discrimination in the application and use of federal funds, it appears transportation racism still persists when it comes to distribution of benefits and costs.
The two-day visit kicks off with a press briefing on Thursday July 13, 2023 at 12:30pm CST in Shiloh (Location: 14632 US Highway 84 Elba, AL 36323), which will be followed by a Shiloh Community Tour (2:00pm - 4:00 pm CST).
On Friday July 14th (from 10am – 4pm CST), the Bullard Center team will visit with individual Shiloh homeowners. A Fact-Finding Community Forum will be held at 5:30pm CST at 314 County Road 263, Elba, AL 36323. The event is open to the public.
Williams has spearheaded the fight to get the community’s flooding problem corrected. “I have lived in the Shiloh community for 19 years. The house that I'm living in used to be my grandmother's house,” says Williams.
In his decades-long justice and civil rights work, Professor Bullard has chronicled and worked on hundreds of environmental justice and environmental racism cases in the South. He will be accompanied by several staff members from the Bullard Center at Texas Southern University, including Steven Washington who has been cataloguing materials from Shiloh community leaders over the past several months.
The team also includes two of Bullard’s longtime colleagues and environmental justice and transportation equity researchers, Dr. Glenn S. Johnson and Angel Torres, co-editors of Just Transportation: Dismantling Race and Class Barriers to Mobility (1997) and Highway Robbery: Transportation Racism and New Routes to Equity (2004).
Bullard has served as an expert witness and testified in dozens of lawsuits and hearings and has
written more than 18 books over the past four decades—including detailed case studies in his
2012 book, The Wrong Complexion for Protection: How the Government Response to Disaster
Endangers African American Communities . He has documented Black communities similar to
Shiloh that have been harmed by highway construction and large federally funded infrastructure
projects, and discriminatory land-use planning that disproportionately place Black people and
other people of color at elevated health, environmental and economic risks—including risks from
What Elba’s Shiloh Community Homeowners are Saying
Pastor Timothy Williams speaks with passion and makes a powerful statement describing his plight and that of his fellow Shiloh neighbors: “Growing up my siblings and I would come out to Grandmother's house all the time to help with grass cutting, working in the garden or help with taking care of cousins. I've never seen it flood out here and we were never in a hole like we are now. And water was never running across yards like it is doing now. The problem came when they expanded US Highway 84. I feel in my heart that the Shiloh community is not being treated fairly regarding the highway expansion and addressing the flooding that we are experiencing.
It's been five years and 6 months since this flooding problem started. We've complained but no help has come. Nowhere on US Highway 84 that I am aware of is like what we are experiencing.”
Seventy-eight-year-old William Horstead, Jr. expressed disappointment with the way Shiloh residents have been treated. “Generations of Horstead family members have called Shiloh home. I retired here for the good life. It’s not good anymore since Highway 84 expanded. God willing, I’ll celebrate my 69 th birthday next month. Nothing to celebrate about when you see your family’s homestead and legacy washed away. This new highway has meant more flooding, more damage to my home and more headaches coming my way.”
Otis Andrews’ family bought land in the Shiloh community in the late 1960s. He returned to his family’s homestead to raise a family. “Shiloh was always a close-knit community and was always about family. The land was flat and level where people farmed. There was no flooding washing over people’s land and homes. I have two young children and would like to leave them an inheritance as my parent left me the property where I currently live. This Highway 84 expansion has caused flooding and it has displaced and stolen my children’s inheritance. And that’s not right. The world needs to know about this injustice.”
A summary of preliminary findings and recommendations from the tour will be prepared with a “Next-Steps Action Plan.”
About the Bullard Center for Environmental and Climate Justice
The Robert D. Bullard Center for Environmental and Climate Justice at Texas Southern University was launched to address longstanding issues of systemic inequality and structural racism that cause disproportionate pain, suffering and death in Black and other people of color communities. Texas Southern University is a student-centered comprehensive doctoral university committed to ensuring equality, offering innovative programs that are responsive to its urban setting, and transforming diverse students into lifelong learners, engaged citizens, and creative leaders in their local, national, and global communities.