(Houston, TX) November 3, 2023 - “The Father of Environmental Justice,” professor Robert D. Bullard, and a Rapid Response Team (RRT) of national experts and technical advisors are visiting his hometown of Elba, Alabama for a second community-led tour and listening session on November 9, 2023. A small town with about 4,000 residents located in the South Alabama Wiregrass Region 42 miles west of Dothan, Alabama, Shiloh is a tight-knit community of residents who have been plagued with flooding for more than five years. It’s a problem residents believe was caused by the 2018 expansion and elevation of U.S. Highway 84 into a four-lane road—placing the community in a bowl to protect the road from flooding. Bullard and his colleague Professor Glenn S. Johnson wrote about highway plans that give priority to roads over people of color in their book, Just Transportation: Dismantling Race and Class to Mobility, written more than 25 years ago.
Plans for the highway expansion were announced by the Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT) in the 1990s,with construction taking place between 2017 to 2019. Residents have expressed concerns about localized flooding since 2018. The Shiloh community is a poster child for Highway Robbery because prior to 2018 a small dirt road provided access to the community—which now floods the residents' homes, lowers their property, and robs them of their wealth and inheritance.
In early July 2023, Bullard and his team of environmental justice and transportation equity experts conducted a two-day “Fact-Finding Journey to Justice” tour and community forum with Pastor Timothy Williams and other Shiloh leaders to assess the community’s growing flooding problem and lack of government action. A summary of preliminary findings and recommendations from the tour was prepared with a “Next-Steps Action Plan.”
Residents in this rural Black community feel neglected since the government has been slow to acknowledge and correct the flooding problem. The community becomes a lake during heavy rainfall. An in-depth investigation by ABC News uncovered glaring disparities and differential treatment of Shiloh’s Black property owners compared to White property owners along the stretch of the new highway. Their analysis confirmed that there is minimal flood risk to Shiloh properties, with less than a 1 percent chance of flooding over the next five years due to natural events such as heavy downpours or overflowing streams. A recent flood risk model estimates only thirteen percent of the properties in the census tract neighborhood that includes Shiloh are at significant risk for flooding. FEMA data shows there are no flood hazard zones requiring property owners to have flood insurance. The Shiloh community is now facing a greater risk to flooding due to changes in environment, climate, and land-use. In addition to flooding, residents fear the growing risk from a natural gas pipeline placed near homes.
The November 9th visit will start with a Shiloh Community Tour at 12:30 pm CST in Shiloh, AL (Location: 14632 US Highway 84 Elba, AL 36323), which will be followed by a Community Listening Session from 2:00 pm to 4:30 pm CST in New Brockton, AL (Location: 130 Vester Cole St, New Brockton, AL 36351). The RRT will be exploring Shiloh residents' “concerns, priorities, and needs” and matching them with potential funding opportunities that align with Justice40, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) and the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA).
Dr. Robert D. 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. His most recent book is The Wrong Complexion for Protection: How the Government Response to Disaster Endangers African American Communities(2023). 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 flooding.
To stand in solidarity and contribute to the cause, visit the Bullard Center's Fact Sheet and to sign up as a Rapid Response Team Volunteer. It's a call to action, an opportunity to join hands in addressing the environmental struggles of Elba, Alabama, and support the Shiloh Community’s quest for justice.
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.