“What the Movement did for Lowndes County was help people obtain their right to vote,” Catherine Flowers explained. While the Lowndes County Freedom Organization succeeded in putting Black officials in elected office, economic challenges and entrenched inequality remain the reality for Lowndes County and the rest of the Alabama Black Belt. People like Lowndes-natives like Catherine Flowers and Lillian McGill, and former SNCC staffers, like Wendell Paris and C.J. Jones, continued in the fight for change, from the 1970s all the way through the present.
But the Lowndes County experience was what really convinced C.J. Jones to stay in the South and work, that there was plenty potential here.” –Wendell Paris
Catherine Flowers moved back home in 2000 and began using connections she had made in Washington, D.C. and through her work as a teacher to open doors for Lowndes County. But she always made sure she was tapped into the needs of the community, something that she had learned from SNCC. Her initial economic development efforts led her to environmental justice work after she witnessed the problems with expensive, faulty septic systems and raw sewage that plagued many of the county’s poor Black residents. “It was real clear that there was not going to be any sustainable economic development until we addressed these issues,” she explained. Flowers founded the Alabama Center for Rural Enterprise, which targeted the root causes of poverty.
People in Lowndes County have the wherewithal to do whatever they allow us to do, but we’re not waiting on them to find solutions.” -Catherine Flowers
Flowers’ current work in Lowndes County is deeply rooted in the Movement. “Anytime I hear the Black Panther, I feel pride,” she explained.