15 episodes

Reckon Radio presents: “Unjustifiable,” an investigative series from Pulitzer-prize winning columnist John Archibald and Roy S. Johnson examining an overlooked moment of civil rights history in the heart of the South. The story begins in 1979, when a police officer with a history of complaints shot and killed a 20-year-old Black woman named Bonita Carter. Her death would forever change the course of Birmingham, Alabama. This is a story about the South in 1979 as well as America in 2020.


Each season of Reckon Radio tells one in-depth story with Southern roots. Season One, "Greek Gods," examined the power and reach of a secret society at the University of Alabama. Season Two, "Recused," examined the rise and fall of Jeff Sessions.

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    • 4.6 • 201 Ratings

Reckon Radio presents: “Unjustifiable,” an investigative series from Pulitzer-prize winning columnist John Archibald and Roy S. Johnson examining an overlooked moment of civil rights history in the heart of the South. The story begins in 1979, when a police officer with a history of complaints shot and killed a 20-year-old Black woman named Bonita Carter. Her death would forever change the course of Birmingham, Alabama. This is a story about the South in 1979 as well as America in 2020.


Each season of Reckon Radio tells one in-depth story with Southern roots. Season One, "Greek Gods," examined the power and reach of a secret society at the University of Alabama. Season Two, "Recused," examined the rise and fall of Jeff Sessions.

    Unjustifiable Chapter 4: Catching the Devil on All Sides

    Unjustifiable Chapter 4: Catching the Devil on All Sides

    The status quo was broken in Birmingham, Alabama, in the weeks after the Bonita Carter killing. The city once known as Bombingham, as the Johannesburg of the South, reeled from protests, and counter-protests from the Ku Klux Klan. A scientist, a former college dean named Richard Arrington who had long been aligned with that white progressive mayor, David Vann, broke away from the mayor to launch his own campaign. A committee formed by Vann to take testimony from witnesses to the shooting – one of the main reasons we can reconstruct the events of the crime – found Officer George Sands had no cause to shoot Carter. Yet Sands remained on the force.


    Just sixteen years after Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. marched through the city, the election of 1979 would prove pivotal for Black residents exercising their voting power. How would voters decide?


    Show Notes:
    Guests: Richard Arrington Jr., Richard Mauk, Scott Douglas, Solomon Crenshaw


    Creator: John Archibald
    Hosts: John Archibald & Roy S. Johnson
    Executive Producer: John Hammontree
    Producer & Audio Engineer: Alexander Richey
    Producers: Amy Yurkanin and Marsha Oglesby


    Score: Thad Saajid, Austin Motlow, David Marsh, and Danny Ray Wilkerson, Jr. Additional music contributed by Jeremy Smith.


    Music: “Haverford Impromptu #2” by Sun-Ra; and “Lay it Down” by Donnie Fritts
     
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    • 33 min
    Unjustifiable Chapter 3: The Shoebox

    Unjustifiable Chapter 3: The Shoebox

    What was it about the killing of Bonita Carter that sparked police reform? The search for that answer led the Reckon Radio team into the bowels of the Birmingham Public Library, to a recently discovered box of “Birmingham Police Shooting and Incident Cards.” These cards, seen by almost no one in decades, detail the lives of hundreds of people in Jefferson County, Alabama – the deaths of hundreds, killed by police and security officers and written off, seemingly casually, as “justifiable.”
    Almost all the victims are Black. Almost all are men. Many are young, teenagers, shot in the back as they ran, or walked away, or were simply suspected of a crime as trivial as picking up a few bucks off a lunch counter. What was it about Bonita Carter? The answer in these files and others, which indicate that more police in this one county shot as many as 500 people in the last century, that they were not just allowed to shoot people they believed had committed a crime, they were expected and encouraged to do it. Especially if the suspect were Black.


    Show Notes:
    Guests: Cynthia Carter, Brian Burghart, Jay Glass, Uche Bean


    Creator: John Archibald
    Hosts: John Archibald & Roy S. Johnson
    Executive Producer: John Hammontree
    Producer & Audio Engineer: Alexander Richey
    Producers: Amy Yurkanin and Marsha Oglesby


    Score: Thad Saajid, Austin Motlow, David Marsh, and Danny Ray Wilkerson, Jr. Additional music contributed by Jeremy Smith.


    Music: "Vehemence," by Thad Saajid


    Voice Acting: R.L. Nave, Barnett Wright, Danny Ray Wilkerson, Jr.
     
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    • 35 min
    Unjustifiable Chapter 2: Anger and action

    Unjustifiable Chapter 2: Anger and action

    Protest began to swell in Birmingham began to swell the night Bonita Carter was killed, and it grew larger and larger in the days that followed. Black people, who had marched for voting power and integrated water fountains and lunch counters a decade and a half before, took to the streets to condemn police violence from a department built by Bull Connor. The killing of Bonita Carter seemed to be the last straw, especially when the mayor, a progressive named David Vann who had helped push Connor out in the ’60s, hesitated to discipline the police officer who shot her. The killing demanded change.


    What was it about her that seemed to mobilize a city?


    Show Notes:
    Guests: Solomon Crenshaw, Nathaniel Bagley, TK Thorne, Richard Mauk, Richard Arrington, Jr.


    Creator: John Archibald
    Hosts: John Archibald & Roy S. Johnson
    Executive Producer: John Hammontree
    Producer & Audio Engineer: Alexander Richey
    Producers: Amy Yurkanin and Marsha Oglesby


    Score: Thad Saajid, Austin Motlow, David Marsh, and Danny Ray Wilkerson, Jr. Additional music contributed by Jeremy Smith.


    Music: "Hard to Stay Cool," by Cedric Burnside; Single Lock Records


    Voice Acting: Nigel Thomas, Sheikilya Thomas, Alexander Richey, Barnett Wright and John Hammontree
     
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    • 37 min
    Unjustifiable Chapter 1: 'It was a girl in the car'

    Unjustifiable Chapter 1: 'It was a girl in the car'

    June 22, 1979, just another evening in Birmingham Alabama, and Bonita Carter and her friends ride their bikes to a convenience store as the sun sets. What happened there would change their lives, and their cities forever. Chapter one of “Unjustifiable” reconstructs those events, moment by moment and step by step, from the vantage points of onlookers, participants, store workers, witnesses and police. By the end of the night, a police officer named George Sands fired four shots into a car, killing the unarmed young Black woman, after a white man pointed to the car and screamed that she was dangerous man with a shotgun. Carter’s friends screamed too: “It’s a girl in the car!”
    They were ignored.


    Show Notes:
    Creator: John Archibald
    Hosts: John Archibald & Roy S. Johnson
    Executive Producer: John Hammontree
    Producer & Audio Engineer: Alexander Richey
    Producers: Amy Yurkanin and Marsha Oglesby


    Score: Thad Saajid, Austin Motlow, David Marsh, and Danny Ray Wilkerson, Jr. Additional music contributed by Jeremy Smith.


    Music: "Ain't Gonna Take No Mess," by Cedric Burnside; Single Lock Records


    Voice Acting: Alex Williams, Finn Jasele, David Perry, Jonathan Sobolewski, R.L. Nave, Ike Morgan, Alexander Richey, Barnett Wright, Nigel Thomas and Sheikilya Thomas.
     
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    • 26 min
    Trailer: Unjustifiable

    Trailer: Unjustifiable

    Reckon Radio presents: “Unjustifiable,” an investigative series from Pulitzer-prize winning columnist John Archibald and Roy S. Johnson examining an overlooked moment of civil rights history in the heart of the South. 


    The story begins in 1979, when a police officer with a history of complaints shot and killed a 20-year-old Black woman named Bonita Carter. Her death would forever change the course of Birmingham, Alabama.


    The legacy of Bull Connor’s police department looms large over Birmingham. Even today, black and white images of dogs and firehoses used against Birmingham children and foot soldiers are touchstones for protestors demanding police reform. What was it about the death of Carter that motivated Birmingham to change, 16 years after Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. penned a letter from a Birmingham jail and four decades before Black Lives Matter. 


    In a six episode series, “Unjustifiable” tells the story of Carter, the protests that erupted and the change demanded, resulting in the election of the city’s first Black mayor.


    Archibald and Johnson also examine a century of police killings in Birmingham that had been ruled “justifiable.” They’ve identified 500 people killed by police in Jefferson County in the 20th century. What was it about Bonita Carter? She came to represent them all.


    “Unjustifiable,” is produced by the award-winning team behind the Reckon Interview and Greek Gods. It features original music recorded in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, at Single Lock Records.


    Creator: John Archibald
    Hosts: John Archibald & Roy S. Johnson
    Executive Producer: John Hammontree
    Producer & Audio Engineer: Alexander Richey
    Producer: Amy Yurkanin
     
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    • 2 min
    S2E3 - Recused Episode 3

    S2E3 - Recused Episode 3

    Episode Notes

    In the 1980s and 1990s, Jeff Sessions fought political corruption and drug traffickers as a U.S. Attorney and Alabama attorney general. He didn't mention immigration until his first term in the U.S. Senate. It started with questions about special agent staffing, and ended with one of the most controversial immigration policies in American history.


    This podcast is powered by Pinecast.


     
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    • 26 min

Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5
201 Ratings

201 Ratings

AnnaClaire ,

Exciting and fascinating

I didn’t know anything about Bonita Carter before this podcast but found myself totally immersed in her story, which becomes the city’s story. It’s interesting and timely to hear about all the different lenses her death was viewed from, and how similar it feels to current events. Definitely recommend, especially if you liked White Lies and similar podcasts.

AmyYurk ,

Unjustifiable

Really well done. Not many people know the story of Bonita Carter, but before George Floyd, her death changed policing and politics in Birmingham, Alabama

Craig5353 ,

Great podcast.

I really enjoyed this podcast. I do realize investing a issue takes time, but would love to have more podcast about other issues going on in our state. Thanks for your work.

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