Motley Moose – Archive

Since 2008 – Progress Through Politics

Trail Maids Outrage NAACP in Alabama

Welcome to my state. We here in Alabama are gearing up for the historic inauguration of President-elect Barack Obama, and we’re doing so with style.

Well… at least it was stylish sometime in the 1800s.

That’s right, my state is sending 50 women in traditional plantation-style frou-frou attire to represent us at the inauguration of the first African American president. (From a distance, they look like a large collection of brightly colored Easter eggs, don’t they?)

You just can’t help but be awed by the multiple ironies in the fact that one of the groups marching in the inaugural parade for the nation’s first African-American president is emblematic of the antebellum South.

The group’s selection was not an accident. Mobile’s Azalea Trail Maids were invited to the Jan. 20 ceremonies by Barack Obama’s inaugural committee, which the president-elect himself appointed.

– Alabama opinion columnist Frances Coleman

President-elect Obama’s inaugural committee may have invited the Trail Maids, but the Alabama NAACP is not pleased.

State NAACP President Edward Vaughn objects to having Mobile’s Azalea Trail Maids as Alabama’s only group in the upcoming presidential inaugural parade, saying they remind him of slavery days, a characterization that Trail Maids supporters decry.

Vaughn said he thinks that Alabama will be a “laughingstock” at the Jan. 20 inauguration. He made his comments in a front-page Montgomery Advertiser story published Thursday.

Vaughn suggested that the Trail Maids’ costumes, hoop dresses with matching bonnets and parasols, reflect the state’s slavery past and have no place at the inauguration of the first African-American president, Barack Obama.

Rhoda Pickett, staff reporter at

Perhaps it should be noted that eight of the 50 young ladies are African American.

Honestly, while I don’t think this is necessarily “racist,” I find it to be in poor taste, but that might just be because I am occasionally politically correct to the point of excess and have a childish personal grudge against my own region. So what are your thoughts? Is this offensive or simply a fine example of Southern stupidity? Or is it good-natured but just straight up ridiculous? And even if harmless, is it really necessary? It’s getting under people’s skin, and I can’t help but think that there’s no good reason to offend people at the inauguration when we could just as easily avoid it. Personally I wouldn’t like it even if everyone found it to be completely benign. I still live down here, and I think this silliness is thoroughly embarrassing.

Does anyone wonder why I roll my eyes every time I hear “Sweet Home Alabama”?


  1. sricki

    but there’s nothing mysterious or sexy about it. ; )

    Pointless diary to mark my return perhaps, but with all the stress over the I/P conflict, I thought it might be good to take a moment to think about something else.

  2. Michelle

    Good Lawd, how I hate that phrase, but this display certainly reminds me of it.  Crass.  I’m with ya, sricki!  I don’t know whether to laugh or cry when I read this kind shit as a southern belle sista….  It is not only offensive because of the racism it alludes to, but it is offensive to me as a southern woman too.

    And those dresses….EE GADS!  It’s like the cotton candy machine threw up all over them.  

    Nice to see ya back, hon….

  3. Kysen

    that’s you on the right in blue…I’d recognize ya anywhere.  ; )

    Personally, I think that they look more like Peeps than Easter Eggs:


    But, yeah, I find the whole thing rather ridiculous…worthy of ridicule.


  4. rfahey22

    evident in Grassrootsorganizer’s excellent diary on gay marriage/the institution of marriage – namely, the appropriation of symbols/traditions with offensive origins by a new generation that does not necessarily seek to perpetuate the underlying offenses.  I think that these costumes are probably harmless and represent nothing more than some empty pretense of Southern nobility.

    Anyway, to me it’s less gag-worthy than debutante and chastity balls.    

  5. psychodrew

    We don’t avoid celebrating/acknowledging the culture of that era because it was also the era of slavery.  I think that this may be a good thing and why Obama invited them in the first place.

  6. It is a very striking and colorful display, and certainly will stand out.  The South has a quandary that is hard to resolve: there is a great deal of history that cannot be mentioned without bringing up a shared negative – the entire country supported slavery when it was founded, and very few places in the world disagreed – they were only the last place to support that negative, not the first or only.

    Moticello is a beautiful and historic place, and it was the home of slaves who went back and forth to Washington, DC on errands for President Jefferson.  Slaves lived – and were sold – in New York City.  London was a hub of the slave trade and slaves were kept in Canada until only thirty years before the practice was outlawed in the US.  Even the Noble Native Americans practiced slavery across the continent for thousands of years before the Evil Europeans showed up.

    It is a certainly uncomfortable – and reasonably disproportionate – position for the South to be in as the only symbol of slavery.  If we are truly to forget the history of the time of slavery, we would have to forget almost all of human history altogether.

  7. HappyinVT

    if each state was going to have a group of people represent it in some state-specific get-up, what would that group wear?

    I could feed into the stereotype of Vermont and suggest our delegation could wear Birkenstocks with socks (preferably white), with loose ill-fitting sweaters, pants and/or skirts.  Dreads are optional, too.

    But, seriously, what would be appropriate for any state that wouldn’t offend someone?

    P.S.  I wouldn’t be caught dead in those dresses in DC in January.

  8. GrassrootsOrganizer

    I wish groups would save their outrage for the truly outrageous, like Darfur and the Oakland shooting.  At most, this is a disappointment perhaps, and deserves as much response as spilling coffee on one’s favorite shirt.  I find the attention far more offensive than the decision itself.

    When I look at these costumes I see just that — costumes — that speak as much to racism as a Disney parade does to animal rights and domestic violence.  And come to think of it, lots of women wore hoopskirts who neither owned slaves or supported slavery, like Mrs. Lincoln for one.  


    And here”s a decent question — if the Trial Maids had marched in previous inaugural parades, would anyone have given a damn?  

  9. DeniseVelez

    that what is more important is the fact that our new First Lady will be a black woman in the Big White House.

    Pastel Southern belles (some of whom are black and asian) pale in comparison to that fact.

    I think the NAACP guy needs to give it a break.

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