It started with the soft, mellifluous chords of an electric organ in the basement hall of the 16th St. Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama two blocks north and east of the 4th Avenue headquarters where the African American organizers and the white suburban volunteers in the Doug Jones for U.S. Senate campaign are working shoulder to shoulder to turn the tide of recent history and elect a progressive, pro-choice Democrat in the Deepest Southern bastion of reactionary Republicanism.

One by one, other parishoners joined in on drums, then sax, then bass, then trumpet, until the two hour service in the historic church was rocking to hymns of joy and praise.

If Jones has a prayer of pulling off an upset victory in the December 12th special election for U.S. Senate in Alabama, it resides in the community halls of African American churches like this one, and in the barbershops that still line the blocks of the former black business district of Birmingham, where Jones' headquarters are located.

Alabama has the smallest percentage of African American voters in Dixie. They make up just 27% of the electorate. They number around 750,000, they are solid Democrats, and in an election where the Alabama Secretary of State expects no more than a million voters to show up, the fate of the race lies in their strong hands.

But will they turn out on Tuesday?

The Reverend Arthur Price, Jr. interrupted his rousing sermon on Sunday to remind the packed hall of his church's place in Civil Rights history.

“I do believe,” Price intoned, “that the members of the 16th Street Baptist Church understand the importance of getting out to vote. We do not need to look at the photographs in our hallway of police dogs and water hoses turned on our brothers and sisters to remember the blood, sweat, and tears that went into gaining our right to vote. The eyes of the nation – the eyes of the world – are upon us on Tuesday. Our vote is our voice. There is too much at stake. Education is at stake. Jobs are at stake. Health care is at stake. They may tell you that the race is over. They may tell you that the race is already won. But this race is not over until the fat lady sings. So get out and vote.”

The choir director, not slim, did not appear to take umbrage as she marshaled about a dozen children in Santa hats up onto the stage to sing carols.

It was in this church basement on a September morning in 1963 that four African American girls, ages 11 to 14, putting on their choir robes to prepare for Sunday service, died in a horrific white terrorist bombing that shook the nation and prompted passage of the Civil Rights Act in Congress the following year.

When Bill Clinton appointed Doug Jones to the post of U.S. Attorney in Birmingham, he went after two of the aging Ku Klux Klan members who had remained at liberty ever since they planted that bomb in a tunnel they dug beneath the church. He put them in jail. That is a story that resonates powerfully in the African American community in Alabama today, as Jones, white, 63, pursues his first electoral race and tries to build a winning coalition in a state that has not elected a Democrat to the US Senate since 1990.

The six of us who traveled together to Birmingham from Massachusetts to help get out the vote for Jones this weekend were assigned to African American neighborhoods, and almost every door we knocked on was answered by a Doug Jones voter. They knew his record.

But will they turn out on Tuesday?

Roy Moore, white, 70, the former Alabama Supreme Court judge favored to win in Tuesday's special election, has his own sordid history with young girls in Alabama. Nine middle aged women have come forward in recent weeks to accuse him of inappropriate – or illegal – sexual contact with them when they were teenagers as young as 14. Moore has denied all their allegations, but their claims have cast a pall over the state as Alabama prepares to vote at a moment in time when the nation is rocked with the firings and resignations of powerful men who have admitted or been credibly charged with sexual assault and harassment. Will Alabama remain on the wrong side of history at this moment, with the control of the U.S. Senate hanging so narrowly in the balance?

Senator Richard Shelby urged fellow Republicans to follow his lead in voting for a write-in candidate, saying, “Alabama deserves better than Roy Moore.”

The more Republicans that take his advice, the better Doug Jones' chance of victory.

Moore has pursued a stealth campaign, with few public appearances since the storm of allegations broke. We saw not a single Roy Moore button, bumper sticker or lawn sign in Jefferson County, the one reliably Blue county in Alabama. But the most recent polls still show Moore leading Jones by 7 points in the campaign's final weeks, and none of the dedicated staff or volunteers we worked with over the weekend for the Jones campaign predicted victory for their candidate.

But they are working very, very hard – and their get out the vote operation will be crucial in the closing hours. Against the hundreds of volunteers who have been knocking on doors and calling voters for Doug Jones, the Republicans are lining up robo-calls from Donald Trump today and a rare public rally for Moore – with Steve Bannon – in Birmingham, tonight.

Before heading back north on Sunday afternoon, we attended a get out the vote rally on 4th Avenue with Doug Jones, Terry Sewell, Alabama's lone African American member of Congress, and New Jersey Senator Cory Booker. But there were few black faces in the small white crowd. An energetic MC tried to stir up enthusiasm, but his attempt to lead a call in response of “Doug!” “Jones!” “No!” “Moore!” got lost in confusion as his amplified calls of “Doug! No!” drowned out the feeble replies.

A competing NAACP rally, scheduled for the same time but two blocks away, featured icons of the Civil Rights movement, but less than three dozen people showed up.

The Democratic party in Alabama was in tatters before Doug Jones offered to run for the U.S. Senate in May. The Democratic National Committee has given him little support, writing his chances off early, and abandoning the pledge to rebuild the party from the grassroots in all 50 states that Keith Ellison had made when he narrowly lost his bid to chair the DNC in January.

“We have to do this for ourselves,” is the refrain I heard from the Alabama activists we spoke with. “No one is going to do this for us.”

But they are up against long odds, and though Jones has talked himself hoarse at more than 600 campaign appearance as he has crisscrossed the state, there is the nagging sense that Democrats are out of practice running statewide, and ready to admit defeat before the votes are even cast.

Still, when we stopped for gas in a neighboring suburb on the way home, the young African American cashier in the station was quick with her reply when I asked if she was planning to vote on Tuesday.

“Yes I am!”

“Doug Jones?” I asked her.

“All the way!”



(to help get out the vote for the Doug Jones campaign in the final hours of the race: email and ask for the phone bank link)