Tuscaloosa Civil Rights History Trail mini-tour.
Some introductory text on the theme of the mini-tour.
2800 6th Street
Tuscaloosa was the seat of Alabama State government from 1826 to 1846 when the state legislature met in a building here in Capitol Park. In 1833, the legislature enacted slave codes to regulate the lives of enslaved people as well as free per sons of color. These codes, like those used widely in other southern states, reflected white views of blacks as undeserving of basic human rights and strictly regulated slave travel, education, employment, and marriage. They aimed at curbing the rising numbers of slaves running away from their masters, preventing slave rebellions, and maximizing profits for the slave owners.
"The Indian fires are going out"
A paragraph on the Trail of Tears.
After the Civil War and the emancipation of slaves, the promise of racial equality was never fully realized. While the era of Reconstruction (1865-1878) brought unprecedented freedoms to blacks, including the right to vote and enjoy due process under the law, it was short lived.
A rash of new laws put in place by the state legislature in the late 1800s restricted the liberties of blacks in new ways. And what could not be accomplished by law was often accomplished through violence and terror. The Ku Klux Klan and similar groups began to use physical assault and lynching as a way to subjugate blacks, control their labor, and to prevent them from voting and moving freely. Blacks remained second-class citizens until the advent of the Civil Rights movement in the 1950s and the passage of Civil Rights laws in the 1960s.
Lynching and Old Jail 2803 6th Street
Designed and built in the late antebellum era by William B. Robertson and featuring Georgian, Federal, Greek Revival, and Italianate flourishes, the Old Tuscaloosa City Jail boasts 28-inch-thick walls and heavy floors hewed from local timber. From 1856 to 1890 it served as the county jail and then as a boarding house and private residence. An historic marker on the corner of the property was erected by the Equal Justice Initiative in March 2017. It describes the terror of lynching in Alabama from 1870-1940, and specifically chronicles eight lynchings that took place in Tuscaloosa County.
During its decades as a jail, it held both black and white prisoners. At least one black man-Henry Burke, who was accused of sexually assaulting a white girl but never prosecuted-was seized from the jail by a white mob and lynched.
Perhaps a concluding paragraph on significance or lessons learned.