Do you feel like mixing it up this weekend? Well, then you’re in luck! Take a journey back in time and discover the City of Tuscaloosa’s critical role in the Civil Rights Movement. Enjoy the great outdoors and the energetic vibe of Downtown Tuscaloosa while uncovering this city’s diverse history on Tuscaloosa’s Civil Rights Trail!
This trail is a collection of 18 sites scattered throughout Downtown Tuscaloosa, exhibiting key locations where the Civil Rights Movement and pivotal moments in the struggle of Black Americans took place in Tuscaloosa. From historical political sites to memorial sites named for famous Black Americans, the Civil Rights Trail celebrates the heroes of the movement and makes for an incredible outdoor walk through time.
Below, we have put together a rough timeline of a walk along our local Civil Rights Trail, including pro tips along the way. In addition to the trail itself, we have included several nearby Black-owned businesses to visit for decadent meals and delicious treats! Follow along with this brochure guide for more information about each of the incredible stops throughout the journey.
Start your day at Capitol Park (1) amongst the rubble of a building where the Alabama State government met from 1826 to 1846. This building was where many of the slave codes were legislated and enacted to protect and promote white supremacy throughout the State of Alabama. The remains of the old legislative building are a somber reminder of what happened in Tuscaloosa and all that came afterward in the following century during the Civil Rights Movement.
Close by Capitol Park is the second stop on the Civil Rights trail: The Lynching and Old Jail (2) stop. Designated by a historical marker, this old jailhouse building served as the county jail from 1856 to 1890 and held both white and black prisoners. However, through its years of operation, lynchings of Black prisoners occurred – eight of which are chronicled by the historical marker found at this site.
A short walk away is a newly opened food truck-turned-restaurant, Reggae Flava. This fresh addition to Timmerson Square is a popular Black-owned restaurant that serves up delicious Caribbean flavor for all its patrons. Whether you’re craving tender Oxtail or Pineapple BBQ Jerk Salmon, you’ll have no trouble finding your new favorite dish.
After indulging a hearty meal of Caribbean cuisine, head to the corner of University Boulevard and Lurleen Wallace Boulevard to find the next stop on the Civil Rights Trail: The Druid Theatre and Hollywood (3) stop. The then newly-integrated theatre was the site of two angry white mobs in response to the Civil Rights Act in 1964. These incidents brought Tuscaloosa into the national spotlight, sparking outrage among many.
Nearby is another stop along the trail: The Mob at the Flagpole (4). This designated meeting location during the Civil Rights movement was the hub for students and local citizens to gather and express their discontent as the status quo was being challenged in the City of Tuscaloosa. Most notably, this flagpole was where a mob met to respond to the integration of the University of Alabama in 1955 when Autherine Lucy was admitted to the college.
Another few stops along the Civil Rights Trail to consider at this point are Woolworth and Sit-Ins, (5) First Black Legislator: Shandy Jones (6), and the Kress Building and Bus Boycott (7).
The next stop of the Civil Rights Trail is the Paul R. Jones Museum (8), a museum created by a powerful figurehead in the history of Civil Rights in Tuscaloosa. Paul R. Jones was once denied admission to the University of Alabama Law School in 1949 based on his race but then went on to fight for the Civil Rights Movement in the South. The museum is a collection of African-American art pieces donated by Jones to the University of Alabama in 2008 at a value of $5 million. The Paul R. Jones Museum is a beautiful expression of the journey he endured facing racism head-on. This magnificent exhibition of modern African-American art rotates different pieces in and out, with new shows regularly.
The Alston Building (9) is famous for two things, Governors George and Lurleen Wallace were married here, and Robert K. Shelton ran the United Klans of America from a three-room suite on the fourth floor.
At the midpoint of your walk along the Civil Rights Trail, you can stop by Brummies
Yummies for a quick sweet treat! Brummi’s Yummies is another Black-owned business in town located along the Civil Rights Trail. This delightful bakery has several sweet treats to satisfy your cravings, whether it is Cookie Dough Brownies, Orange Dreamsicle Cupcakes, or other unforgettable treats. It is a great place to stop by and take a rest before enjoying the remainder of Tuscaloosa’s Civil Rights Trail.
The next stop on the trail is the Dinah Washington Cultural Arts Center (10).
In the Southeast portion of Downtown Tuscaloosa, there are other additional stops to be made along the Civil Rights Trail: The County Courthouse and Marchers (11), Greensboro Avenue Churches (12), Bluefront District (13), Bailey Tabernacle CME Church (14), and Hunter Chapel AME Zion Church (15), the oldest African American church organized in Tuscaloosa. It was also the first church to host Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. who spoke here in 1955.
First African Baptist Church (16) is one of the last stops along the Civil Rights Trail and is one of the more important ones. First African Baptist Church was the site of “Bloody Tuesday”, which was a violent attack on peaceful protesters by Tuscaloosa Police and white extremists who had been deputized. Built as a haven for Black worshippers upset with the discriminatory practices of the First Baptist Church, this church has stood at the corner of 4th Street and 24th Avenue since 1900 and is an important milestone along the Civil Rights Trail of Tuscaloosa.
Another stop to visit after First African Baptist Church is the Murphy-Collins House (17). Originally the private home of Tuscaloosa’s first black mortician, it is now a museum focusing on the life of African-Americans in the 1900s. Read more about this stop in the brochure guide linked above.
The Howard-Linton Barbershop (18) is the final stop and is one of the more unique spots along the trail. The owner of the barbershop, the late Reverend Thomas Linton, was a powerful figure in the fight for Civil Rights in Tuscaloosa, working closely with Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy throughout the Civil Rights Movement. Additionally, this barbershop was the hiding place for Autherine Lucy when she was escaping the mob of white citizens after she attempted to integrate the University of Alabama. Reverend Linton’s shop is filled with mementos and artifacts that showcase the struggle of Black Americans living in Tuscaloosa and the South throughout the Civil Rights Movement.
After you have finished your day along the Civil Rights Trail of Tuscaloosa, be sure to head to one of the many Black-owned restaurants in Tuscaloosa to show your support! There are many different restaurants around Tuscaloosa with delicious dinner meal offerings, including Archibald & Woodrow’s BBQ, Catfish Heaven, KSV, and King’s Kitchen.
Written By: Will Baggett
Edited By: Jamie Hoven
Safety is the top priority for returning to campus, but that does not mean sacrificing the ability to enjoy yourself and to enjoy new experiences, especially in the City of Tuscaloosa. There are plenty of ways to maintain a safe, physical distance while also enjoying what Tuscaloosa has to offer, whether it be the scenic views, rich history, or the one-of-a-kind businesses and restaurant culture of this city. Below, we have compiled a list of ways to stay socially active while also being socially distanced!
The different lakes located around Tuscaloosa have been a regular relaxation spot for students over the years. In order to have a fun and peaceful time, visiting one of the nearby lakes is a modern time twist on a classic activity for UA students. These lakes are not only wonderful places to swim and rent kayaks for, but they are also a peaceful spot to read a book and enjoy the nature of the Tuscaloosa area. What better way to substitute a library table or a lakeside picnic table? These lakes offer services that allow you to either rent paddleboards for the day, paddle your own kayak around to the different scenic spots along the lakefront, or layout at the beach to continue working on your summer tan! The most popular lakes around the City of Tuscaloosa to check out are Lake Lurleen, Lake Nicol, and Lake Tuscaloosa.
Civil Rights Walk
The City of Tuscaloosa has a history intertwined with the Civil Rights movement, and there is a presence of that history all around Downtown Tuscaloosa. Traveling through history along the Civil Rights Walk is a way to stay active outdoors and be proactive about the history and importance of the Civil Rights Movement to our city. Visit (website) to locate the markers located around Downtown Tuscaloosa and learn more about the lasting impact that the Civil Rights Movement has made on the history and people of the City of Tuscaloosa. Visit here to learn more about the Civil Rights Trail of Tuscaloosa and how you can find more and more resources regarding the Civil Rights Movement in Tuscaloosa.
Historic Downtown Tuscaloosa
Downtown Tuscaloosa is a relaxing area of town where anyone is free to walk around and wander from door to door to find something they feel drawn to. There are numerous boutique stores and businesses where eclectic finds are inevitable. If you’re looking for a new wardrobe, or maybe just some refreshing new pieces, check out Pause Boutique, Effie’s Inc., or Pants Store! Walking around Downtown Tuscaloosa is a peaceful yet adventurous activity for all to find unique local while staying active after months of quarantine. However, Downtown Tuscaloosa does feature a lot of locations that would require entering a building, so be sure to pack a mask and be safe when visiting indoor storefronts and shops.
Self-Guided UA Tour
The University of Alabama has a rich history that every student and resident of Tuscaloosa ought to learn and become familiar with. At the heart of it all is The Quad, which is filled to the brim with its own history but also offers one of the most picturesque areas of campus. A refreshing way to stay connected to the culture of the university while maintaining physical distancing outdoors is to take a stroll around the University of Alabama campus and soaking in the history of the many buildings and locations. Many locations, including the ones located on the Quad, include historical markers that indicate the historic significance of their existence (or previous existence) and offer a glimpse into what truly defines this university.
Enjoy the scenic nature of the Black Warrior River from the comfort of a relaxing hammock or a light jog along the riverfront. The Riverwalk is 4.2 miles of a paved trail that offers visitors a place to enjoy the outdoors in a way that is safe and distanced from others, and versatile enough that anyone can find themselves enjoying an afternoon out and about. The Riverwalk is a great place to go on a quick run, exercise on a bike, and walk your dog, plus offers serene and scenic spots for reading a nice book or enjoying a delicious picnic. Whether you are wanting to stay physically active through exercise and movement or if you are wanting to simply sit outdoors and soak in the sunlight and fresh air, the Riverwalk is a must-do.
Golf and Disc Golf
In order to stay distanced while remaining active, certain sports offer more distanced situations than others, like golf or disc golf. There are several public golf course options located near Tuscaloosa including Ol’ Colony, North River Yacht Club, The Links at Tuscaloosa, Indian Hills Country Club, Tall Pines, and Hidden Meadows. Each of these courses is available on weekends and offers a variety of offerings to satisfy the most serious players and to welcome the more introductory players. If you are more of a disc golfer than a traditional golfer, Bower’s Park is the place to be, thanks to a full 18-hole course primarily located on wooded terrain and featuring beginner and professional tees for players of all skill ranges! Whether you are driving a golf ball or a disc, these activities are a safe way to get back into the swing of things!
A staple of campus life is enjoying the food trucks that make their way onto campus or throughout Tuscaloosa. These days, food trucks are a great way to stay outdoors and distanced while also supporting local businesses of Tuscaloosa. Not only are you able to be smart about what you are eating, but you may discover a new favorite dish or new favorite dining destination! We offer a phenomenal variety with options like Catch a Taste, Aces Tuscaloosa, Cheese Louise Tuscaloosa, and Urban Cookhouse. Food trucks appear in various locations around the city, so be sure to plan ahead of time to be aware of where certain trucks will be located and what their menu will look like! Remember to wear a mask at all times except when you are eating in order to maximize caution and ensure the safety of yourselves and those around you.
Local Farmers Markets
A health-conscious and locally-oriented outdoor activity that everyone can take advantage of is enjoying a farmers market. In Tuscaloosa, a few wonderful options for outdoor farmers markets are Homegrown Alabama Farmers Market, Ingram Farms, Northport Farmers Market, and the Curbside Farmers Market. Shopping at a farmers market can expose you to new flavors to up your cooking game, and they support the local farmers that stock the markets. Be sure to wear a mask while visiting local farmers markets for the health and safety of yourself and the vendors working the markets!
Written by: Will Baggett
This weekend is blessing us with spectacular sunny skies, so don’t be afraid to explore the captivating city by foot and soak up the rays. Tuscaloosa’s Civil Rights Trail is the perfect way to spend time with your family and immerse yourself in the rich history of Druid City! With over 15 sites scattered all across Downtown Tuscaloosa, you now have the chance to enjoy the outdoors, spend time with friends and family, and learn about this city’s history.
One of the historically significant sites in town is Foster Auditorium, which was the location of the Stand in the Schoolhouse Door. Despite Governor George C. Wallace’s futile efforts, Vivian Malone and James Hood became the first African Americans to register for classes since the university’s inception. Two incredibly famous sites on the local trail represent the march of Bloody Tuesday, a peaceful protest walking from First African Baptist Church to the Tuscaloosa County Courthouse in opposition to the segregation at the county courthouse. Other prominent locations along the way include Capitol Park, Druid Theater, the Alston building, and many more historically rich locations. A complete list of landmarks with their addresses can be found here, along with historical context and details surrounding each event.
Each landmark on this trail marks extremely important moments that happened in Tuscaloosa. The trail does a phenomenal job of bringing so many beautiful stories to life, whether it be the first black legislator or significant protests that occurred throughout the town. All of these stories come together in the end to paint a picture of Tuscaloosa’s role in the civil rights movement. This trail enables many to share their personal experiences regarding the fight for civil rights, and all of their stories deserve to be heard. The American heroes who marched and fought for their freedom deserve to be remembered and honored.
This trail has become such a vital piece of our country’s past, with its influence spanning far beyond the confines of the Tuscaloosa city limits. So, what are you waiting for? Take time this weekend to spend time with loved ones, enjoy the beautiful weather, and travel back in time to discover the rich history of Tuscaloosa!