Alabama: The First African Baptist Church Tuscaloosa

Black and white photo of the First Baptist Church
First African Baptist Church Photograph courtesy of the Alabama Historical Commission

Quick Facts

Location:
2621 9th Street Tuscaloosa, Alabama
Designation:
National Register of Historic Places
OPEN TO PUBLIC:
No

This church's pastor, Rev. T.Y. Rogers, Jr., and the local community led a successful campaign against segregation in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. In late spring 1964, the new county courthouse put up "whites only" signs in front of the bathrooms. Irate black citizens formed the Tuscaloosa Citizens for Action Committee, headed by Rev. Rogers, to challenge racially discriminatory practices.

The church became demonstration headquarters and the site of many local rallies and marches. A climactic June 9 rally outside First African Baptist forced the local segregation issue into federal courts. The rally was staged to test a local ban on protest marches and took place during the 75-day filibuster of the Civil Rights Bill by southern senators. Tuscaloosa's police commissioner arrested Rev. Rogers after he refused to call off the rally. Then police charged into the crowd, pushing it back into the church. Later, hoping to force the protestors outside where they could be easily arrested, police sprayed fire hoses and hurled tear gas through the church windows. Ninety-one protestors were jailed.

The violent incident spurred action on several pending and subsequent court cases. On June 26, a federal judge ordered Tuscaloosa County to remove the offensive courthouse signs, citing the 14th Amendment right to be free of "discrimination of any kind in the use and enjoyment of publicly-owned facilities."

 

Visit the National Park Service We Shall Overcome travel itinerary to learn more about the civil rights movement themes and histories. Also, be sure to check out Civil Rights subject site.

Last updated: August 17, 2018