The Glory of Tuscaloosa’s Black History
At this year's Academy Awards, John Legend and Common accepted an Oscar for their song, "Glory," which was awarded the Best Original Song. The song was featured in the movie "Selma."
"Selma" highlighted a three-month period in 1965, when civil rights workers led a campaign to gain equal voting rights. It also featured the Selma to Montgomery March, which marked the peak of the modern civil rights movement. Just a few months later, President Lyndon Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act of 1965, one of the most significant victories for the civil rights movement.
Here's a sad reality of Selma, the city: While the eyes of the world tear up while discovering its historical significance, here we are just 77 miles away and a vast majority of Blacks in Tuscaloosa have never gone to the city. It would take an average of one and a half hours for a person driving the speed limit to make it to this jewel. Yet, it's a journey not seen as necessary for many.
In college, I was fortunate enough to become roommates with a young lady from Selma. So, I had the opportunity to learn about the city and its heritage from her and her family. I went home with her a number of times, and she beamed with pride while taking me on a "Black history tour" of places of historical significance.
This ignited a bit of curiosity in me. If so many things happened in Selma, Montgomery, and Birmingham, what happened in Tuscaloosa during the Civil Rights Movement? I began my own quest for knowledge and discovered the history of the First African Baptist Church, Bloody Tuesday in Tuscaloosa, I learned why the local African American museum was named after someone named Murphy, and in a small tour of the area near the museum and church, I was taken to Greenwood Cemetery, where I learned of Solomon Perteet, a free man of color who was born in 1789 and had amassed a nice estate from both is work and in lawsuits he'd won against whites.... During slavery! Read more about him here.
I find it a bit sad how many of us don't realize the magnitude of greatness in our own back yards. We know all about Martin Luther King, Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth, etc. but don't know of Rev. T.Y. Rogers, Rev. Thomas Linton, Joseph Mallisham, or Nathaniel Howard. We don't honor our heroes or history until its given validation by outsiders. It's a shame we don't see the glory outside of football.