Category Archives: Historic Preservation

100th Birthday Observance of Reverend Fred L. Shuttlesworth

Historic Bethel Baptist Church, in conjunction with the Greater New Light Baptist Church of Cincinnati, Ohio, will celebrate the 100th birthday of Freedom Fighter, Reverend Fred L. Shuttlesworth, on March 18, 2022. The event will originate out of Cincinnati but will be simulcast in Birmingham. Dr. Carolyn Shuttlesworth, Reverend Shuttlesworth’s youngest daughter, will be in Birmingham for the event. 

Bethel Pastor Thomas L. Wilder has asked Mayor Randall Woodfin and a few other dignitaries in Birmingham to come and say a few words regarding what Reverend Shuttlesworth’s life and legacy means to Birmingham. The particulars of the celebration are as follows:

5:00 p.m. – Tree planting service at Bethel Baptist Church, 3233 29th Avenue North

5:30 p.m. – Carlton Reese Memorial Choir – New Bethel at 3200 28th Avenue North

6:00 p.m. – Simulcast begins at New Bethel – 3200 28th Avenue North

Reception following the Simulcast

Special thanks to Martha Bouyer, educational coordinator for Bethel Baptist Church and Birmingham Historical Society Trustee

Slossfield, Midwifery, and Birmingham Historical Society – Then & Now

At its annual meeting on February 28th, the Birmingham Historical Society celebrated its 80th year. James White first shared a report on its financial history and its founders, as well as the current safeguards that protect its financial future. The Society’s stated goals of research, publication, and education often provide new owners with information that can enhance their property with unexpected historical perspective. Slossfield Maternity Center is an example of just that and three speakers highlighted its importance from their unique perspectives.

The Slossfield Community Center was added to the National Trust of Historic Places in May of 2008. It was purchased in 2018 by The Salvation Army with plans for it to be once again used as a core community center.

Slossfield is a complex of concrete buildings at the Finley Avenue exit off I65, built in the 1930’s and surrounded by industrial facilities including ACIPCO, Sloss, US Pipe, coal mines and quarries. One of the buildings, The Slossfield Maternity Center, was constructed in 1939 by WPA labor to train black physicians and nurses and improve prenatal care and delivery in one of the most underserved and poorest areas of Birmingham at that time. Under the leadership of Dr. Thomas Boulware, Jr., Slossfield became the most successful of four demonstration centers built by the U.S. Public Health Service in the late 1930’s.

The first speaker, Sharon Holley, is Director of the new nurse-midwifery program at UAB School of Nursing, and is passionate about the role that midwifery can continue to play in providing safe births and healthy babies. In researching Slossfield via UAB archives, she presented statistics illustrating that Slossfield had become a model of good prenatal and obstetric care reducing the infant and mother mortality rate in that area by up to 92%.

At that time, blacks could only be admitted to hospitals in Birmingham by white physicians. The few black doctors were not able to admit patients to hospitals until 1952 when Holy Family Hospital was built in Ensley. Consequently, most black births prior to that time were at home, assisted by midwives, as the Slossfield Maternity Clinic was reserved for high risk deliveries, or first time mothers. Holley spoke about how we can use Slossfield’s historic example in creating a program for today’s mothers.

Dr. Thomas Boulware, Jr. came to Birmingham from Missouri in 1929 to serve in Norwood Clinic (soon to be known as Carraway Hospital) under Dr. Charles Carraway. He was quite young and immediately became interested in caring for the underserved communities of Birmingham. Dr. Boulware established the first indigent maternity clinic at Hillman Hospital (UAB), and served as medical director of Slossfield Maternity Clinic, training all the doctors and nurses on staff there.

The second speaker, Dr. Boulware’s son, Thomas Boulware, III, told stories of his father’s commitment to his patients, in one instance, traveling back & forth from North Birmingham to Woodlawn to deliver two babies born on the same evening. He told of his father delivering three generations multiple times, and another in which he had delivered eighteen members of the same family. And he highlighted many of the achievements of his father over an esteemed 60-year medical career in which he delivered over 26,000 babies.

The last speaker, John Stamps, is Director of Operations at the Salvation Army. He pointed out that the Salvation Army is actually a Christian outreach church despite being known primarily for their humanitarian efforts. The Salvation Army purchased the abandoned and deteriorating Slossfield in 2018. They have taken on the challenge of restoring it as a core community center, bringing back many of its original services. John Stamps outlined their plans, and with his new understanding of its origins, hopes to re-establish its significance to the community.

Research and history once again come full circle.

Celebrating 150 Years of Religious & Civic Growth: A Panel Discussion

“Sacred Spaces, Civic Places,
and the Building of a Magic City”

February 27, 2022
3:00PM to 4:30PM
First United Methodist Church Sanctuary
518 19th Street North
Birmingham, AL 35203

Panelists:

  • Pam King, Assistant Professor of History and Historic Preservation, UAB Dept of History (retired)
  • Jim Baggett, Head, Archives Department, Birmingham Public Library
  • Barry McNealy, Historical Content Expert, Birmingham Civil RIghts Institute & Sixteenth Street Baptist Church Historian

Participating Congregations:

  • St. Paul’s United Methodist Church, 1869
  • First United Methodist Church, 1872
  • Cathedral Church of theAdvent, 1872
  • First Presbyterian Church, 1872
  • The Cathedral of St. Paul, 1872
  • First Baptist Church, 1872
  • Sixteenth Street Baptist Church, 1873
  • Temple Emanu-EL, 1882

This event is free and open to the public and childcare will be available


In 1871 the City of Birmingham was incorporated by the Elyton Land Company on farmland that would soon be the juncture of two major railroads. The location had everything – coal, iron ore and limestone, all necessary for the soon to be thriving industrial city.

At that time, there existed an African-American Methodist congregation that, according to church records, began meeting in tents in 1869. In 1872 Elyton gave five land grants to establish houses of worship for white congregants of five major denominations – Catholic, Presbyterian, Episcopalian, United Methodist and Baptist.

In 1873 the first Black Baptist church was established downtown. Then in 1882 the first temple was built for the growing Jewish community. These eight congregations comprise Birmingham’s earliest houses of worship, and they are still thriving today and have over a hundred years of sacred and civic commitment to the Magic City..

View the reprint of the 1997 newsletter with MAP here