Tag Archives: civil rights

Colored Masonic Temple – A Step Back in Birmingham’s Civil Rights History

Attached is exclusive video from inside the Colored Masonic Temple, also known as the ”Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Alabama”, courtesy of photographer Hunter Stone at Leeds Sign. He has been working with the Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge, Free and Accepted Masons of Alabama, for several weeks on a historical documentary project of the Lodge prior to its planned 2022 renovation.

See the Temple filmed in full prior to its planned renovation in 2022. Click HERE to view video if link doesn’t appear below.

Video courtesy of Hunter Stone, Leeds Sign

The Temple is located at 1630 4th Avenue North, among the black owned businesses of the 4th Avenue North historic business district, one of the few areas in Birmingham where black business owners were encouraged in the early 20th century. It was designed by Tuskegee University architect, Robert R. Taylor (who was the first black student to attend MIT), and was completed in 1924 at a total cost of $658,000, debt-free. At the time of its completion, it was the largest, most state of the art facility built and paid for entirely by African Americans in the entire world.

It quickly became the hub of Birmingham’s black community. In addition to housing offices for fraternal groups and business professionals, it included a 2,000 seat auditorium, and housed the Booker T. Washington Library, the first lending library open to black citizens of Birmingham.

Lodge Room – photograph by Lewis Kennedy

In 1932, it was the setting for one of the first major civil rights events in Birmingham in response to the Scottsboro Boys trial. Also known as ”the black skyscraper”, it was designated part of Birmingham Civil Rights National Monument by the National Park Service in 1963 as part of a city-wide desegregation effort.

The building was closed in 2011, but current renovation plans are underway and, upon completion, hopes to once again become the hub of the 4th Avenue business district. Read more about renovation plans HERE and the fundraising campaign HERE

Ancestral Memories preserved in Birmingham’s Oak Hill Cemetery

Oak Hill Cemetery’s tour guide and historian, Wilhelmina Thomas, is featured in a podcast/blog entitled “Love Lives in This Place/The Order of the Good Death”

Death is not frightening, according to Birmingham Historical Society Trustee Wilhelmina Thomas, who leads tours through the historic Oak Hill Cemetery. She is among a number of volunteers who dress in period costumes and portray a deceased character buried there. Ms. Thomas brings to life the stories of Birmingham’s founders, politicians, and civil rights leaders. But she particularly likes to draw attention to the black elitists who are buried there as they are often overlooked in Birmingham’s history.

“The majority of the Black people in the cemetery were business owners, pastors, and started churches,” Wilhelmina explained. “When we’re looking at the Black people buried at Oak Hill, in the late 19th century, they’d have been the elitist. They were defined by the color of their skin and by how much money they had. The Black people who are buried there were very well educated, spoke more than one language, and were trying to build a community.” 

In researching and telling the stories of residents buried there, Wilhelmina Thomas has become a compassionate voice of black history, and along with other volunteers, keeps Oak Hill residents ‘alive’.

Volunteers lead walking tours on the second Saturday of every month. Learn more and get tickets on Oak Hill’s website.