- Associated Press - Tuesday, July 5, 2016

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) - A group plans to develop a civil rights task force to document and discover Tuscaloosa’s history during the civil rights movement and create a trail that includes relevant sites.

“The concept of this is to form a working hub that will collect, preserve and archive” the history of Tuscaloosa’s civil rights in order to create a trail, said Scott Bridges, co-chairman of the task force.

Objectives of the task force include documenting existing and new inventory of historic materials, continue collection of oral histories, honor those who participated in civil rights events, make the public aware of these events and present the assembled materials through public programming like lectures and exhibits.

Multiple civil rights events occurred in Tuscaloosa, but the events aren’t included on the Alabama Civil Rights Trail.

“If you were to take an official tour (of civil rights historical places in Alabama), there would be no tour for you to take in Tuscaloosa,” Bridges said. “There’s not a brochure. There’s not an app. There’s not a tour guide. There’s no company that can offer that to you.”

“We want to create one in Tuscaloosa for tourism,” said city council and task force member Harrison Taylor, who partook in the civil rights events, called Bloody Tuesday.

Bloody Tuesday occurred in 1964 when peaceful black protesters, including Taylor, set out to march from the First African Baptist Church to the Tuscaloosa County Courthouse in an effort to abolish the whites-only drinking fountains.

Those marchers were beaten and tear gassed by law enforcement. Thirty-three black men, women and children were sent to the hospital and another 94 were arrested.

The First African Baptist Church would be highlighted on Tuscaloosa’s trail because of that event. Foster Auditorium, where Alabama Gov. George Wallace stood in the door to prevent the integration of the University of Alabama by two black students in 1963, would also be on the map.

Other locations could include Linton’s Barber Shop, where many of Bloody Tuesday’s protesters retreated and the owner has a miniature civil rights museum.

Taylor said another element of the task force may be to create a Tuscaloosa civil rights museum that would also be on the map.

These spots would be recognized by markers and be included on a brochure-type map, he said.

But tourism isn’t the only goal, Taylor said. He said he hopes the trail will be a source of education.

Bridges said Tuscaloosa needs to recognize the civil rights events and understand what happened and see how those events affected the future.

“When we connect with history, we connect with memories. We allow ourselves to gain perspective,” Bridges said. “If we’re not honest about our past, then our solutions to present problems will be skewed.”

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