11.16.20 – TUSKEGEE 

Tuskegee –– where in 1957 local government officials sought to gerrymander the city’s limits in an attempt to diminish the number of black votes in upcoming elections.  Act 140 transformed Tuskegee’s boundaries into a 28-sided shape and consequently disenfranchised the majority of the city’s black voters.  On June 25, more than 3,000 black citizens met at Butler Chapel AME Zion Church in support of a proposed boycott of white owned businesses.  Termed “trade with your friends,” the boycott continued for four years until the US Supreme Court ruled that the state of Alabama had violated the 15th Amendment’s guarantee of a citizen’s right to vote.  The city’s boundaries were returned to their original positions in 1961, and the boycott proved economically devastating for white-owned businesses that preferred to go out of business rather than give blacks the right to vote.*

Today, the majority of businesses around Tuskegee’s city square are closed and sit empty. The building seen in image 1 was once owned by Murray Washington, third wife of Booker T. Washington, and is where Mrs. Washington directed a school for freed slaves.  The town’s Confederate monument, erected in 1906 by the Daughters of the Confederacy and located in the city square, has been covered with tarpaulins since June 2020 while the city leaders seek to have it legally removed and relocated (image 5).

*Info courtesy city of Tuskegee historical marker