TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) – Archivists and volunteers will soon begin sifting through decades of artifacts from a Tuscaloosa barbershop at the heart of the city’s civil rights history in a bid to determine which pieces from the vast collection should be included in a future museum.
Reverend Thomas Linton passed away in 2020, but before his death he collected a huge range of historical objects such as newspaper clippings or artifacts related to the civil rights struggle as well as other materials such as dozens of spittoons, a collection of shaving mugs and three wooden crank telephones, the Tuscaloosa News reported.
Next week, archivists and volunteers from the Tuscaloosa Civil Rights History and Reconciliation Foundation will begin browsing the collection. The team will make an inventory and a catalog of the treasure.
Tim Lewis is the co-chair of the foundation. He coordinates the preservation effort and has brought in people who have experience in preservation work. Tom Wilson, who retired from the University of Alabama Libraries and Bill Bomar, Executive Director of University of Alabama Museums are both part of the effort as well as the Ph.D. students and other volunteers.
“We’re just starting to take inventory of what’s in the boxes,” Lewis told the newspaper, “to tag, tag, take pictures and build a database.”
During the civil rights struggle, the barbershop was often a gathering place for those involved in the struggle. Autherine Lucy, who became the first black student at the University of Alabama, went to the store to clean up after racists threw food and trash at her. On June 9, 1964, activists protesting a separate courthouse crept into the store as opponents attacked them outside. Linton was in contact with United States Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy to arrange hospital care and bail for those beaten and arrested.
One of the artifacts collected from the barber shop is the poll tax receipt Linton paid to vote in 1954. Poll taxes were one of many ways segregationists used to keep black people from voting. Linton framed his receipt and hung it on the wall.
The filing work was originally supposed to be done at the barbershop, but after mold and a leaky roof were discovered, officials decided to gather the materials and bring them to a separate location.