Tuscaloosa, Ala. – One of the most historically symbolic buildings in Tuscaloosa, “The Block” was once home to prominent Black-owned businesses at the center of the Civil Rights Movement. A video documenting the area received the 2023 Southeast EMMY in the category of Historical/Cultural—Short Form Content. The Block housed businesses such as the famed barbershop of Rev. Thomas Linton, the first Black newspaper The Alabama Citizen, Maggie’s Diner, as well as sleeping rooms for itinerant Black railroad workers.
The Linton Barbershop Project, a collaboration between The University of Alabama and the Tuscaloosa Civil Rights History and Reconciliation Foundation, along with Linton family members, Felecia Linton and attorney Sue Thompson, is working to preserve the memory of this important site for future generations. In 2022, the Linton Barbershop Project worked with The University of Alabama Center for Public Television on a documentary short featuring Dr. John D. Vickers Jr., owner of The Block until 2010.
“It’s always a great honor to win an EMMY,” said executive producer Rob Briscoe. “Our team did a fantastic job, and this award tells me that people want this story to be told. We hope this is just the beginning”
The Block was a sanctuary for foot soldiers during the Civil Rights Movement, where mass meetings were held, and Autherine Lucy found refuge during her struggle to integrate The University of Alabama. It also highlighted the roles love, resilience and joy play in Black life and the fight for racial equality.
“This was a haven for Black folks who participated in the march and was also the first time I saw that Blacks could achieve something on an economic [level],” said Vickers. “I think this is a great idea to add this legacy to the civil rights struggle and the trail that people come to Tuscaloosa to [visit.]”
The Linton Barbershop Project committee includes Dr. Elva Bradley, retired assistant to the dean in the College of Communication & Information Sciences, Dr. Jessy Ohl, associate professor of Communication Studies, Dr. Scott Bridges, co-president of the Tuscaloosa Civil Rights History and Reconciliation Foundation and Rob Brisco.
In the next phases of the project, community involvement is key. “We need more stories about the barbershop and the rest of The Block in order to build momentum,” said Bridges. Those interested in supporting the project with any memories, documents or resources associated with The Block, contact Bradley (firstname.lastname@example.org).