Tuscaloosa’s Bloody Tuesday: Church commemorates 59th anniversary of civil rights march

This year marks  the 59th anniversary of Tuscaloosa’s Bloody Tuesday, when more than two dozen protestors were injured at a local church when they organized a march downtown.

On Sunday, First African Baptist Church in downtown Tuscaloosa commemorated that event, which happened June 9, 1964. This year’s theme? “Freedom Ain’t Free.”

That day, Tuscaloosa County residents met at the church ahead of a march. Their goal? Integrating the water fountains and restrooms at the Tuscaloosa County Courthouse.

But the march hadn’t even started before marchers were attacked by members of law enforcement and the community. When the day was over, 94 people were arrested, and 33 men, women and children wound up in the hospital. That’s close to the number of people who were injured during Selma’s Bloody Sunday the following year.

First African Baptist Church Senior Pastor Michael Foster said this program gives him the opportunity to educate the younger generation on how far we’ve come and how much farther there is to go.

“It gives an opportunity just to kind of reminisce about the things that happened in the past and gives us an opportunity to learn about the rich history here in Tuscaloosa, specifically First African Baptist Church,” said Foster.

Irene Byrd was 16 that fateful day. Nearly six decades later, she said you should never forget where you come from.

“Look at what’s going on in the world today,” Byrd said. “We are doing the best that we can to educate our children and those who do not know. There are so many adults of all colors who do not understand or know the significance of Bloody Tuesday.”

Bloody Tuesday took place during the Civil Rights Movement and earned little to no recognition from national media. Civil Rights marcher Ulysses Lavender said there is one message from Bloody Tuesday he wants today’s young people to understand: Keep talking.

“We have to keep telling the story of the greatest injustices done in the city of Tuscaloosa by law enforcement officials and the fire department,” Lavender said.

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