TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) — Archivists and volunteers will soon begin combing through decades of artifacts from a Tuscaloosa barbershop central to the city’s civil rights history with the goal of determining which pieces in the vast collection should be included in a future museum.
Rev. Thomas Linton died in 2020 but before his death he collected a gigantic array of historical items such as newspaper clippings or artifacts related to the civil rights fight as well as other materials such as dozens of spittoons, a collection of shaving mugs and three wooden hand-crank telephones, the Tuscaloosa News reported.
Next week, archivists and volunteers from the Tuscaloosa Civil Rights History and Reconciliation Foundation will start combing through the collection. The team will make an inventory and catalogue of the treasure trove.
Tim Lewis is the foundation’s co-president. He is coordinating the preservation effort and has brought in people who have experience in preservation work. Tom Wilson, who’s retired from the University of Alabama libraries and Bill Bomar, executive director of the University of Alabama museums are both part of the effort as well as Ph.D. students and other volunteers.
“We’re just starting the process of going through, to inventory what’s in the boxes,” Lewis told the newspaper, “to tag, label, take pictures, and put together a database.”
During the struggle for civil rights, the barbershop was often a gathering place for people involved in the struggle. Autherine Lucy, who became the first Black student at the University of Alabama, went to the shop to clean up after racists threw food and garbage on her. On June 9, 1964 activists protesting a segregated courthouse ducked into the shop as opponents attacked them outside. Linton was in contact with U.S. Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy to arrange hospital care and bail money for those beaten and arrested.
One of the artifacts gathered from the barbershop is the receipt from the poll tax Linton paid to vote in 1954. Poll taxes were one of the many ways that segregationists used to try to keep Black people from voting. Linton framed his receipt and hung it on the wall.
The archival work was originally going 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.