Updated: May 4
There are only seven Saturdays in a given year when football is the center of the universe in Tuscaloosa. Happily, other attractions are ready to be enjoyed during the other 358 days.
TUSCALOOSA CIVIL RIGHTS TRAIL
As a sad and embarrassing part of Alabama's history, much of the world knows about Bloody Sunday, March 7, 1965, which happened in Selma on the Edmund Pettus Bridge. But what I learned recently was that Tuscaloosa had a Bloody Tuesday nine months earlier, June 9, 1964, in front of the First African Baptist Church. That confrontation took place almost exactly a year after then-Governor George Wallace stood in front of Foster Auditorium in a symbolic attempt to block Vivian Malone and James Hood from registering as students at the University of Alabama on June 11, 1963. I remember watching that scene on television. I had just turned 13.
A tour of Tuscaloosa's Civil Rights History Trail, highlighting 18 sites, is sobering and enlightening. You can download a map and follow the trail on your own, but if you have a chance to go with a guide, I highly recommend it.
I decided to do a little more digging to find out what happened to Vivian Malone and James Hood. Vivian stayed at the university and received her Bachelor of Arts degree in Business Management in 1965, making her the first black to graduate from the University of Alabama. She eventually married the man, Mack Arthur Jones, who had been assigned to be her driver while at the university. He became an obstetrician. Vivian's brother-in-law was Eric Holder who served as U.S. Attorney General under President Barack Obama.
James Hood left the university after two months but returned in 1995 to pursue a doctorate degree. On May 17, 1997 (that date stands out in my mind because it was my 47th birthday), Hood received a Ph.D. in interdisciplinary studies. He attended George Wallace's funeral in 1998, urging people to forgive Wallace since Wallace had made a public apology for this actions on that day in 1963.
Tuscaloosa is blessed with the benefits of its location along the Black Warrior River. Fortunately, the town fathers have maximized that location with a two-lane, 4+ mile, paved and lighted trail that is perfect for jogging, strolling, dog-walking, and biking.
The Tuscaloosa Riverwalk begins at the Amphitheater and ends (for now) at Manderson Landing. Placed along the trail are benches, trees begging for hammocks, gazebos, the new Randall Family Park and Trailhead, and a small collection of shops and restaurants. I particularly enjoyed reading the significant historical events of Tuscaloosa etched into the sidewalk at Manderson Landing.
The riverwalk is both family-friendly and student-friendly. A true asset for the locals, as well as for visitors. I wasn't in town on a Saturday, but I understand that every week from 7:00 a.m. until noon a great Farmer's Market takes place along the Riverwalk at 1900 Jack Warner Parkway, a few steps from the Tuscaloosa Visitors Center.
Next Monday I will share 5 restaurants recommendations, then conclude this series with a few more suggestions for spending your time.