‘The Church Street Story’: How a Huntsville community shaped the city and drove progress

WATCH THE FULL DOCUMENTARY HERE

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. - In this day and age, our busy lives and schedules don't always give us pause to think about the communities we live in or the ground we walk on, and who paved the way for us to be there.

At the corner of Church Street and Holmes Avenue, WHNT News 19 found a new home in 1987; but the history of these streets goes back decades.

It wasn't all that long ago they looked completely different. Without Church and Holmes and the community that first called them 'home,' Huntsville would not be the city it is today.

"It was an exciting time. Exciting vibe," remembers current Church Street business owner Hundley Batts.

In the 1960s it was "the place" to be and be seen, acting as the hub for the black community.

"It was such a thriving community," explained Olivia Brandon, a native Huntsvillian. "We were so connected to each other."

It may be hard to imagine how crowded it was at one time. Local musician and Huntsville native Ivy Joe Milan equated it to "ants on sweetbread." The community's epicenter was born out of oppression.

"It was the only place we had to go," said Milan.

But it became the center of a movement during the civil rights era. Sit-ins were held, protests were organized and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. spoke here several times.

Church Street and Holmes Avenue was a special place for Huntsville's black community, until those who lived it say in one big push, "it disappeared."

The city was growing in the 1960's and as Huntsville and military leaders planned for that growth, it meant uprooting the very district where the black community shopped, prayed and shared fellowship.

Watch WHNT News 19 on February 16 at 6:30 PM for The Church Street Story. A documentary produced by WHNT in partnership with African Americans for Completing the Story in Huntsville-Madison County.

Share your family story and preserve our history.

Contact the committee to learn how.

African Americans for Completing the Story in Huntsville-Madison County

www.completingthestory-al200.org

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