HUNTSVILLE, Ala.- A crowd gathered on the corner of Church and Holmes in Downton Huntsville this afternoon to unveil the new Church Street Historical Marker as a part of Huntsville’s Juneteenth celebration.
African Americans lived, worked, and thrived on Church Street, but only fragments remain of that history today.
“I have heard them tell the stories about the Sweet Shop, about the BBQ place. I talked to a lady who said ‘my mother had a beauty shop on church street,” says Dianne Reynolds Chair of the Marker Committee.
This marker is a culmination of those stories in hopes that its presence will help passersby learn of Huntsville’s rich heritage and the Church Street community that once was.
“They’re all saying ‘Do you remember?’ or ‘I remember when.’ That is what we want. That is the meaning of that marker,” says Reynolds.
Reynolds says when future generations look at this marker, she hopes they realize that once upon a time, there were two separate parts of Huntsville.
“Businesses are now scattered all over this town. you are not relegated to a particular section of town or a particular place. that you are where you are. you may move where you want. you may live where you want. your business is where you want,” says Reynolds.
She says people must not forget that for the African American Community in Huntsville, it all started near Church Street.
“These are the stories the children need to hear. because the church street that their parents knew is dying,” says Reynolds.
The festivities for Juneteenth wrapped up at the Historic Huntsville Depot and Roundhouse on Church Street this afternoon… with “The Festival of Voices.”
Costumed actors portrayed prominent black Huntsville-Madison County citizens who lived during the 19th and 20th centuries.
Event organizers say this is a way to help complete the story of Huntsville’s history.
“Completing the story of the African American narrative to Huntsville history and this state. and African American contributions to this city, state, and nation,” says Juneteenth 2019 Chairperson William Hampton.
This weekend’s Juneteenth celebration is part of the Alabama African American Bicentennial Initiative dedicated to celebrating 200 years of African Americans’ impact in Huntsville and Madison County.