Dora Franklin Finley African American Heritage Trail Mobile, Alabama

Eric Finley, host of the DFFAAHT

The Finley African American Heritage Trail in Mobile takes in depth look at the history and contributions of African Americans from the founding of Mobile to the present.  While the trail became the vision of Dora Franklin Finley, it was City Councilman, William Carroll that suggested an African American Tour in Mobile.  Tasking Dora Finley with the challenge, he certainly tapped the right person.  Mrs. Finley worked tirelessly for five years to find the significant places in Mobile of the African American story and heritage.  Today, her legacy lives on in the success of Mobile’s preeminent African American Tour.  With some forty-three historical markers on the tour, it’s best to take some time to investigate them all.

Whether you simply download the Trail brochure and seek out the trail markers on your own or you take the tour in the comfortable air conditioned DFFAAHT van, you will not be disappointed with the stories you will learn while on the trail. There are so many stories on the trial, I have selected just a few:

STOPS ON THE TRAIL

Slave Market

The John Ragland Slave Market where slaves were auctioned sold off to be owned by whoever bought them.  Many went to other regions of Alabama and children were often separated from parents and sold. 

Clotilda

The Clotilda was the last slave ship to enter the US when in 1860, Timothy Meaher, a local plantation owner made a bet that he could smuggle one hundred slaves into Mobile.  Slavery was legal at that time but an 1807 Act prohibited the importation of slaves. The Union authorities were aware of the ships’ return but to complete his bet, Meaher sent out a paddleboat in order to get the slaves ashore. Captain William Foster then sailed the Clotilda up river and burned it to destroy any evidence of the journey.  The slaves were dispersed throughout the area.  Both Foster and Meaher were arrested in 1861 but the Union authorities soon left and they never put to trial. 

Africatown

Africatown is where many of the slaves from the Clotilda settled.  Cudjoe Lewis (Kalooza) is the most famous survivor of the Clotilda.  He died in 1935 at the age of ninety-five.  Cudjoe did interviews with author Zora Nell Hurston and Barracoon was written in Cudjoe’s dialect.  The manuscript was maintained at Howard University since it was penned. The manuscript was finally published in 2018.    The Africatown/Plateau Cemetery was established 1876.  A five foot headstone was placed in the cemetery to mark Cudjoe Lewis’ passing.  Many of the descendents of the Clotilda are buried in cemetery.  Recently, a mural of Clotilda was completed opposite the cemetery on the road that leads toward the Cochran-Africatown Suspension Bridge. The bridge was built in the 1990’s to honor Africatown.

Union Missionary Baptist Church

Union Missionary Baptist Church across the street was established by Cudjoe Lewis in 1867.  Sculptor April Livingston created a bust of Lewis which was place front of church in June, 2017.

Stone Street Baptist Church

Stone Street Baptist is oldest Baptist church in Alabama and was established in 1806.  The deed was transferred to African American congregation in 1843.  

Hammerin Hank Aaron

Honoring Mobile’s Baseball Heritage, the trial pays tribute to “Hammerin” Hank Aaron who played baseball at Central High School.  Aaron is one of five African American Mobilians to be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame, along with Willy  McCovey, Satchel Paige, Ozzie Smith, and Billy Williams.

Notable Mobilians

A mural was painted on N. Claiborne Street at the intersection of Dauphin Street to honor three prominent African American Mobilians:

Dr. Regina Benjamin is a former Vice Admiral in the US Public Service Commissioned Health Corps and served as Surgeon General under President Obama. She is the founder of the Bayou La Batre Rural Health Clinic.

Dr. Lonnie Johnson a graduate of Williamson High, former US Air Force Officer, NASA engineer, and inventor of the hugely successful Super Soaker.  Maj. General J. Gary Cooper a U.S. Marine, the first African American a Marine Corp infantry company, Ambassador to Jamaica and President of Commonwealth Bank.

A Slave No More

Wallace Turnage was a slave in Mississippi the 1800’s and ran away five times. His owner brought him to the Ragland Slave market.  Wallace would run away for the last time during in 1864, when after being whipped by his owner, he walked away and eventually ended up at a Union encampment on Dauphin Island, a small island off of Mobile.  It was there he told the Union soldiers everything he could about Mobile in return for a job.  He would ultimately relocate to Chicago where he wrote a book about his life, A Slave No More.

These are only a small selection of the stories of African Americans you will learn when on the Finley Heritage Trail.  Seek out this eye opening historical tour when you are in Mobile. 

“You can’t know where you’re going until you know where you’ve been.”

http://www.dffaaht.org/index.php

Mobile Medical Museum Mobile, AL

Mobile Medical Museum

The Mobile Medical Museum at 1664 Springhill Avenue is housed in the Vincent-Doan-Walsh house. This house is the oldest privately owned home from the 1800’s that still stands in Mobile and has been the site of the museum since 2003. The Medical Museum was founded in 1962 by Dr. Samuel Eichold, II.

Daryn P. Glassbrook, PhD, Executive Director of the museum gave me a guided tour of this fascinating place. Tours are available by appointment. The museum welcomes approximately eleven hundred visitors each year which is significant for this specialized museum.

Orbit, Explorations of the Eye

The temporary exhibit, “Orbit, Explorations of the Eye”, covering the centuries of ophthalmological practices began our tour. Entering the main gallery area, I was introduced to Howard the Leach, he harkens back to the very early days of medicine when blood-letting was thought to be a cure for some illnesses.

 

 

Moving onto Mobile’s medical past, we discussed Dr. Josiah Knott’s role in determining the cause of the yellow fever outbreak. I also learned about the formation of the Medical College of Alabama, founded in 1859 that would become Knott’s legacy.

Main Gallery

Two large anatomical models, pre-dating the Civil War, one illustrating the Lymphatic system and one the Nervous system, dominate the main exhibit room. These models were most likely used for teaching at the Medical College.  These colorful displays were brought over from Europe and how they survived the Civil War occupation is a mystery.

 

 

J. Marion Sims, the father of gynecology, has an unequalled story in the history of medical practice. Sims is responsible for the invention of several pieces of gynecological equipment but does have a less than stellar reputation. It is said that while treating his female patients, many of whom where female slave in the 1840’s, he did not use anesthesia during their treatment. Many thanks to those women who endured so much to help those who have benefited from the treatments he pioneered.

William Rankin, an engineer and physicist was responsible for developing the first x-ray to be produced using cathode tubes in 1913. His first x-ray was that of his wife’s hand. He is considered the father of diagnostic radiology and was awarded the first Nobel Prize for Physics.

Skeletons

You would think you’d find skeletons in a medical museum. Here there are two both of which date back about 120 years. Both are of Asian heritage. They also have several human skulls that are used as teaching tools.

Iron Lung

In the rear gallery of the museum is an Iron Lung which was used between the 1930s and 1950s during the polio epidemic. Although helpful in the patient’s treatment, it could not have been a comfortable experience to have been contained in one of these

 

machines.

Iron Lung Treatment area

 

Heart Lung Machine

Alongside the Iron Lung is a Heart Lung machine that was used in the process of heart transplants. You can learn how both of these machines contribution to life saving procedures.

 

 

 

In the garden, the museum is awaiting on installation of three new sculptures. An herb garden is featured where traditional medicinal herbs are grown.

The Mobile Medical Museum is a small unique museum with countless stories to tell. I encourage everyone to seek this out the museum to learn the stories of Mobile’s rich medical past. This museum adds a distinctive flavor to Mobile’s own unique history.

https://www.mobilemedicalmuseum.org/