Civil Rights Heritage

Catfish Alley

Experience a unique and integral part of Columbus’ charm and heritage by exploring the town’s African-American historical sites. One such place is Catfish Alley, a central meeting and business district for the African-American community in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. This area, named for the local catch once fried and sold along this street, sits in the heart of beautiful downtown Columbus.

Check out this great article from Mississippi Hills dating back to 19th century African American history and culture, labeled a time "striving and thriving in Columbus."

Discover Civil Rights Heritage attractions below!

Mural at Catfish Alley

Catfish Alley

Located between Main Street and College Street, Catfish Alley was a central meeting and business district for the Columbus African-American Community in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

Boats would come off the river and bring various items into the city. The alley was known for the smell of delicious catfish sandwiches and the name “Catfish Alley” was born. African Americans would bring horse drawn wagons full of vegetables and ice tubs full of large catfish into the alley.

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Concord CME Church (c. 1867)

One of the oldest churches in Columbus, Concord was an African-American church established in Lowndes County in 1867. Prior to the construction of a wooden structure, the congregation met in what was called a “brush arbor,” a collection of limbs and bushes gathered under a large tree in an open grove. The first wooden structure was constructed in 1908.

Contact Information:

Phone Number: 662.328.3356

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Dr. Theodoric V. James Home

Dr. James (believed to have been Columbus’ first African-American doctor) built this home between 1906 and 1912. It is a nice example of the Queen Anne Free Classic style in domestic architecture and is still owned by his descendants.

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Horace King Bridge Site

Born as a slave of African, European, and Native American (Catawba) ancestry in Chesterfield District, South Carolina, Horace King was the most respected bridge builder in west Georgia, Alabama, and northeast Mississippi from the 1830s until the 1880s.

 

King moved with his master, John Godwin (1798-1859), a contractor, to Girard, Alabama, a suburb of Columbus, where Godwin had the contract to build the first public bridge connecting those two states.

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Missionary Union Baptist Church (c. 1833)

The Missionary Union Baptist Church, organized in 1833, is the oldest African-American church in Northeast Mississippi. Organized during the days of slavery, services were held in the afternoons on Sundays and Wednesdays in the basement of the First Baptist Church.

Some of the first deacons and pastors of this church after it was organized and before it was charted were: Brothers Caesar Barry and Peter Evans, deacons; and Reverends Jack Hinton, George Powell,

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Penny-Savings Bank

The Penny-Savings Bank, founded in the early 1900s, was Columbus’ first African-American bank. W.I. Mitchell served as the president of the bank from 1907 to 1913. In addition to the Penny-Savings Bank, there are several other significant historical facts about this location.

According to an 1873 Business Directory of downtown, the site was the location of Robert Gleed’s grocery store. Gleed was the originator of the “Eight of May” Emancipation Celebration in Columbus,

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Queen City Hotel Site

Queen City Hotel was the center of the African-American business district in the mid-twentieth century. It was also the focus of lodging and entertainment for the African-American community. It was constructed, owned and operated in 1909 by Robert Walker, who was once a slave.

The hotel played host to such luminaries as Louis Armstrong, Pearl Bailey, B.B. King, Duke Ellington, Little Richard, and James Brown, as well as many professional baseball players.

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R.E. Hunt Museum

The R. E. Hunt Museum & Cultural Center is a registered 501(c)3 non-profit organization founded in 2011 and supported by alumni, voluteers and friends.

 

R. E. Hunt opened its doors during the late 1950s – educating thousands of African American students during a time when segregation and racism plagued our society. Following school integration in 1971, R. E. Hunt remained a viable educational asset to all students in Columbus,

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Robert Walker Home Site

Robert Walker, born before the Civil War, was a slave who was a house servant for the Walker family. Here, he was trained as a butler and caterer. In 1908, he opened the Queen City Hotel, the first African-American owned and operated hotel in Columbus.

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Sandfield Cemetery

Sandfield Cemetery is the late nineteenth century burial site of several African-American leaders and businessmen which include the following: Robert Gleed, Mississippi State Senator (1870-1876); Richard D. Littlejohn, publisher and businessman; W. I. Mitchell, Educator, first black principal of Union Academy School, and president of the “Penny-Savings Bank”; Jack Rabb, Businessman, who also bought his own freedom; Simon Mitchell, Justice of the Peace during the Reconstruction Era.

On Martin Luther Drive South and College Street

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Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church (c. 1821)

Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church originated under a brush arbor by a few determined and devoted Christian slaves. In 1821, the land for the church was chartered. It has been determined, however, that the original church was demolished and re-erected at its present location in 1886. It was later remodeled in 1942.

Contact Information:

Phone Number: 662.327.9575

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The Haven (c. 1843)

NATIONAL REGISTER HISTORIC DISTRICT

Built by Isaac Williams and his brother, Thomas, both of whom, were “free men of color” from South Carolina. Isaac as a laborer and Thomas was a blacksmith; both were considered prosperous and had their own blacksmith shop on the corner of the property. This raised cottage is reinforced with handmade bricks, and its chimneys still stand perfectly straight after over 150 years. The broad, low-gable roof is typical of South Carolina low-country architecture.

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Union Academy

As indicated by the state historic marker on 9th Avenue South, the original Union Academy was located at the site of a former Confederate Arsenal just south of the railroad tracks.

Documents indicate that in late 1865 the Freedmen’s Bureau opened a school for freed slaves at what was known as the Wayside Hospital building. The warehouse-type structure on the south side had been used as a hospital during the Civil War. The Freedman’s Bureau school,

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W.I. Mitchell Home Site

In 1877, W.I. Mitchell became the first black principal of Union Academy, the first African-American school. Prior to becoming principal, he was also a teacher. From 1907 to 1913, he served as president of The Penny-Savings Bank, the first African-American bank in Columbus, Mississippi.

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