Black History

Alabama Leaders to Preserve, Memorialize Courthouse Jail that Held MLK

Just days before the nation commemorates the birth of Martin Luther King Jr., officials in Jefferson County, Alabama, shared plans to preserve a former courthouse jail where the slain civil rights leader was once confined.

A portion of the jail, which includes two cells and sits in downtown Birmingham, remains on the seventh floor. Memorialization of the historic building was recently granted unanimous approval for preservation and as a memorial by Jefferson County President Pro-Tem Lashunda Scales.

“In order for Jefferson County to truly move forward, we must first recognize our past mistakes, take corrective action and move forward with a sincere desire to embrace people from all walks of life,” Scales said in a statement.

King was confined to the jail in 1967 following his arrest after getting off an airplane in Birmingham. It was the last of numerous arrests for the civil rights activist, who was gunned down on April 4, 1968, at a Memphis, Tennessee, motel.

“As the first African American sheriff to represent Jefferson County, it is very important to memorialize the work of King and others,” said Sheriff Mark Pettaway. “I want to educate people and I want the public to understand what this man did for us. It was a continuing sacrifice.”

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