Mobile Completes its African American Heritage Trail

In 1864, after four unsuccessful escape attempts, an Alabama slave named Wallace Turnage trekked through the swamp along the shore of Mobile Bay and emerged a self-emancipated man. Today, 145 years later, Turnage's story has been memorialized with a marker on the Mobile African American Heritage Trail in Mobile, Ala. 

Last month, 200 people attended a dedication ceremony and watched city officials unveil the Wallace Turnage marker. Also unveiled were plaques commemorating the Mobile slave market and Michael Donald, a Mobile teenager who was lynched by the Ku Klux Klan in 1981. A wrongful death suit resulted from Donald's murder and ultimately led to the bankruptcy of the United Klans of America.

"Some of the markers designate pretty uncomfortable things," says John Sledge, architectural historian for the Mobile Historic Development Commission. "I really give the community high marks for not shying away from a difficult past." 

There are 32 marked sites on the trail, an ongoing project of the Mobile Historic Development Commission. With input from the community, a committee carefully chose each site to represent the different narratives of Mobile's African American history.

The trail's last three markers unveiled in January complete the first part of the commission's plan. Although they foresee adding more sites over time, the committee is now creating an online tour, a bus tour, and a walking tour with an audio guide, scheduled to begin in April. 

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