Lessons to learn. Cultures to explore.
The African-American influence in Mobile can be felt in all areas of life. From the cultural, financial and agricultural influences to the educational, industrial and spiritual, their stories are interwoven into the fabric of Mobile’s diverse landscape. The Dora Franklin Finley African-American Heritage Trail features the sites and stories associated with prominent leaders and important sites in the Port City.
Africatown is one of the most significant sites on the trail and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It is located in the north part of Mobile and bordered by Jakes Lane, Paper Mill and Warren Roads. It was the settlement area for the last slaves transported by ship from Africa.
The schooner type ship, the Clotilda, entered Mobile Bay in 1860 in an illegal operation to drop slaves in Mobile. The ship’s captain, William Foster, was alerted that he may be caught by federal authorities. As a result he transferred his slave cargo to a riverboat at night and then burned the Clotilda at sea. The slaves were distributed to those with a financial interest in the Clotilda while leaving 32 for the ship’s owner, Timothy Meaher.
It was Meaher’s slaves that built a community that became known as Africatown. Cudjoe Lewis was the best known of the group as he gave interviews to many writers who studied Africatown during the early 20th century. Lewis died in 1935 at the age of 94 and was the last survivor of the original group.
There are 39 other sites along the trail with historic markers in front of homes, churches and businesses that contributed immensely to the quality of life in Mobile.
Saint Martin de Porres
The first hospital established specifically for the African-American community was built by the Catholic Archdiocese of Mobile in 1950. It was named for the son of a Spanish nobleman who was a freed black slave who cared for the sick and came up with numerous cures for illnesses.
Dr. H Roger Williams Drug Store
One of the early African-American drugstores was called, “Live and Let Live.” It was built in 1901 by Dr. H. Roger Williams. He was in numerous leadership positions with medical and civic organizations around town.
The Fort was built with African and Native American slaves. Additionally, five free black masons assisted with the expert masonry of the fort that was completed in 1711 to protect Mobile from enemy forces.
Basilica of the Immaculate Conception
The records of the parish date back to 1704 and record the births, baptisms, marriages and deaths of Mobile’s diverse origin.
Dave Patton House
A resourceful entrepreneur who constructed the foundation of the Saenger Theater, he was also involved in the construction of numerous roads in Mobile. The two-story Mediterranean Revival style house was completed in 1915 and now operates as a church.
Johnson and Allen Mortuary
The oldest black mortuary in Alabama, it was purchased in 1904 and has been operated by the Allen family since that date.
For the complete list of sites, a downloadable brochure and tour information for the Dora Franklin Finley African-American Heritage Trail go to www.dffaaht.org
For more on our coastal culture, check out our Day Trips and visit our partners’ websites.