Murphy African American Museum (4/28/15)
Murphy African-American Museum is the former house of Mr. and Mrs. Will Murphy. Mr. Murphy is known for being the first African American mortician in the Tuscaloosa area. Meanwhile, being a man of wealth and nobility, he purchased this property close to the line of segregated housing in 1923. This residency was the divide between white and black neighborhoods. This home is now an educational museum that houses exhibits and information that enhance the knowledge of African Americans contributions to the world.
During the course of the semester, we discussed a topic that correlates to one of the parts of this museum. The African Room is enclosed with many pieces of antique furniture, clothing, and instruments from Africa. However, in the center of a room is one of the most important pieces that is relevant to our course. There is a ship that sits center room that transferred slaves from Europe to the Americas. According the class lecture, most slaves were taken to Brazil and the Caribbean. This transportation of enslaved Africans is better known as the Transatlantic Slave Trade.
The Transatlantic Slave Trade was the selling of Africans as a commodity for labor. Therefore, slaves were seen as property and were sold as quickly as possible. Meanwhile, the ships were loaded with slaves who suffered brutal treatment. Many died during the transport; but for those who survived, there was work to be done to accumulate wealth for Europeans and whites. Upon their arrival, many slaves began to escape and later become “free”.
Arlington Antebellum Home and Gardens
One incredible historic site, which is now a museum, is the Arlington Antebellum Home and Gardens, located in Birmingham. The house was built in 1822 by Stephen Hall, as a simple four-room home. It was, however, a plantation house as well. Then, in 1842, legislator William Mudd bought the house, as well as the sixteen surrounding acres. He then built the massive mansion, known as The Grove, that we see today. He then lived there with his wife and many children. Because of its size and location, the house was used during the Civil War. Union General James H. Wilson established his headquarters at The Grove. From here he planned on moving to Selma in order to attack Confederate factories. Because Wilson decided to use the house during his raids, it remained unharmed throughout the entire Civil War, and is probably the reason why it is still standing today. Now, it serves as a museum and is fully furnished as if were back in the nineteenth century. It truly is a remarkable site. Throughout its eight bedrooms, many different paintings hand from the walls that date back to the 1800s. All of the furniture is neatly placed and looks pristine. There is also a second story in the house, containing four bedrooms, each of which has a fireplace. In the kitchen, many different cooking instruments of the time were set out for display. The house is definitely something to behold, as it is a standing piece of Civil War history that tells quite a story.
The Battle-Friedman House was constructed in 1835 by Alfred Battle, a wealthy North Carolina native. Located on Greensboro Avenue, known at the time as "Millionaire's Avenue," the Battle family was not as extravagant and flashy as their neighbors the Jemisons and Drishes. In fact, Alfred Battle's wife did not care for guests and especially hated Amelia Gayle Gorgas.
In 1875, the house was purchased by Bernard Friedman, a self-made immigrant from Hungary. He was much more hospitable than the Battles and opened up the pocket doors that separated the two parlor rooms from the entrance-way in order to allow for dancing and socializing.
The house has many interesting features. Perhaps the most interesting is the height of most of the objects within the house. The members of the Battle family and Bernard Friedman were not particularly tall (none of them were taller than 5'5"), so the doorknobs, furniture, and stair rails are very low. This house is also home to one of the first 88-key (full keyboard) pianos in America.
The house remained in the Friedman family until 1965 (Hugo Friedman played a key role in the hiring of Coach Bryant). Upon Hugo's death, the house was willed to the Tuscaloosa County Preservation Society. The Society still owns and operates the house today. The tour guides are very knowledgable about the house as well as the community of Millionaire's Avenue, an often unkown, yet very interesting, community.
The Murphy-Collins House, home to the Murphy African American Museum, was built by Will J. Murphy, Tuscaloosa's first African American mortician. It has since been repurposed as a museum focusing on the history and lifestyle of African Americans.
Upon entry, the living room features a portrait of Will J. Murphy and a beautiful fireplace, which was original to the house.
Perhaps the most intriguing exhibit is what is known as the Africa Room. This room contains many artifacts of early African American life including a scale model of a slave ship and native African necklaces. This room also serves as a dedication to the many African Americans who risked their lives for the abolishment of slavery and the Civil Rights movement.
I would highly recommend stopping by this museum as it is not only a beautiful home, but is also a great representation of the history of African American culture in Tuscaloosa.
The Tuscaloosa Museum of Art is a little-known gem of Tuscaloosa. Located off of Jack Warner Parkway, it is home to the Westervelt Collection of art. Jack Warner collected around one thousand works over the span of several decades. This collection is considered to be one of the greatest private collections of American Art.
At the entrance to the exhibit is the Colonial/American Revolution Gallery. President George Washington only personally posed for a few paintings in his lifetime and the Tuscaloosa MOA houses one of those paintings. This gallery also contained many portraits of Native American life during the Colonial era. Some of these paintings include depictions of standoffs between Native Americans and settlers. They also depicted games of lacrosse and wars between battling tribes.
Included in the Jack Warner's collection is a gallery of Civil War paintings. These paintings included a depiction of a Confederate camp that was hung in the Oval Office from 1976 to 1989. Another great painting was a depiction of Union soldiers at dawn awaiting the Battle of Gettysburg. This gallery also featured depictions of rural life at this time in history. One painting was of a young slave fishing while a young boy ate apples.
This museum is a great peek into the culture and daily life of Americans in the early days of our country's life. I would highly recommend taking a tour of the museum as it features some of the greatest and works of American Art.
10 April 2015
The Museum of Southern History (Review)
On my drive home to Orlando, Florida for Easter I decided to take a detour through Jacksonville, Florida to visit The Museum of Southern History, one of Florida’s few true American History museums. It features artifacts and information from many of the events discussed in our class, with a slight focus on the Civil War. Although the building where the museum is located is rather modest in size, the inside has no shortage of interesting exhibits and rare artifacts. One particularly impressive pieces I saw during my visit was the actual 34 star American flag that adorned President Lincoln’s casket as his body was toured through several northern cities.
An advantage this museum has from being smaller in size is the very helpful staff that is eager to teach you more about the events and artifacts featured in the exhibits. The staff also guides tours personally tailored to the touring groups age and interests.
Much of the museum is dedicated to the events of the Civil War. It included something particularly interesting to me, a focus on Florida’s contribution to the war, something often overlooked. They highlight the road to Florida deciding to leave the Union and join the confederation, as well as important figures and battles of the Sunshine State. On display are maps, diagrams explaining the storyline of the war, weapons, and other artifacts.
When searching for American history museums, I read that the operating hours and days seem to change all the time, so before I made the detour, I called to ensure they would be open when I made it to Jacksonville. Luckily, they were and I had the opportunity to visit a great collection of American History with a focus on my home state of Florida from a national perspective.
Over Christmas break, my family took a trip to New York City to explore and experience everything the city has to offer. One pertinent part of our trip was a tour of the American Museum of Natural History. We spent numerous hours exploring every floor and exhibit the museum had. There are a couple of exhibits that pertain to this course. One in particular was the “Hall of Plains Indians”. The exhibit consisted of highlighting military and ceremonial societies, which played an important role, as well as games, weapons, and agricultural tools. Distinctive clothing was emphasized and the exhibit as a whole painted a fantastic picture of what life was like as a Plains Indian. One of the coolest pieces in the exhibit was a Folsom Point arrowhead that is made of flint and is over 10,000 years old. Another exhibit was the “Hall of Eastern Woodlands Indians”. This was a similar display, but had a few different artifacts and props that were very interesting. One in particular was Menominee birchbark canoe, which was made entirely of forest products and was light enough to be carried from stream to stream. The exhibit details how the canoe was constructed and its importance in transporting people and goods through forested areas. This museum is definitely a place of interest when visiting New York. It depicts so many different pieces of life and is so fascinating to try and fathom some of the animals that lived in the past, and how incredible it is that people have reconstructed this so well.
Extra Credit- Tuscaloosa Museum of Art
Tuscaloosa Museum of Art contains art from 1775 and on. The museum houses many images relevant to our class studies. However, I believe there were a few pictures and monuments most prominent to the time period we are studying. There was one section of the museum, which highlighted the more important parts of our course. The monument within the museum that stood out to me most was the statue of John Hancock.
John Hancock played a key role in many important American events; such as, the Continental Congress, American Revolution, and signing of the Declaration of Independence. His noble uncle, from whom he inherited both social and political power, raised Hancock. Hancock became known as a loyalist and started his involvement in revolutionary politics. His political prowess led to participation in the announcement of independence from Great Britain.
In 1776, Hancock became a member of Stamp Act Congress. This elite group of individuals spoke against Britain’s taxation on paper goods. Hancock owned a ship named Liberty, which he attempted to use as a means to smuggle untaxed goods--but to no avail, the ship was impounded. However, Hancock is perhaps most infamously known for his signature on the Declaration of Independence.
It is clear that Hancock wanted freedom from Britain, due to his voice against many taxes and rules imposed by Britain. Hancock proves this dissidence by the signing of the declaration of independence. In previous history courses, we learned one of the reasons why Hancock wrote his signature so big. Hancock signed the Declaration of Independence in 1776 along with other influential men. However, Hancock believed that there should be no speculation regarding who signed the document. Therefore, he wrote his name large enough so anyone in Britain would not have to guess when seeing his signature.
Fun Fact: When visiting the museum, one of the workers informed me that his statue took two days to move into the museum. When deciding that Hancock would be a part of the museum, contractors had to re-frame the doorways because the statue could not fit through the door.
April 30, 2015
Tuscaloosa Museum of Art
The Tuscaloosa Museum of Art had a lot of interesting exhibits. A few exhibits caught my eye such as the portrait of Private McKinney. The portrait had just got there that day and she said that it was so big it couldn’t fit through the door. It was him dressed in 1760s New York City Private Uniform. The pictures the relate to the class were the confederate guerillas picture that showed three guys from the confederate on the ground pointing guns to shoot in the civil war. We talked about the formation of the civil war in 1861, one year before Abraham Lincoln first term as president. This was a fight with both guerrillas and the unionists in the south. She told us that the majority of the civil war guerrillas was called bush whackers. In the picture that I’m discussing it shows why they are called that because they are hiding in the forest lines. They used this as camouflage to attack others because they wouldn’t think that they were there so it was a surprised when they popped up and killed you. They usually had on regular clothes and didn’t have no affiliation with the confederate army. They were a confusion for the union army who couldn’t distinguish them from being peaceful and when they did think they were peaceful, the guerrillas would attack them. I thought this was very important piece to talk about because we talked a lot in class about the confederate.
Round house was constructed in the early 1860s. The purpose of the building was to guard the Alabama Corps of Cadets. While the cadets were on duty the little round house served them as a shelter from inclement weather. The house was also used as a place to host the University Drum Corps, which consisted of rented slaves. The little round house was one of the very few buildings on campus which survived the union forces distortion. It even survived the fire of 1865 when the whole campus was caught on flame. In 1871 this building became the office of the University surgeon, Later this building was used as a residence for all students even the ones who were not in the military. Later in 1888 the little round house became a storage where all university records were kept. At the end of 20th century the building became a memorial for all honor societies of the university.