Preserving the Historic Sullivan Building in Selma, AL
Preserving Black History.
In May 2022 National Park Service (NPS) Director Chuck Sams announced the award of $16,247,500 in African American Civil Rights grants. The Selma Center for Nonviolence, Truth, and Reconciliation was awarded $499,521 for the "Rehabilitation of the Historic Sullivan Building for use as a Community and Culture Center". To support the work the SCNTR is currently hiring for two new positions to oversee this grant. Please find more information below about the available positions.
Requests for Proposals (RFPs)
Please click on a position to access the associated RFP. Please complete and return the RFP before the February July 15th, 2023 deadline:
To read the full press release from the National Parks Service visit: https://www.nps.gov/orgs/1207/2022-african-american-civil-rights-grants.htm?utm_medium=email&utm_source=govdelivery
For more information or questions please contact Drew Glover.
Tel: (334) 526-0767
Address: 8 Mulberry Road, Selma, AL 36703
The significance of the Sullivan Building to the African American civil and voting rights struggle in Selma is critical. The book the SCNTR and the Local did (www.thelocal.coop/book) sums this up in more specific terms:
The Sullivan Building, on the corner of Franklin Street and Alabama Avenue, is a key African American commercial and professional landmark in Selma. Horace B. Sullivan, an undertaker, and his son H. Stanley Sullivan, a dentist, invested in its construction sometime after 1913. The notable brick building anchored generations of African American professionals including the dental office of Dr. Sullivan Jackson and the insurance agency of Samuel Boynton and his wife Amelia Pitts Boynton.
The building also hosted foundational voting rights activities. In 1936, Samuel Boynton and Charles J. Adams reformed the Dallas County Voters League (DCVL), first organized in the 1920s. Meetings were held in the building. By the early 1960’s, voter’s education classes were convened in the building by Marie Foster, a dental hygienist and sister of Dr. Sullivan Jackson. In 1962, Bernard Lafayette arrived in Selma as the director for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) Alabama Voter Registration Project. He and Colia L. Lafayette began their voter registration clinics in February 1963, initially from the Boyntons’ office in the Sullivan Building. Here, he met with the group that would become known as the Courageous Eight: Amelia Boynton, Marie Foster, Ernest Doyle, James Gildersleeve, Ulysses Blackman, Rev. Henry Shannon, Jr., Rev. J. D. Hunter, and Dr. F. D. Reese. This courage is more remarkable when we remember that a neighboring building, still across the street, used to house city hall on the first floor, the city jail on the second floor and the county jail on the third floor.
As the voting rights campaign gathered strength, DCVL and SNCC began meeting in the adjacent Masonic Hall and the Boyntons’ office next to Hinton Alley. These structures no longer exist, but this is the site for the proposed [and now existing] community garden. Evidence of voting rights history inside the building include a windowed door with a hand painted sign for the Dallas County Independent Free Voters Organization (founded in 1966). Another door with a cashier window includes a partial sticker with the slogan “One Man--One Vote.” Also visible on the sticker are the front and rear paws of a black panther, the famous logo of the Lowndes County Freedom Organization (also founded in 1966).
Some important pictures referenced in the history above and below of the building can be seen in the Project Images attachment. A more specific chronology of the historic and significant uses of the building is as follows:
1913-1922: Built by African Americans Horace B. Sullivan and son H. Stanley Sullivan, thought to be after 1913 given that the 1913 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map shows two (2) vacant 1-story buildings on the site at that date. On the 1907 map, they identify a restaurant (on the corner), barber (on Alabama) and a bicycle shop (on Franklin).
1922: H.B. Sullivan Undertaking Establishment (1922 Selma Times-Journal (STJ) ad showing building, also discussed in the 2003 and 2013 National Parks Service documents)
1950 or so: Boynton Insurance Agency (a 2013 National Park Service (NPS) document discusses vaguely, says “By mid-century the building was home to insurance agents and Dallas County Voters League leaders Samuel Boynton and his wife Amelia Pitts Boynton”)
1963: “Former headquarters of Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC)” (from 2003 NPS document, p. 20)
1965 or so: Miller Funeral Home; also SNCC & SCLC activities (2014 NPS brochure, “Sullivan Building: The SNCC and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) directed their local voting rights activities from this building”); lastly, Rev. James Reeb was taken to the building right next door to the Sullivan Building, before he was driven to Birmingham, only to die in the hospital (FBI map shows, see Project Images file)
1976: Kynard Drug Co., Inc (1978 NPS document, p. 28)
2000 - 2006 (maybe longer): Amosa Restaurant (says here (http://peacecorpsonline.org/crossroads/afrifood.html) opened in 2000; image of restaurant front, 2003 NPS doc, p. 128; & STJ article on an anti-violence meeting there in 2006)
Additionally, considering the importance of that region of the city as a predominantly African American part of Selma, with various Black businesses, the significance of the building only increases; that is only indicated by the presence of a New Deal-funded Black Community Center within half a block of the Sullivan Building. The location for the Community Center was chosen due to the close proximity of African-American businesses that were located in the now demolished three-story brick building at 21-25 Franklin Street (next door to the Sullivan Building, now containing raised-bed gardens installed by the Local). The many African American businesses in the neighborhood and the overall history of the building are reviewed in detail in this three-page overview compiled by the Local: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1FEnK71d7o2OQsi5Th-V0WFIoHel5EtBXBHpYnjzFZsw/edit#