It’s been 57 years since a group of peaceful protestors planned to march from the First African Baptist Church to the Tuscaloosa County Courthouse on June 9, 1964. Their purpose: stand against segregated drinking fountains and restrooms at the county courthouse. Protestors barely made it out of the church before they were attacked by awaiting officers and angry white citizens. This historic day in Tuscaloosa is known as “Bloody Tuesday.” Most of us are familiar with a similar civil rights march named “Bloody Sunday,” which occurred the following year in Selma, Alabama. The 1964 march in Tuscaloosa received little recognition compared to other documented civil rights movements. However, this brave act from young students, activists and leaders made a great impact on the city.

Segregation was the norm in the state of Alabama during the 1960s. It was also encouraged by former state Gov. George C. Wallace as he once famously stated: “segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever.” In June of 1963, just one year prior to the courthouse protest, Wallace temporarily blocked the entrance of Black students at The University of Alabama. Since this day, community members and leaders have continued to fight and advocate for change while taking small steps towards equality.

Harrsion Taylor, former Tuscaloosa city council president, was a foot soldier in the civil rights movement of 1963-1964. He was only 17 years old when “Bloody Tuesday” took place. Taylor stood amongst other community leaders and students to march from First African Baptist church to the Tuscaloosa County Courthouse. The Tuscaloosa native is now 73 years old and stands proud of all that Tuscaloosa has accomplished since that historic Tuesday. Taylor said he believes Dinah Washington’s rendition of “What a Diff’rence a Day Makes” should be dedicated to the city of Tuscaloosa.

“I’m proud of my hometown, we’ve come a long way,” said Taylor. “The march changed Tuscaloosa not just for Blacks, but for fair minded Whites too.”

Taylor reflected on his historic journey from marching alongside great leaders like Rev. T.Y. Rogers Jr. to becoming the first Black city council president. During his time on the city council, Harrison continued to enforce changes within City Hall to improve diversity. He served as a member of the Tuscaloosa city council for 24 years and as president for 12 years. So far, there has yet to be another Black city council president. 

“I’ve been a few firsts in things, but I don’t care about being the first, as long as I’m not the last,” said Taylor. 

Since “Bloody Tuesday,” Tuscaloosa has slowly become a more diverse and inclusive city. People of color started to hold positions of power within the city council. They also broke barriers and became state attorneys, lawyers, judges and officers. However, racism and injustice remains an issue in the state of Alabama and across the country. Taylor said he is proud of the activism and leadership shown by the younger generation. National movements like Black Lives Matter have changed the impact of protests by utilizing smart phones and social media.

“I think the Black Lives Matter Movement is needed. That’s one movement where I’ve seen young Whites come out and join right away,” Taylor said. “TV made a big difference across this country because people were able to see injustice for themselves.”