Booker City

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Booker City was a short-lived project to develop a town for middle-class African American residents on a 410-acre site on the Kansas City, Memphis & Birmingham Railroad north of Ensley.

Booker City was part of a movement to establish all-Black towns in the South. It followed the development of the town of Douglass, in southeastern Pratt City, which was notably "administered and occupied exclusively by negroes." In December 1901 John W. Minor, H. M. Horton, E. B. Pennington and J. M. Perkins incorporated the Booker City Land Company with $25,000 in capital.

The projected town was named for famed Tuskegee Institute president Booker T. Washington. A public park and the principal street, Washington Avenue, were likewise named for the educator. The company employed real estate agent E. W. Whips to market home, business and truck-farm sites for sale.

In 1901 the company negotiated the sale of 20 acres, and donated an additional 10 acres, to the Colored Methodist Episcopal Church for construction of a new industrial and normal school, initially called Booker College or Booker City High School. Over the course of the next year, as construction of a dormitory proceeded, exploratory shafts were drilled in the area by the Tennessee Coal, Iron & Railroad Company (TCI).

Booker College opened in late 1902 and soon merged with another CME school in Thomasville, Clarke County to become Miles Memorial College, which was located on Miles Avenue. Another activity in the city was the manufacture of molasses, and it was reported in December 1905 that the citizens had made 750 gallons that year.

In 1907 TCI acquired the CME's Booker City property in exchange for a 30-acre site in their planned new city of Corey (now Fairfield). Over the next decade TCI redeveloped the former Booker City into a "model mining village" which it named Docena.

References

  • "A declaration of incorporation." (October 11, 1901) The Birmingham News, p. 3
  • "Items from the Steel City" (November 28, 1901) The Birmingham News, p. 8
  • "Negro Bishops Meet" (January 18, 1902) The Montgomery Advertiser, p. 3
  • "Colored Bishops Holding a Mid-Winter Session in City." (January 17, 1902), p. 8
  • "All Negro Towns" (January 29, 1902) The Fort Payne Journal, p. 4
  • "Editorials" (March 15, 1902) Missionary Searchlight (Selma), p. 3
  • "Happy at Ensley" (October 16, 1902) The Birmingham News, p. 8
  • "Visited Booker City" (March 9, 1905) The Birmingham News, p. 10
  • "News from Booker City, Ala." (December 7, 1905) The Journal (Huntsville), p. 3