A spotlight on Birmingham’s Smithfield community—where history hides in plain sight

bethel house mural
Bethel House’s mural. Photo via The Celebration Bowl.

As a part of Bham Now’s neighborhood series, we’re shining a spotlight on Birmingham’s Smithfield community. Keep reading to learn more about this historic area including Bethel House, A.H. Parker High School and gearing up for The World Games 2021.

Where is Smithfield?

The historic Smithfield community lies to the west of downtown Birmingham. Nestled between the Northside and Five Points West, this community consists of five of Birmingham’s 99 neighborhoods:

  • College Hills
  • East Thomas
  • Enon Ridge
  • Graymont
  • Smithfield

A Little History Lesson About Smithfield

smithfield civil rights marker
Smithfield photo via WMNF Radio.

Established in the 1890s, Smithfield serves as a reminder of how civic officials would zone certain neighborhoods with social and economic class distinctions in mind. This community was home to many middle-class African Americans including one of the earliest African American millionaires, A.G. Gaston, and political activist, Angela Davis.

History hides in plain sight in Smithfield. It served as a key area during the Civil Rights Movement which can be seen reflected in the historical markers throughout Dynamite Hill.

What is Dynamite Hill?

Dynamite Hill was a name given to a district in Smithfield during the Civil Rights Movement. Unfortunately, it got its name due to a series of bombings that occurred in an attempt to intimidate African Americans from coming to the community.

It was a dark time in Birmingham history but a pivotal one none the less. Civil Rights activist, Arthur Shores, was successful at overturning racist zoning ordinances that prevented African-Americans from living in their own homes in Smithfield.

The community has come a long way since then but it’s important to understand the past in order to move forward.

Historic Bethel House Sees a Bright Future

bethel house mural
Bethel House’s mural. Photo via The Celebration Bowl.

Bethel House is a historic landmark in the Smithfield community. Thanks to black Greek-letter organizations, ESPN (yes, the cable network!) and Behr Paint, it got a makeover with a brand new mural a little over a year ago. Local artist, Devonte Holt, also helped breathe new life into the historic building, which some refer to as the Smithfield Community Center.

“[Bethel House] is our oldest property and has historical significance because this is the center of the community. To do an updated mural for this building I think is really going to be appreciated.”

Michael Lundy, president and CEO of the Housing Authority Birmingham District via The Celebration Bowl

The vibrant mural faces the busy Rev. Abraham Woods Jr. Boulevard, so everyone can enjoy and serve as a reminder that art can inspire the entire community.

A.H. Parker High School

ah parker high school
The A.H. Parker High School football team. Photo via Birmingham City Schools.

Did you know that in the ’50s, Parker High School was one of the nation’s largest high schools with almost 4,000 students? Its large campus is home to an exceptional marching band, successful sports teams and some pretty notable alumni like:

  • NBA Player, Eric Bledsoe
  • Pro Football Hall of Fame defensive tackle, Buck Buchanan
  • Alabama Supreme Court Justice, Oscar Adam Jr.
  • NASA EEO director, Clyde Foster
  • Civil Rights Activist, Arthur Shores

Gearing Up For The World Games 2021

Legion Field seems to be nestled between several Birmingham communities—Smithfield being one of them. It has been chosen as one of the many historic marks showcased at The World Games. As Summer 2021 gets closer and closer, Birmingham is ready to welcome the globe for The World Games 2021.

legion field site of the World Games 2021
Legion Field will host the World Games’ opening ceremony. Photo by Chaise Sanders for Bham Now.

There’s so much we’re looking forward to, including:

Where Can I Read About the Other Neighborhoods?

This article is the 18th installment in a 23-part series Bham Now is doing to feature Birmingham’s 23 communities, comprising 99 neighborhoods. So far we’ve featured the following communities:

Now we want to hear from you, Birmingham. What’s your fave spot in Smithfield? Let us know on social @BhamNow.

Chaise Sanders
Chaise Sanders
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