On the night of March 21, 1968, Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. sought refuge from the Ku Klux Klan inside a small, shotgun-style home in the depot neighborhood of Greensboro, AL. (This occurred just two weeks prior to the assassination of Rev. King in Memphis, TN.) Mrs. Theresa Burroughs, a close friend of the King family and an active participant of the Civil Rights Movement, turned this small shotgun house into the Safe House Black History Museum which documents the local struggle for equality. It contains relics of the period from slavery through the civil rights movement. Displayed at the museum are many unpublished photos of the civil rights struggle in the Black Belt. These include photos of the Greensboro marches, of Bloody Sunday in Selma, and of the triumphant march from Selma to Montgomery.
Mrs. Burroughs sought Auburn Rural Studio’s assistance with renovating the museum. Rural Studio agreed to help and three Rural Studio students began work on this project in the fall of 2009. The project involved renovation of the museum building and a nearly identical small shotgun building located beside the museum that was used for storage. As with all Rural Studio projects, the students not only designed the project, but they performed all of the work that was involved with completing the job. The students’ goal with the renovation was to preserve the two old shotgun houses and make changes that would improve the museum. The exterior walls of the buildings were restored to their natural pine finish, reflecting the time period when Martin Luther King Jr. sought refuge. The front porch of the museum building, which had been enclosed, was restored to its original condition because porches were such an essential part of shotgun houses. A simple glass hallway was added between the two buildings. One glass wall of the hallway was covered with the images of protest marchers. The house which was being used for storage is now used for classes, a computer lab and an art gallery. The Rural Studio students re-used everything that they could salvage. Even the old sidewalks were dug up, crushed and used as the base for the museum courtyard.
Pictures included show the museum before and after the renovation by Rural Studio. Thanks are extended to Mackenzie Stagg with Auburn Rural Studio for providing pictures of the inside of the museum after completion of the renovation.
The Safe House Museum is located in the southwestern side of Greensboro, AL at the intersection of Davis Street and Martin Luther King Avenue (Site GPS Coordinates N32.697611,W87.609667).
Sources: 1) Alabama Black Belt Nature And Heritage Trail; 2) The Tuscaloosa News; 3) Rural Studio