Old Cahawba to host ‘Road to Freedom Wagon Tour’

Published 10:26 am Wednesday, January 23, 2019

On Saturday, Feb. 2, the Alabama Historical Commission (AHC) will host the “Road to Freedom Wagon Tour” at the Old Cahawba Archaeological Park in Orrville at 10 a.m.

Admission to the event is $10 for adults and $8 for children.

According to Site Director Linda Derry, a Historical Archaeologist with the AHC, attendees will load into wagons and tour sites throughout the area relevant to the topic, which tackles the majority black community of Cahawba and the history it made after the Civil War.

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“I have a real fondness for this topic,” Derry said. “Most people remember Cahawba because of the first state capitol or the Civil War, but we’ll be talking about what happened at the war.”

According to Derry, the history of the “Mecca of the Radical Republican Party” is as essential to black history as the Voting Rights Movement, which often overshadows the accomplishments of the emancipated slaves to cast their ballots for the first time in Old Cahawba.

In 1865, just after the end of the Civil War, Cahawba was a “freeman’s village” and the site of the county courthouse in which these newly-freed slaves exercised their right to vote.

“These people were just coming out of slavery,” Derry said. “Think about how brave they must have been.”

The site is home to one former slave who went on to help draft the Alabama Constitution and whose daughter is considered “the pinnacle of women’s power in the AME church.”

Another prominent character from the area was a black journalist who went on to help establish Alabama State University.

Additionally, the first two AME churches in the state – one of which was Brown Chapel – were founded in the area after the Civil War.

“It’s kind of exciting, I think, to explore what steps they took of their road to freedom,” Derry said. “We don’t want to forget our forefathers.”

Derry said the event has taken place at the site for the past couple of years, but it is generally poorly attended – she is hoping to reverse that trend.

“It’s really exciting,” Derry said. “If we can just get people out here, I think they’d enjoy it.”

For more information, email Derry at cahawbam@bellsouth.net or call 334-872-8058.