Africatown’s Magazine Point Neighborhood: A Series of Tragedies And Miracles

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A view from the Africatown-Cochran Bridge of the tank farm on Magazine Point, where the Three Mile Creek meets the Mobile River. Riverfront tank farms in this area are projected to be expanded, to hold tar sands oil from Canada and north Alabama: Glynn Wilson

By Joe Womack –

Africatown’s Magazine Point Neighborhood sets on the southern and southeastern portions of the Africatown community. It is situated on both the Mobile River and the Three Mile Creek. The part of Magazine Point that sets on the Mobile River is where that last shipment of slaves in America actually landed, whereas that portion that sets on the Three Mile Creek has a spiritual connection because it is the place where that last slave shipment would baptize themselves.

The boundaries of Magazine Point include the Plateau neighborhood to the north, separated by Bay Bridge Road, Mobile River to the east, the Three Mile Creek to the south, and Telegraph Road/Highway 43 to the west.

The name Magazine Point came about not long after a fierce battle was fought between the Confederate and Union armies in Mobile, Alabama. The Officers in the Confederate Army had their staging area around a large Plantation in Mobile known as “The Oakleigh Plantation”. Today in Mobile that section of town is referred as “The Oakleigh District”. The enlisted soldiers in the Confederate Army camped out in an area around what is now the Central Campus of Bishop State Community College.

Today that section of Mobile is called “The Camp Ground”. The Confederate Army stockpiled their munitions along the river in what is now Africatown. During that fierce battle in Mobile, the Union Army blew up that pile of munitions and destroyed the gun powder, guns, cannons and magazines stored in the area. Afterwards that area of destroyed munitions became known as Magazine Point.

During it’s heyday, Magazine Point, similar to its neighbors in Plateau, was very self-sufficient. There were grocery stores, barber shops and a Post Office. The entire Africatown Community utilized the Post Office in Magazine Point to send and receive mail. The residents of Magazine Point were quick to point out to those outside of Africatown that they were proud residents of Africatown.

However, in Africatown’s schools and playgrounds there is a healthy and fierce competition between Plateau and Magazine Point residents. That fierce competition is what made the sports teams of Mobile County Training School so successful. The older kids pushed the younger kids, both boys and girls, to be their best, never quit, and expect to win.

Although the Magazine Point neighborhood was until recently a beautiful place to live, it has been exposed to its fair share of “Tragedies and Miracles”. The landing of that last shipment of slaves in America was illegal and a tragedy within itself. To cram 110 children into the hull of a ship and bring them to another continent against their will with no way to return in order to win a bet is cruel and unusual punishment.

However, it is truly a miracle that they all survived that journey and were able to establish their own community, that exists today. Another tragedy occurred when that Confederate ammo site was blown up during the Civil War. Not only was that ammo facility destroyed but people were killed also in that explosion. However, the efforts of the former slaves to restore the area after the Civil War was miraculous and allowed them another place to baptize themselves, fish and build homes.

Another tragedy occurred when the Africatown Guardians were convinced to let the Alabama Highway Department rebuild The Cochran Bridge after it had been damaged during a hurricane. Before then the Africatown residents had always resisted efforts to rebuild the bridge. The Highway Department told Africatown they would change the name of the Cochran Bridge to The Africatown Cochran Bridge and the residents fell for it. Today that bridge that used to be about one quarter mile long is now about 2 miles in length and half of Magazine Point had to be destroyed or moved to accommodate this new bridge.

That area was next declared a flood zone and now to get a permit to repair older homes, residents must first raise their house to a certain level and most residents can’t afford to do that. Consequently, houses are not being repaired. Miraculously, residents manage to maintain their homes as best they can.

Tragically, during the 1990’s an asphalt company decided to relocate from West Mobile to Magazine Point almost in the middle of the night and without going through all the proper channels. After local resident complained and the newspaper did a story on it, the owner’s comments were,”I didn’t think I needed any permits to relocate in this area”. The business was allowed to continue construction after paying only a small fine and is still polluting the area today.

That business along with others in the area give no financial return to the community, churches or school in the area for the noise, smoke and road damage done to the residents of Africatown. It’s hard to believe that the asphalt company owner was not jailed, fined and forced to remove his business as penalty for total disregard for people and the law. Some older residents had to move from the area because of big trucks moving in and out 24/7/365.

Magazine Point is also the final resting place of the last shipment of slaves because Africatown’s Cemetery is located in Magazine Point. The headstone of all their graves are facing toward the east because that’s the direction their homeland lies in Africa.

The tragedies mentioned above fail to compare to the tragedy that would occur if a Storage Tank City housing Canadian Tar Sands is allowed to be built in Africatown. The historical value of the area would be destroyed, the residents would live in constant fear of a catastrophic event and property value would fall. Although residents of Magazine Point and Africatown are resilient and have endured a lot, the construction of Tar Sands Oil Storage Tanks in the area could be the nail in the coffin for this historical community. The Africatown residents continue to hold hands in unity to preserve their peaceful and non-threatening way of life.

First published online at BridgetheGulfProject.org/.

© 2015, Glynn Wilson. All rights reserved.

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