These are the original doors to the jail cell that held MLK and his brother the night before they were transferred to Birmingham. Source: WBRC video
This is the original booking card for Martin Luther King, Jr. at the Bessemer jail. Source: WBRC video
Jefferson County Sheriff Mike Hale's office is credited with preserving these pieces of history, including the docket book with MLK and his brother's names. Source: WBRC video
A non-profit groups hopes to turn the jail cell into an exhibit by MLK's birthday on January 15, 2014. Source: Alan Collins/WBRC
BESSEMER, AL (WBRC) -
A little bit of unknown history has Jefferson County and Bessemer officials hoping to turn the jail cell that once held Martin Luther King, Jr. into a tourist attraction.
It has been documented that the late civil rights leader, Dr. Martin Luther King, spent one night in a Bessemer jail cell before being sent to Birmingham for disturbing the peace. King wrote his famous "Letter from the Birmingham Jail" from the Birmingham jail.
Jefferson County Sheriff's deputies discovered documents which included the original docket book and booking card for MLK. The sheriff's office also discovered the original jail cell doors.
"Brings tears to my eyes. I was eight years old in 1963. In 1964, 1966, 1967 when injustice was prevalent in this area," Jefferson County Commissioner Sandra Little Brown said.
The cells housed King, his brother A.D. King, Wyatt Walker and Ralph Abernathy. Sheriff Mike Hale's office is credited with preserving much of this unknown history.
"We at the sheriff's office put a value on the docket book, a value on the jail doors, this cell. We sensed something in it," Hale said.
Sarah Beasley is retired now but she was a teacher at Jonesboro Elementary in 1963. Beasley hopes school children will be able to see the exhitit and the learn about the dark days of segregation.
"That they can see what somebody did for them, their future. So they can have the freedom and all the many choices they can have in education and all walks of life," Beasley said.
A non-profit group called Open Door to History hopes to raise at least $60,000 to have the exhibit open by Jan. 15, 2014, King's birthday. The exhibit will stay open until the end of February.
Bessemer Mayor Kenneth Gulley believes the exhibit will be draw for tourists to his town.
"Anytime you can have an exhibit or a museum of this nature of Doctor King being here. We anticipate this being a real, real good downtown Bessemer," Mayor Gulley said.