Main Street between Bloch and Wadsworth
Well into the mid-twentieth century, both sides of Main Street between Bloch and Wadsworth Streets, which intersect Main from the north, were very different from what they are today. This was another small African-American populated neighborhood similar to the one we met last week on the narrow southern leg of Bloch Street. The houses here were not as close together, but their occupants were equally as impoverished and found them difficult to maintain or improve.
The character of the neighborhood began to change with the construction of Montevallo High School’s new Agriculture and Home Economics building around 1950 and then the arrival in 1954 of Montevallo’s first low-income and Federally subsidized Housing Project, still known today (66 years later) as the Montevallo Housing Authority.
The “Jim Crow” South was well entrenched in the culture as well as the law at the time Montevallo’s first housing project came to town and it is doubly ironic that this modern, progressive, national initiative to improve housing opportunities for America’s citizens would be not only a “whites only” complex built in what had been a small but longstanding black neighborhood, but because of segregation, those the project displaced or who remained close by were not eligible to improve their lot in life by making the transition from their substandard dwellings to the shiny new project apartments. However, all was not lost for African-American residents of this area if they were willing to move across town. A second housing project, also segregated but for blacks only, was built soon after on the south side of Shoal Creek and just off highway 119 in the neighborhood adjacent to Prentiss High School, Montevallo’s African-American high school at the time (Montevallo Middle School today).
Fortunately, all this institutional discrimination and inequality lasted for only 20 years or so and is no longer a factor. For at least four decades now, the Montevallo Housing Authority on Main and Island Streets has been open to all qualified applicants and continues to play an important role as a valuable source of affordable housing for the community.
Thank you Clay Nordan, Vice President of Montevallo Historical Society, for this information!