BAY MINETTE, Alabama — Baldwin County honored the late Stephen J. Boykin with an historic marker at the Douglasville High School Heritage Museum in Bay Minette. The monument was placed in …
BAY MINETTE, Alabama — Baldwin County honored the late Stephen J. Boykin with an historic marker at the Douglasville High School Heritage Museum in Bay Minette. The monument was placed in remembrance of a self-educated man who dedicated his life to improving educational opportunities for students and inspired men and women of all ages and races to do great things.
In 1899, Boykin founded the Normal School near the Douglasville school site. This was the first school for black students in Baldwin County. He also self-published The American Banner newspaper from 1899-1902.
The dedication ceremony is part of the Alabama 200 Bicentennial Celebration and was overseen by the Baldwin County Archives & History Department.
“This is a great day for the Douglasville community, a great day for the city of Bay Minette, a great day for Baldwin County and a great day for the state of Alabama,” said James Cox, a graduate of Douglasville High School and former president of the Douglasville Alumni Association.
Members of the Boykin family were on hand for the unveiling, as well as Sam Crosby whose research brought to light the contributions that Boykin had made to the community.
“He had a lot of courage and a lot of support from the entire community,” Crosby said. “He once wrote that the best way to handle lynchers was with a good Winchester rifle. For a black man to write that during that time took a lot of guts.”
Many of Boykin's own family members were unaware of his numerous accomplishments until an article about Crosby's research, written by Jackie Byrd, was published in the Mobile Press-Register's Baldwin People section. That article attracted national press attention to Boykin's courageous journey and his efforts to educate and promote the black community during turbulent times.
“I never knew my grandfather,” said Al Boykin, who spoke on behalf of the family, “but right now I feel very close to him.”
One side of the monument shares his accomplishments in education and the flip side shares the store of The American Banner.
Al Boykin’s brothers, the Rev. D.L. Boykin, pastor of Union Baptist Church in Bay Minette, presented the invocation; and Jerald Boykin led the National Anthem on saxophone.
Also participating in the ceremony were Bay Minette Mayor Bob Wills, Baldwin County School Superintendent Eddie Tyler, Claudia Campbell with the Baldwin County Historic Development Commission, Felisha Anderson, director of Archives and History for Baldwin County, James Williams with the Douglasville Alumni Association and Shawn Graham with Hope Community.
About the Douglasville High School Heritage Museum
The Douglasville High School Heritage Museum, located on Shedrick Hardy Parkway, is housed in the first permanent structure for the former Douglasville school. The school was built during the segregation era and the first class graduated in 1950 and the school closed in 1970 as a result of court-mandated integration.
During its 21-years, the school educated numerous students who went on to receive their diplomas from a school in their community. Prior to its opening, students were forced to attend schools in other parts of the state if they wanted to receive a high school diploma.
To help preserve the legacy and history of the school, the Douglasville High School Alumni Association Inc. established the museum. This project is a partnership between the Alumni Association, Baldwin County Public Schools and the City of Bay Minette.
The facility houses memorabilia and other artifacts of interest to the beloved school's alumni.
The museum is open to the public for viewing and tours.
Additional reporting by Onlooker co-editor John Underwood.