– By Erica Cunningham –
In 1899, Hobson City, Alabama, became the first incorporated Black city in Alabama. 124 years later, Hobson City still stands strong and celebrates how far they have come as a community.
Black History Month was first proposed in February of 1969 by Black educators and students at Kent State University and was celebrated the next year. Fast forward six years, Black History Month was observed all over the country after former President Gerald Ford recognized the celebratory month in 1976, the country’s bicentennial. Since then, February has been dedicated to recognizing the Black history of our country and its people.
Every year, the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH) selects a theme to draw the public’s attention toward an important aspect of the Black experience. The theme of Black History Month 2023 is “Black Resistance,” a phrase that perfectly reflects Hobson City.
“By resisting Black people have achieved triumphs, successes, and progress,” said ASALH. “Black resistance strategies have served as a model for every other social movement in the country, thus, the legacy and importance of these actions cannot be understated.”
The incorporation of Hobson City is a story of resistance, resilience and independence.
According to Encyclopedia of Alabama, Hobson City was once known as Mooree Quarter, a small section of Oxford, AL, where African Americans were relegated to after emancipation. All residents of Oxford were permitted to vote in city and county elections, but the White residents of Oxford did not accept the influence that the African American community had on their local elections.
After a Black man was elected as justice of the peace in 1899, the mayor of Oxford petitioned for the state government to redraw the corporate boundaries to exclude Mooree Quarter. On July 20 of that year, the 125 African American residents of the abandoned section petitioned to be incorporated as Hobson City, and on August 16, they successfully became the second municipality in the United States to be fully governed by African Americans.
Today, Hobson City is still a strong and proud community of approximately 777 citizens. ENI Community Liaison Mr. Terry Mosley has been working with the city for the past decade.
Terry described how Hobson City was always intended to be a “city of opportunity.” The citizens of Hobson City are grateful for their community because they know that in 1899 gaining independence for their beloved town was not an unchallenging task. Given the social climate in Alabama at that time, trying to form and keep an African American city must have come with a mental, emotional, and economic toll on its citizens.
“When I thought about it, I said I probably wouldn’t have made it through that!” Terry emphasized.
In the era of desegregation, equal rights came with a cost in Hobson City. Since Hobson City relied mostly on its Black community members to support their businesses, once the doors were open to shop in other places, the small businesses of Hobson City suffered, and some were even forced to close.
In a 2013 interview the mayor of Hobson City, Alberta McCrory, explained how desegregation knocked down many barriers, but also hurt Hobson City. After graduation, many students left and didn’t come back. Shops that were once “White only” in nearby Oxford and Anniston were now open to Blacks as well. But Hobson City found a way to resist the economic crisis that they were facing and hold on to the independence of their community.
By forming economic development groups and finding ways to attract businesses to the area, Mayor McCrory and the citizens of Hobson City are devoted to preserving a special piece of Alabama’s history. In 2020, Hobson City celebrated the opening of Aussie’s Quick Mart, a local market that helps the community fill their needs within city limits. By putting in efforts to attract more businesses, Hobson City is working towards strengthening and growing its economy.
Hobson City’s entrepreneurial spirit extends to its efforts to improve health and well-being through the Equitable Neighborhoods Initiative. A large and active ENI Advisory Group and ENI Youth Community Council are working to engage community members around the health issues and opportunities facing the town. For example, they recently hosted a well-attended mental health first aid training and are actively planning the installation of a Healing Zone in their community.
“The struggle to maintain their independence is one that I have witnessed,” said Terry, but despite the hardships that the community has faced, it has always been a place where people cared for one another and stuck together. As a true illustration of “Black Resistance” Hobson City celebrates Black History Month with its own special touches.
Every February, Hobson City hosts a reunion for the whole community to enjoy. “A lot of the young people were forced to leave for job opportunities, but they always show up in great numbers,” said Terry. This is always an event that the community looks forward to and plays a large part in holding Hobson City together. There’s homemade food, swimming pools, pop-up shops, kids playing, and lots to be remembered at these events. “I am still amazed by this small city,” Terry commented.
When we asked Terry what Black History Month meant to him, he described it as being a time to validate the contributions that African Americans have made to this country and to the world. Not only is February a month for Hobson City to gather and rejoice, but it is also a time to remember all the work, struggle, and sacrifice that has gone into making this community something for people to come back to and call home.
February is not the only time of year when departed Hobson City citizens come back to their old stomping grounds in hopes of spreading more opportunities within the community. Professional athletes like Kwon Alexander have kept the comradery of Hobson City strong by returning to give back to the community that has already given them so much. In 2019, the NFL star facilitated a football camp for boys aged eight to 17. Alexander found it great to be home again and was excited to show the youth of Hobson City that with hard work, any goal is achievable.
While many things change over time, what is most important remains. Terry Mosely has watched Hobson City transform before his eyes, but something that has never changed is the community’s ability to stick together; to be small but mighty.
Growing up during the civil rights era, Terry has memories of Martin Luther King Jr. and other civil rights leaders coming into Hobson City and “firing the city up.” From seeing civil rights protest signs line the streets of Hobson City in his youth, to seeing the words “Black Towns Matter” painted along the street in 2020, Terry Mosley has witnessed Hobson City transform through not only Black resistance but Black persistence, Black resilience, Black pain, and Black triumph.