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THE HISTORIC BALLARD HOUSE Birmingham’s Historic Civil Rights District

Posted in: Facilities

This house honors a time in Birmingham when thriving African American neighborhoods, businesses, social and cultural events, and civic organizations made up a dynamic African-American community in the first half of the 20th century.

One of few surviving “live-work” buildings, it was constructed as the family residence and medical office of Dr. Edward H. Ballard by African American contractor Leroy S. Gaillard. For more than 20 years in Alabama, Dr. Ballard made significant contributions to the collective health, well-being, economic empowerment, and uplift of the community.

The property, acquired in 1950 by Mrs. Jessie Perkins, served as a “hotspot” for clubs, civic meetings, and social events during segregation. A pivotal gathering space for the community of color, it became a backdrop for clubs and organizations, boarding destination for visiting speakers and entertainers, and popular space for receptions, teas, and holiday parties.  

The doctor’s office in the building became home to the medical practice of Dr. Dodson Curry, followed by Dr. Herschell Lee Hamilton in the late 1950’s. Devoted to the cause of human and civil rights, Dr. Hamilton worked to support the Movement, actively, strategically, and financially. Known as “Battle Surgeon” and “Dog-Bite Doctor,” he treated the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth, Freedom Riders beaten at the city’s bus terminal and hundreds of foot soldiers injured in the 1963 “Project C” marches and 1965 Selma to Montgomery events. Over time, this dynamic space served to provide medical care, support civil rights strategy, treat victims of trauma, and strengthen community networks.

As a contributing structure to the Birmingham Civil Right District and one of “20 Civil Right Sites to Watch in Alabama” by the World Monuments Fund, it now serves as a cultural storehouse and information center, hosting oral histories, conversations, exhibitions and special events, celebrating the rich heritage, and contributions of the African-American community, then and now.