Among the primary goals of Red Mountain Park is to honor the significant contributions to Birmingham’s economic and cultural development made by iron and steel workers, their families, and the communities in which they lived. One means of accomplishing this is through the collection and presentation of oral histories.
Begun in 2009, the Red Mountain Park Oral History Project will be an ongoing effort to preserve, enrich and perpetuate the historical record of Birmingham and Red Mountain. The project is a collaborative effort with Rosie O’Beirne and the Digital Studies Department at the University of Alabama Birmingham and Birmingham-based photographer Melissa Springer, who has provided still photography for the project.
In 1819, as Alabama achieved statehood, native hunters and travelers encountered a fine dust that stained all with which it came into contact a distinctive red color. The powdery dust was the residue of hematite—the word derived from the Greek for “blood,” haima—a type of iron ore which, unknown to the native population, lay in rich veins beneath the mountain’s surface. The Creeks, in particular, found a variety of practical uses for the red dust, using it to dye clothing, decorate pottery and paint their bodies for ceremony and battle.