Sloss Furnaces: The Evolution of Birmingham’s Iron Plantation

Presented by Karen Utz, curator, Sloss Furnaces National Historic Landmark, and adjunct history instructor, University of Alabama at Birmingham

Between 1900 and 1950, Sloss Furnaces maintained company houses throughout Birmingham’s industrial district. Sloss Quarters, the 48 houses adjacent to City Furnaces, were designed specifically for black workers. They were typical shotgun-style structures, with two rooms set on foundation posts and no indoor plumbing. While not a company town in the strictest sense, there was a doctor’s office, a commissary with ‘clacker’ and numerous neighborhood gatherings: watermelon cuttings, chitlin’ suppers, dancing and ball games. Housing in Sloss Quarters served two purposes: it attracted family men, thus lowering the rate of absenteeism, and it made available a ready supply of labor in case of emergencies. Company housing was dismantled in the late 1950s as maintenance became a drain on the company’s resources. Oral histories from the “Like it Ain’t Never Passed” monograph are incorporated into the presentation and provide an excellent overview of the recollections of the residents of Sloss Quarters.

Contact Karen Utz to book this presentation
karen.utz@ci.birmingham.al.us
(205) 324-1911