Howard and Oddessa Johnson Collection
Howard Johnson, President of the Johnson Memorial Directors, Inc. has compiled records pertaining to the history of the Alabama Black Funeral Directors and members, by placing historical information on ninety-six laminated poster boards. The information posted on the boards consists of various programs covering six decades. There are records of a few dedications of funeral homes in the state.
The material compiled by Johnson represents a treasure of historical information and provides important genealogical information, making this collection a gold mine for historical research as well as for genealogists.
The Alabama Black Funeral Directors organization is significant to the history of Alabama and not just for the obvious reason, but also because members represented in the collection maintain an involvement in the social and economic fabric of their respective communities. During the first half of the twentieth century the Black Funeral Home Director remained economically independent of whites. This proved instrumental in their ability to aid the development of the modern civil rights movement throughout Alabama.
The Alabama Funeral Directors and Morticians Association established in the mid 1920s as a vehicle for Black Funeral Directors to address issues unique to the Black Community and the Black Funeral Industry.
The organization has gone through three name changes: The Alabama Colored Funeral Directors and Embalmers, The Alabama Funeral Directors Association, later the title changed, taking on its current name, The Alabama Funeral Directors and Morticians Association, Inc.
Mr. Robert A. Ross of Ross-Jenkins Funeral Home, Birmingham, Alabama served as the organization first president. In the early days of the Association, members were routinely barred from hotels and resorts; however, they managed to consistently address the concerns of their membership and the needs of the people they served. In order to overcome discrimination, meeting sites often consisted of private homes, undertaking shops, Masonic lodges, and between 1940-1960, black schools served as meeting locations.