Saying he was driven by his love for God, the folk artist Joe Minter began building his own African village in Birmingham, Alabama, decades ago. The little village in the southwest part of the city is made from bits of scrap and junk—footwear, lawn decorations, toys, old sporting equipment, baking utensils, and more. The African theme, though, is clear; it makes itself known by Minter’s recreations of feathered headdresses and African masks.
Minter’s overriding message is to provide a recognition for the 11 million Africans who were shipped in bondage to America, and to their descendants who helped to build and defend the country. The sculptures that he has built in the African Village in America tell the stories of Black Americans, with inspiration ranging from West African poets and warriors to the deadly 1963 bombing at the 16th Street Baptist Church.
“This ain’t nothing but God’s blueprint here,” Minter has said. “There ain’t no way that a man could put all this down here together without instructions from God. God said, ‘Pick up what’s thrown away and put it together.’ Whatever God gives me, that’s what I work with.” At the back of Minter’s property are five giant satellite dishes. On them, he has spelled out J-E-S-U-S in huge letters.
He has an open-gate policy, and anyone is welcome to wander his creation during the daylight hours without paying, though DVDs and other paraphernalia are available for purchase. Visitors to the site will be greeted by hand-painted plywood signs with historical facts and Biblical passages.
Most of Minter’s creations are supposed to be politically instructive. He has recently constructed a model of the World Trade Center using big chunks of corrugated steel. Over the years, Minter has earned the title of “African Warrior” for his work. Another controversial piece on his property is a “Death Penalty” sculpture that is made using Minter’s versions of a lethal injection table and electric chair.
Know Before You Go
Located on the southwest edge of the city. Take I-65 to exit 258 and drive west on Route 18 for one mile, then turn left onto Martin Luther King Jr Drive. From there, drive south and take the third right onto Nassau Ave. Joe Minter's place is the last house on the left.