Black Doctor Eyes Big Vision For Historic Birmingham 

Dr. Juanakee Adams, who has spent more than 40 years in business in Birmingham, poses with NABJ JSHOP23 students in front of her practice on Dr. A.G. Gaston Boulevard. Photo by JSHOP23 Staff

By Katy Mahand


It’s no wonder that Dr. Juanakee Adams, the first Black female optometrist in Alabama, has an infectious energy that explodes throughout her office. 

Adams, owner of Adams’ Eye Care in downtown Birmingham, continues to make waves by supporting her community from within, she said. Her business is located in the heart of the city’s Civil Rights District. 

She has been in practice since 1980.

On a recent Tuesday afternoon, Adams, 66, was buzzing around the office as she shared highlights from her life and career, including writing three books, starring in a reality show about seniors in the south, and she can be seen in the background of the movie, “Tyler Perry’s Madea’s Family Reunion.”

Adams said she learned she could study to become an optometrist while she was a biology major in school at Dillard University in New Orleans. She said she started studying at Dillard when she was 16 years old and later completed the optometry program at Indiana University. 

“I had never been to an eye doctor, and it was just intriguing,” she said. 

Adams explained that after graduation, she tried to get a job in Birmingham, but there were only three Black optometrists practicing in the state, and they were all male. 

“I guess I was not marketable because it was not something that had been done, so I had to start my own practice,” she said. 

Dr. Colleen Dent, another doctor at the practice, has been working at Adams’ Eye Care since 2018. She is the second female Black optometrist to graduate from University of Alabama at Birmingham’s School of Optometry.

Dent said her advice for young black women and men aspiring to get into the profession is: “Pray about it.”

Adams said she was proud to become a part of the narrative of Birmingham and sees it as an intense responsibility. She said she and her practice represent community, passion and diversity.

“It’s really an humbling honor and a pleasurable privilege to be able to give back,” she said. “Now I remember the struggle and to be able to rewrite the narrative of Birmingham in the civil rights, racial matters. It’s humbling.”

Her motto, she said, is “to make the load lighter and the path brighter for those who come behind me.”

During the June 2020 protests in downtown Birmingham, in response to the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Adams’ practice was broken into and vandalized. The event made news – her business was mentioned on local television and later on the The Daily Show with Trevor Noah. 

Adams said when she spoke about the incident, she tried to not be divisive. She said she told the news cameras that the people who broke into her business must have been going through some emotional changes to react like that.

Since then, Adams said, she has continued to look to the future of her practice and has kept the spark in many other areas of her life. She is an ordained minister, has served on the City Council in Fairfield, Ala. and is a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. 

The reality TV show she was on is called “The Seenagers of Birmingham,” a combination of the words “senior” and “teenagers.” 

“It’s all about aging gracefully and graciously,” she said. 

The show is available online at

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