Not so long ago, scores of country stores were scattered across rural Alabama—at dusty crossroads or along a lonely stretch of blacktop knifing through fields and tangled woodlands, or huddled beside an isolated railway crossing. Mostly they were humble, expedient buildings, devoid of pretension, built to serve a plain agrarian society while enriching the coffers of some enterprising local merchant.
Although Catholicism’s presence in the South dates to the colonial era, by the nineteenth century Catholics were few and far between in most parts of the region, especially in rural areas, so much so that the church hierarchy sent priests to its southern parishes every few years to remind scattered parishioners of the importance of continued devotion. In the first half of the twentieth century, however, Catholics in the South began to evangelize, turning their attention to non-Catholics for conversion and recruiting a lay apostolate willing both to share its faith and to serve the poor and abandoned. Vital to these activities were orders such as the Congregation of the Mission, also known as the Vicentian Fathers, which established its first Alabama mission station in 1910. And central to the success of those orders were women like Sister Peter Claver, whose ministrations to poor whites, African Americans, and immigrants in rural portions of the state exhibited tremendous resolve and dedication to the principles of the Social Gospel and the Catholic Worker movement in an environment where other religious could be hard to find.
The men and women from Alabama who survived Pearl Harbor have vivid memories of what President Franklin D. Roosevelt called a date that will live in infamy. “I can still hear that old bugle calling general quarters,” recalls Pfc. James D. Robbins. For Robbins and other survivors, the lesson to be learned from Pearl Harbor is simple: “Just don’t let it happen again."
In 1960, a young art instructor at the University of Alabama discovered a book that changed his life. The instructor was William Christenberry, now a national known artist as well as a professor of art at the Corcoran School of Art in Washington, DC. The book was Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, first published in 1941. It combined the photographs of Walker Evans, along with the text of James Agee, to chronicle the lives of three tenant families in Hale County, Alabama. The text, Christenberry later said, affected him first. “I had never run into a writer who described so clearly, so beautifully, the things I had experienced as a child.” The photographer, Walker Evans, would later become “one of the greatest influences” in Christenberry’s life.
Buried here are Jack Rudolph (d. 1846) and William "Boysey" Brown (d. 1838), two slaves owned by the University of Alabama faculty, and William J. Crawford, a university student who died in 1844. In 2004, the UA Faculty Senate apologized for the predecessors' role in the institution of slavery and erected a monument at this gravesite to commemorate the contributions of slaves to the building of the university. (Photo courtesy Rebecca Minder)
The University of Alabama had only been in existence for eight years when an acre of land on the perimeter of the campus was set aside for a cemetery. The burial ground was deemed necessary after student Samuel James died on campus, and embalming and travel limitations prevented his corpse from being returned to his home immediately. When his family was able to retrieve James's body, another student, William J. Crawford, was placed in the empty grave after his death from typhus fever. James and Crawford are the only two university students known co have been buried in the cemetery during the antebellum period. However, other bodies were buried there during that time.
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