Alabama Heritage is proud to support the History Relevance Campaign’s statement on the value of history in contemporary life. The HRC is a diverse group of history professionals posing questions about what makes the past relevant today. With common agreement, commitment, and open conversation about why history is important, the HRC believes the historical community can change the common perception that history is nice, but not essential. Following are reasons why the History Center project matters.
On March 25, 1931, two white women accused nine black men of raping them in the town of Paint Rock, Alabama. Taking place in the segregated South, this claim caused outrage to spread all throughout Alabama and the South, and the nine black men immediately became scapegoats.
An important figure of these trials that is often forgotten is Judge James Horton from Athens, Alabama, who was the presiding judge at the retrial of Haywood Patterson. The nine black men were all found guilty upon completion of their trials in Scottsboro; however, the Supreme Court agreed that they could not be tried fairly in Scottsboro and moved the trials to Decatur. This is how the trials ended up taking place in Judge Horton’s court.
Among one of Birmingham’s several farmer’s markets is Andy’s Farm Market, owned by Andy and Tricia Burris. Andy grew up on a family farm in Loxley, Alabama, where he started farming with his brother when he was twelve years old, growing strawberries and cantaloupe. From there, he went on to pursue a college degree and graduated from Birmingham Southern. In 1997 he and his wife opened the farmer’s market.
After opening the market, he purchased a small amount of pansies to sell in his store. In the following months, the Burrises built a greenhouse and opened a garden center in 2000. There they sell shrubs, trees, and other plants to their customers, along with the materials needed to help them grow.
For those on the outside looking in, the University of Alabama is synonymous with two things: football and the civil rights movement. Iconic images from that era include the riot on the Amelia Gayle Gorgas Library steps over the university’s inadvertent admittance of Autherine Lucy, George Wallace’s pro-segregation speech in front of Foster Auditorium, and Vivian Malone and James Hood standing side by side as they attempt to enroll for the fall 1963 semester. But there is another element to our campus’s history that is often forgotten: slavery.
In the ten years since he became head coach of the Crimson Tide football team, Nick Saban has amassed an unprecedented number of wins on every level: regular season games, SEC Championships, post-season bowls on the national level, and coaching awards. By the time I arrived at the University of Alabama in 2013, his name was already in conversation with another Alabama legend: Coach Paul "Bear" Bryant.
A native of Cleveland County, Arkansas, Bryant was known for two things: his signature houndstooth fedora and winning. During his quarter-century tenure at the University of Alabama, Bryant engineered more than three hundred wins for the program, coached the legendary quarterback Joe Namath, and oversaw the integration of UA’s athletic program in the early 1970s. I’d like to argue that many aspects of Bryant’s successful career was owed primarily to one man: Frank Thomas.
When making the choice to attend the University of Alabama, I recalled an image from my first-grade social studies book: George Wallace’s Stand at the Schoolhouse Door. Although at six years old I didn’t understand all of the complexities regarding the legacy of colonialism, the European Slave Trade, and Jim Crow-era politics, I never forgot that image. Still, this challenging history did not sway me from attending. Instead, I viewed it as a chance to face some relics and demons from another time—another world—head on.
Thousands of travelers drive under the arches of the General W.K. Wilson Bridge outside of Mobile, Alabama, but not many know the story behind its name.
Walter K. Wilson was born on August 26, 1906, at Fort Barrancas, Florida. His father, Gen. Walter King Wilson, was an artillery officer which sparked an interest in Wilson to join the military. Wilson Jr. attended the University of Hawaii for a short amount of time while his father was stationed at Fort Ruger. Later, Wilson attended the Army's West Point Preparatory School at Schofield Barracks and then entered the Military Academy in 1925. He graduated in 1929 and, due to his class standing, was eligible for commission in the Corps of Engineers. Wilson joined the corps per his father’s advice and began his career.
Many of Alabama’s cities have fascinating histories, and I would count Anniston, the Model City, among them. Anniston had its beginnings as a planned community during the Reconstruction Era. It started with a business deal between Samuel Noble, whose family owned a large iron company in Georgia, and Daniel Tyler, a railroad manager and former iron manufacturer and Union general. The Noble family had purchased a large plot of iron- and timber-rich land in east Alabama, but needed investors to develop it. Together, Noble and Tyler formed the Woodstock Iron Company in 1872. A year later, its first furnace began churning out more than 100 tons of pig iron a week, using charcoal (made from the surrounding timber) as fuel.
My love for books is equally accompanied by my love for movies. Whenever I find out one of my favorite books is going to be made into a movie, I am filled with both excitement and apprehension. In my experience, directors and screenplay writers are rarely able to do a great book justice on the big screen. Still, it is fun to see characters that you have only seen in your head come to life. Though Alabama has never been the #1 destination for movies to be filmed, several movies have been filmed on location here in recent history.
Three summers ago, I had the opportunity to intern at my congressman’s office in Washington, DC. One of my duties was to help with tours of the Capitol, and one of its many interesting features is the National Statuary Hall Collection. Throughout the building are statues from the collection representing the fifty states. Since 1864, each state has been allowed to donate up to two statues of important figures in its history to the collection, which was completed in 2005. States may still donate new statues, but they must replace an existing one. Originally, all statues were housed in Statuary Hall, but as the collection grew, statues had to be moved to other areas of the Capitol. Currently, Alabama’s two statues are Joseph Wheeler, located in Statuary Hall, and Helen Keller, located in the Visitor’s Center.
Alabama Heritage BLOG
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