We all came from somewhere else. Even Native Alabamians—the Cherokees, Chickasaws, Choctaws, Alabamas (“clearers of the thicket”), and Creeks—emigrated from some pre-Columbian home to settle here. And there wasn’t much here to eat—at least not of the health food variety. Sure, the woods and streams teemed with deer, mussels, and fishes. But fruits and veggies were scarce. Blackberries, persimmons, hickory nuts, and an assortment of tiny grains (like the most unpleasant-sounding sumpweed) were all that natives could muster from those thickets. So they planted corn, squashes, pumpkins, and several types of beans, all of which originated in Mexico. Later, enslaved Africans smuggled black-eyed peas, okra, and sweet potatoes from their own continent, thus rounding out the Alabama smorgasbord.
Matt Pitt overdosed at a University of Alabama football game. “I’ll never forget what happened one night,” he said as he relayed his history to a Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN) audience. “I had had a long night of drugs and alcohol, and my parents called me the next morning and said, ‘Matt, we’re coming to see you.’” He had told his parents (especially his mother, whom he describes as a “prayin,’ Jesus-freak lovin,’ I’m talkin’ about she woke up eatin,’ breathin’ Jesus” woman) that he had been attending Bible studies and was a good student, when in reality drugs had become “like, a lifestyle.” Pitt collapsed while climbing the steps of the stadium, and his parents had him rushed to the closest emergency room where doctors revealed the severity of their son’s condition—he could have died if he had not made it there in time. He awoke in the hospital and thought: “How did I go from there to here?
In a recent survey conducted by the American Jewish Committee, roughly three of four American Jews indicated a deep affinity for Israel. That American Jews today have such feelings toward Israel may not seem surprising, but prior to the 1930s and 1940s kinship between American Jews and a prospective Jewish state was less predictable. Only the persecution of Jews begun by Adolf Hitler in 1933, culminating with the murder of approximately six million European Jews by 1945, convinced many American Jews to support Zionism, the movement to establish a Jewish state in Palestine. The trials and tribulations that followed Israel’s creation in 1948 made that support even stronger, and Alabama’s Jews were no different in their response.
By almost any standard, the Poarch Band of Creek Indians is successful. It operates three casinos in southern Alabama and gives generously to schools and other institutions in the area, donating more than two million dollars to schools in Escambia, Baldwin, and Monroe Counties in February 2013 alone. Less than ninety years ago, however, those same schools excluded the Poarch Creeks, and one woman visiting among the Poarch Creek people described their homes as “fly and mosquito-infested” and “alive with hookworms,” with families “thickly housed, often two, three, four beds in a little room.” The economic success and cultural renaissance of the Poarch Creeks is due in large part to its members’ indomitable will to survive, but it owes much as well to a small-town Episcopal priest, a pair of missionaries, and one visionary bishop.
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