Newsroom Category: History

AHA announces new board members

BIRMINGHAM / January 23, 2023 — The Alabama Humanities Alliance (AHA) has appointed Clay Lofton and Ansley Quiros as new members of AHA’s board of directors. The two will help support AHA’s efforts as it enters its 50th anniversary in 2024.

“We’re excited to have Ansley and Clay join us,” says AHA Executive Director Chuck Holmes. “They each bring unique experiences and perspectives to AHA that will strengthen the organization and keep us leaning forward. Plus, simply put, they are two of the nicest and smartest people you’ll ever meet.”

Learn more about AHA’s newest board members:

Clay Loftin, government relations manager for Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama (BCBS), where he works with the Alabama Legislature, executive branch, and Alabama’s congressional delegation. He is responsible for legislative advocacy and healthcare policy efforts to ensure access to quality, affordable healthcare for more than 2 million Alabamians. Loftin’s passion for his home state has also led him to serve as a board member for the Girl Scouts of Southern Alabama (’17-’20) and on the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts Jr. Executive Board (‘21-’23). He’s also in the current Alabama Leadership Initiative Class VI.

Ansley Quiros, Ph.D., is an associate professor of history at the University of North Alabama and co-directs the Civil Rights Struggle in the Shoals Project. She earned her M.A. and Ph.D. in History from Vanderbilt, and she studies twentieth-century United States, focusing on race, politics, and religion. Quiros’ work has been publicized in The Washington Post, North Alabama Historical Review, and Atlanta Studies. Her debut novel, God With Us: Lived Theology and the Black Freedom Struggle in Americus, Georgia, 1942-1976, was published by the University of North Carolina Press. She is currently working on a biography of civil rights activists Charles and Shirley Sherrod.

The Alabama Humanities Alliance also extends its thanks to departing board member, Joseph Aistrup, Ph.D., From 2021-2022, Aistrup served as chair of AHA’s board. He is a professor in Auburn University’s Department of Political Science; he previously served as dean of the College of Liberal Arts at Auburn University from 2013-2021.

The Alabama Humanities Alliance’s board of directors represents communities and perspectives from across the state. To learn more, meet our full board.

About the Alabama Humanities Alliance
Founded in 1974, the nonprofit Alabama Humanities Alliance serves as a state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities. Through our grantmaking and public programming, we connect Alabamians to impactful storytelling, lifelong learning, and civic engagement. We believe the humanities can bring our communities together and help us all see each other as fully human. Learn more at alabamahumanities.org.

Introducing Alabama History Day teacher ambassadors

BIRMINGHAM / November 9, 2023 — The Alabama Humanities Alliance proudly announces the appointment of Rebecca Heaton and Cheryl Burch as Alabama History Day teacher ambassadors for North and South Alabama. In their roles, Heaton and Burch will serve as key points of contact for teachers and educators interested in participating in Alabama History Day.

Rebecca Heaton, teacher ambassador, North AL.

Heaton and Burch will support the efforts of Alabama History Day coordinator Idrissa N. Snider, Ph.D., in expanding outreach to both rural and urban areas across the state. Their collaborative outreach includes Alabama History Day and Donuts — a new initiative providing accessible school visits to facilitate helpful discussions about Alabama History Day.

Rebecca Heaton, AHA’s teacher ambassador for North Alabama, brings a wealth of experience to her role. Her involvement with History Day dates to 2008, when she covered stories about the competition as a journalist in Fairbanks, Alaska.

In 2018, Heaton directed the Alaska History Day Competition and served as a program coordinator for the Western History Association. She lives in Huntsville, where she’s pursuing a public history and architecture degree.

Cheryl Burch, teacher ambassador, South AL.

Cheryl Burch, AHA’s teacher ambassador for South Alabama, has a strong background in education. Her journey with History Day began as an 8th-grade Ancient World History teacher at Phillips Preparatory Academy. Burch’s dedication led her to sponsor History Day at Phillips, where she earned Alabama’s Patricia Behring Middle School Teacher of the Year award.

Building upon her expertise, Burch assumed the role of National History Day Master Teacher, conducting training workshops for NHD educators. Burch is enjoying her recent retirement, splitting her time between Mobile and Simpsonville, South Carolina.

This dynamic duo will play a crucial role in strengthening the impact of Alabama History Day, increasing engagement in broader communities, and bringing history to life for students across the state.

To learn more, visit alabamahumanities.org/alabama-history-day. Or contact AHD program coordinator Dr. Snider at [email protected] or 205.558.3996.

About the Alabama Humanities Alliance
Founded in 1974, the nonprofit Alabama Humanities Alliance serves as a state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities. Through our grantmaking and public programming, we connect Alabamians to impactful storytelling, lifelong learning, and civic engagement. We believe the humanities can bring our communities together and help us all see each other as fully human. Learn more at alabamahumanities.org.

Perry, Mathews honored as Humanities Fellows

BIRMINGHAM / October 24, 2023 — Amidst an era of divisiveness and disinformation, the Alabama Humanities Alliance’s 2023 Alabama Colloquium shined a spotlight on how the humanities can build community and offer truth and healing through honest, shared explorations of the past. For proof of that, look no further than this year’s newly named Alabama Humanities Fellows, Imani Perry, Ph.D., and David Mathews, Ph.D.

Perry and Mathews were honored before a sold-out gathering at the Grand Bohemian Hotel, where the historian-author-scholar duo shared stories from their careers and the impact Alabama has had on their work.

Dr. Perry was introduced by Odessa Woolfolk, a 1997 Fellow and an icon in Birmingham for her role as an educator, activist, and as founding president of the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute and as co-founder of Leadership Alabama.

During her presentation, Woolfolk noted that, “Dr. Perry has said ‘writing can be a moral instrument if it asks us to do more than read.’ South to America should inspire its readers to do something for the betterment of America. Perhaps, in the words of the late Congressman John Lewis, there is a lot of good trouble, necessary trouble to be had right here in Birmingham and in our country. Just a thought.”

Dr. Mathews was introduced by Catherine Randall, Ph.D., co-founder and chair emerita of the David Mathews Center for Civic Life, as well as a five-time graduate of the University of Alabama.

“Today, David Mathews is receiving the highest humanities honor in the state because he sees diverse communities, rich cultures, and fellow neighbors more clearly and with more empathy,” Randall said. “He provides context that helps us better understand our past and our present…His scholarship and public service in pursuit of community-building and deliberative democracy represent the best of the humanities.”

 

Fellows in conversation

During their on-stage conversation, Mathews and Perry talked at great length about community and how the past informs our present.

“The word ‘community’ originally meant to share with or to care with,” Mathews noted. “Every word carries with it a history and that word’s history carries a recognition by our most ancient ancestors that to survive — just to stay alive — required different people to come together, beyond just family.”

“Part of the difficulty with listening is people are uncomfortable with being uncomfortable, which is actually a necessary part of being in respectful community,” Perry added. “At minimum, what’s required is for people to get comfortable with hearing things that might be unsettling and actually examine why it feels unsettling — to sit with the discomfort.”=

At the end of the event, each honoree was asked what it meant to return home to Alabama and receive this honor.

“It means the world to me,” Perry responded. “I have traveled far and been educated at lots of fancy places, but everything that I have carried with me that has enabled me to move with integrity and diligence and rigor and deep love of people — which is at the heart of the humanities — comes from this soil and my family. This means so much. There’s nothing in the world like being celebrated at home.”

Mathews ended his remarks with some levity, leaving the room in laughter. “A lot of people think I’m crazy,” he said with a smile. “But thanks to this award, they cannot prove it.”

The event was moderated by journalist Priska Neely, managing editor of the Gulf States Newsroom, an innovative collaboration among National Public Radio and member stations in Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi. Neely filled in at the last second for planned moderator Kaitlan Collins, the CNN anchor and Alabama native who was sent on assignment to cover the ongoing war in the Middle East.

Collins sent a taped message to the Colloquium crowd that included her congratulations to Perry and Mathews: “You have both done such important work not only in exploring our past, but to also see how our past can be used to bring communities together and having those really important conversations that are so vital for our state.”

Other honorees recognized at the 2023 Alabama Colloquium included:

The Alabama Humanities Alliance also unveiled two new ways to engage with its work:

Healing History

Following the Colloquium, AHA offered a limited-capacity listening tour of Wallace House, run by our partners at the Wallace Center for Arts and Reconciliation. Built in 1841, in Harpersville, the Wallace House was once part of a 5,000-acre cotton plantation, which was worked by nearly 100 enslaved people.

Today, descendants of the home’s White landowners and enslaved Black population work together to examine their shared history and create a space for mutual understanding and reconciliation. Tour participants visited with those descendants as they shared their stories, and their hopes for the future. The tour also offered a chance to explore family exhibits and experience an open-air sculpture, Bearing Witness: Praise House, that evokes the spiritual practices of those once enslaved on the plantation.

Watch an AHA-funded video about the work underway at Wallace House.

AHA is focused on Healing History because its impact is needed urgently in our communities, and because it offers great hope for our future. As AHA’s Healing History coordinator Kathy Boswell shared:

“One of the best things about sharing history is being able to sit down and have those conversations through love, first of all. To speak from the heart and learn through the heart. To speak from curiosity and learn through curiosity, through humility. And, especially, to share and learn through willingness. Because what willingness means is, ‘I’ve left behind all the doubt, the fear, the shame, the concerns. And what I’m willing to do is, is to have the courage to raise my hand and say I’m in.’” 

 

About AHA’s 2023 Alabama Humanities Fellows

Imani Perry, a Birmingham native, is a scholar of law, literature, history, and cultural studies, as well as a creative nonfiction author. In 2022, she won the National Book Award for Nonfiction for South to America: A Journey Below the Mason-Dixon to Understand the Soul of a Nation. She was also recently received the MacArthur Fellow “genius grant.”

Perry has written five other books, including Looking for Lorraine: The Radiant and Radical Life of Lorraine Hansberry, which won the 2019 PEN Jacqueline Bograd Weld Award for Biography, and May We Forever Stand: A History of the Black National Anthem, winner of the 2019 Hurston/Wright Legacy Award for Nonfiction.

Perry is a professor in the Harvard Faculty of Arts and Sciences and at the Harvard Radcliffe Institute, one of the world’s leading centers for interdisciplinary exploration. She has bachelor’s degrees from Yale in American studies and literature, along with two terminal degrees from Harvard — a J.D. and a Ph.D. in the History of American Civilization. Outside of academia, Perry is a contributing writer for The Atlantic, where she pens a weekly newsletter that frequently reckons with the past, “Unsettled Territory.”

David Mathews, a Grove Hill native, has dedicated his life to building community and promoting democracy. Mathews earned an undergraduate degree in history from the University of Alabama and a Ph.D. in history from Columbia University. Returning to UA, Mathews both taught history and made it. He served as a history professor from 1965-1980, became the youngest president of a major university when he began his UA tenure at age 33, and presided over the integration of the Crimson Tide’s football program under Coach Paul “Bear” Bryant.

Mathews also served as U.S. Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare in President Gerald Ford’s administration, where he worked on restoring public confidence in government. And he spent four decades as president and CEO of the Kettering Foundation, focusing the nonprofit’s work on engaging citizens in the democratic process.

Mathews’ legacy is evidenced in Alabama at the David Mathews Center for Civic Life, which seeks to strengthen civic engagement statewide. While president at UA, he also played a significant role — along with his counterpart at Auburn, Harry Philpott — in helping to found what is now the Alabama Humanities Alliance.

 

About the Alabama Humanities Alliance

Founded in 1974, the nonprofit Alabama Humanities Alliance serves as a state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities. Through our grantmaking and public programming, we connect Alabamians to impactful storytelling, lifelong learning, and civic engagement. We believe the humanities can bring our communities together and help us all see each other as fully human. Learn more at alabamahumanities.org.

 

Alabama History Day winners head to nation’s capital

BIRMINGHAM / JUNE 7, 2023 — This month, 27 Alabama students and educators will travel to Maryland and Washington, D.C., to compete at National History Day. The NHD competition, set for June 11-15, enables students in grades 6-12 to conduct high-level research on a topic of their choice and present their studies in creative ways. The presentations include papers, exhibits, performances, documentaries, or websites. NHD winners can qualify for scholarships and some may even have their work displayed at the Smithsonian.

Who are these students representing Alabama in our nation’s capital?

Back in March, nearly 200 students from across Alabama gathered at Auburn University in Montgomery to compete in Alabama History Day, the statewide contest organized by the Alabama Humanities Alliance. More than 40 participating students won first- or second-place honors in their category to qualify for National History Day.

More than a single day, AHA’s History Day program offers year-long benefits. The program provides teachers with a dynamic project-based learning tool that can be built into their history curriculum. Teachers can also attend ongoing History Day training workshops and students can join in summer enrichment opportunities.

Even in the height of the pandemic, Alabama History Day still provided space for young scholars to develop. In 2022, 28 students won awards in a virtual statewide contest. In 2023, that number increased to 63 students who were awarded first, second, or third place. AHA’s History Day continues to set the stage for youth to grow beyond their current understanding of themselves and the world around them.

“Research helps you better connect to the world and your community,” says Idrissa Snider, Ph.D., program coordinator for Alabama History Day. “And it helps you learn more about yourself. When our students have these ‘aha moments,’ they’re building their confidence as learners, too.”

Indeed, History Day gives students preparation academically and interpersonally so that they can thrive as students, and eventually as professionals. “Whether a child wants to be a rocket scientist, teacher, or truck driver, they have to sit down and interview,” Snider says. “They must look confidently in the eyes of someone else and speak. The sooner kids start being able to speak in front of others, they become more prepared for the real world.”

For some students, National History Day marks the first time they’ll travel beyond their hometowns and earn recognition for their work. And several have already scored big honors in the nation’s capital:

“History Day illustrates how important it is to have young people from around the state, from all types of backgrounds, coming together in a space and putting their unique interests out there,” Sniders says. “We can learn to have different opinions, outlets, perspectives, or whatever the case may be. And we can respect others’ opinions and thoughts.”

 

Learn more about the impact of Alabama History Day by viewing our film Welcome to History Day. If you or someone you know would like to bring AHD to your school contact Idrissa N. Snider, Ph.D., at [email protected].

Snider named Alabama History Day coordinator

December 7, 2022 / Birmingham, Ala. — Idrissa N. Snider, Ph.D., has joined the Alabama Humanities Alliance as program coordinator for Alabama History Day, one of the statewide nonprofit’s cornerstone programs.

Alabama History Day, a state-level affiliate of National History Day, gives middle school and high school students a creative and dynamic way to engage with history. Students learn to do primary research and then become authors, filmmakers, web developers, playwrights, and artists to creatively present their findings. History Day also serves as a dynamic project-learning tool for Alabama educators and as a source of camaraderie for classrooms and schools.

“Serving in this capacity is a privilege and an honor,” Snider says, “because I know firsthand how important it is for the youth in our state to learn about their history and the history of others. What makes the History Day program vital to our community is that it encourages students and educators alike to explore the world around them in creative and meaningful ways.”

Snider is a writer, educator, communicator and DEI trainer. She earned her doctoral degree at Wayne State University in Detroit, Mich., and a Master of Arts degree from UAB in Communications Management. She received her bachelor’s degree from Georgia State University in Film and Journalism. Snider has more than 20 years of experience of working with youth and advocacy groups.

Her scholarly interests focus on rhetorical criticism and womanist studies, and she has taught several African American studies and communications-themed courses at colleges throughout the state, including UAB. Snider also served as a visiting assistant professor at Samford University.

“This is an important hire for us because History Day is far more than a single day,” says Chuck Holmes, executive director of the Alabama Humanities Alliance. “It is a yearlong process that helps teachers and mentors bring history to life for students, and teaches our young people how to be effective researchers and storytellers.

“With her experience and expertise, Idrissa will extend the reach of History Day across the state and build relationships to broaden and diversify participation in this vital program.”

Registration is now open for Alabama History Day 2023, set for March 3, 2023, at Auburn University at Montgomery. This year’s theme is “Frontiers in History: People, Places, Ideas.” Individual and group winners in each contest category will be eligible to advance to National History Day next June in Washington, D.C., and College Park, Maryland.

To learn more about Alabama History Day, visit alabamahumanities.org/alabama-history-day.

 

About the Alabama Humanities Alliance
Founded in 1974, the nonprofit Alabama Humanities Alliance serves as a state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities. AHA promotes impactful storytelling, lifelong learning and civic engagement. We provide Alabamians with opportunities to connect with our shared cultures and to see each other as fully human. Through our grantmaking, we help scholars, communities and cultural nonprofits create humanities-rich projects that are accessible to all Alabamians — from literary festivals and documentary films to museum exhibitions and research collections. Learn more at alabamahumanities.org.

Exploring the leadership of Fred Shuttlesworth, 100 years after his birth

BIRMINGHAM / October 6, 2022 — Fred Shuttlesworth was the fulcrum of the civil rights movement in Birmingham — and a frequent target of the Ku Klux Klan for his freedom fighting. On Saturday, October 15, dozens of Alabama educators will join in a public workshop that reexamines Shuttlesworth’s authentic, action-driven style of leadership.

“Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth: Actionist for Justice” is a SUPER Teacher workshop presented by the Alabama Humanities Alliance, in partnership with Alabama Public Television. Participants will also get a sneak peek of the new APT documentary, Shuttlesworth, which debuts this December — 100 years after the civil rights icon’s birth.

This Birmingham workshop is open to the media. Registration required.

When: October 15, 2022 | 9 a.m.-noon
Where: Bethel Baptist Church | Birmingham
What: Half-day workshop for Alabama educators
Website: alabamahumanities.org/program/super-teacher

The lead scholar and presenter for this event is David Holmes, Ph.D., dean of Liberal Arts & Sciences at Lipscomb University. Dr. Holmes has authored books and articles about African American language and literature, sermons and speeches of the civil rights movement, and the prophetic legacy of such speeches and the pastors and laypersons who delivered them.

Participating teachers will earn continuing education credits, a $50 stipend and copies of A Fire You Can’t Put Out: The Civil Rights Life of Birmingham’s Reverend Fred Shuttlesworth by Andrew Manis, and Where the Sacred and Secular Harmonize: Birmingham Mass Meeting Rhetoric and the Prophetic Legacy of the Civil Rights Movement by David Holmes.

AHA’s SUPER Teacher program offers workshops throughout the state each year that help educators become more knowledgeable, confident, and effective teachers in the classroom.
Learn more: alabamahumanities.org/program/super-teacher.

 

About the Alabama Humanities Alliance
Founded in 1974, the nonprofit Alabama Humanities Alliance serves as a state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities. AHA promotes impactful storytelling, lifelong learning and civic engagement. We provide Alabamians with opportunities to connect with our shared cultures and to see each other as fully human. Through our grantmaking, we help scholars, communities and cultural nonprofits create humanities-rich projects that are accessible to all Alabamians — from literary festivals and documentary films to museum exhibitions and research collections. Learn more at alabamahumanities.org.

About Alabama Public Television
Alabama Public Television is a state network of the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS). We’re committed to enriching the lives of Alabamians through programming that educates and entertains the citizenry and by providing high-quality instructional content for schools statewide. APT also acts as Alabama’s storyteller, presenting the state’s unique heritage and cultural contributions while traveling the road taken through history on the journey to becoming the Alabama of today. Learn more at aptv.org.

Newfound information — and inspiration — for the classroom

By Jedidiah Gist-Anderson

This summer, I had the gracious opportunity to participate in a teaching program through the Alabama Humanities Alliance and the National Endowment for the Humanities. “Stony the Road We Trod” helped me to see Alabama, its unsung heroes, and civil rights foot soldiers in a different light than ever before.

Over the course of this three-week institute, I had the honor to meet civil rights scholars, veterans of the movement, and individuals who were impacted by the movement. There are so many I could talk about, but I want to highlight at least a few moments that truly resonated with me during this experience.

Jedidiah Gist-Anderson (at right) with another Stony participant outside the Birmingham city jail where Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth, Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., and other civil rights leaders and foot soldiers were jailed.

I want to start with Rev. Carolyn McKinstry, who was present on September 15, 1963, when KKK members bombed Birmingham’s 16th Street Baptist Church, killing four of Carolyn’s young friends. Her presentation resonated with me — not just because of her personal experience, but with how she took that experience and pursued a life of service and ministry. McKinstry’s message was authentic and sincere; it was a message of redemption and reconciliatory love. Her words reminded me that some church leaders in the movement believed that — even as they fought for their rights — they still tried to love those who ridiculed them, persecuted them, and despised them.

Mrs. Ruby Shuttlesworth Bester’s story about her father made me feel starstruck. I have taught African American Studies for 16 years and never did I ever hear about her father, the late Rev. Fred L. Shuttlesworth — and I was ashamed. However, just hearing her personal account of witnessing her father’s strength and courage firsthand, and to share that with us, was amazing.

I admired Mrs. Shuttlesworth Bester even before I met here after reading Andrew Manis’ book for the institute: A Fire You Can’t Put Out: The Civil Rights Life of Birmingham’s Reverend Fred Shuttlesworth. He was a man beyond his years and his dogmatic tenacity invigorated me to fight for what you believe in and to stand on that even if you must stand alone.

Our cohort also had the chance to tour historic sites and museums around the state. That included learning from staff at the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Civil Rights Memorial Center and its Learning for Justice program, as well as the Equal Justice Initiative’s Legacy Museum and National Memorial for Peace and Justice. Visiting those sites were the most riveting experiences I have ever encountered outside of visiting Yad Vashem, the Holocaust memorial in Israel that I visited when I was a teenager.

It’s one thing to see something so powerful a as the National Memorial for Peace and Justice on television. But to see and touch the names of Black lynching victims from across the country etched into those beams — it hit me to the core emotionally. The SPLC’s presentation about some of those lynchings unearthed some emotions I had not felt in such a long time. Compassion for the victims and their families for what happened to them. And shame and hurt thinking about how lynching was once a part of America’s national character.

This institute also gave me hope, though. For instance, despite all the injustices that have taken place in this nation, the EJI’s Legacy Museum tour ends with hope in a room it calls The Reflection Space. The room illuminates all the African Americans who have worked throughout their lives to make an impact and challenge racial injustice, even with obstacles facing them.

Jedidiah Gist-Anderson and the rest of his Stony 2022 cohort, in front of Harris House – a safe harbor and strategic meeting place for Freedom Riders in Montgomery.

Back home now, one of the things that I am striving to do in my classroom is to never forget the unsung heroes of the civil rights movement, such as Selma’s JoAnne Bland; Freedom Rider and activist Bernard LaFayette; civil rights activist Viola Liuzzo; and civil rights attorney Arthur Shores. They fought to keep the soul of the civil rights movement going by any means necessary. Their authenticity and personal struggles, trials and victories, made me think: Where are our foot soldiers for today?

I will never forget this experience and I plan to spill all this newfound knowledge and information with my students so they can push it forward to the next generation, and so that we do not forget those who were the foot soldiers of the movement.

 

Jedidiah Gist-Anderson participated in the 2022 cohort of Stony the Road We Trod: Exploring Alabama’s Civil Rights Legacy. Gist-Anderson is a social studies teacher at Mallard Creek High School in Charlotte, North Carolina. He has taught for 16 years and focuses on topics such as civics literacy and African American history.

Transformative power of ‘the fullness of history’

Reflection by Jen Reidel

“If you all get to tell the story and get it right, then the children will get it right.”
—Dr. Martha Bouyer, Stony the Road project director and an Alabama Humanities Fellow

 

Thanks to Dr. Bouyer’s passionate vision and leadership — along with the support of the Alabama Humanities Alliance and the National Endowment for the Humanities — 27 teachers from 17 states gave three weeks of their summer to come to Alabama. We came to learn about, deepen, and complicate our understanding of Alabama’s role in the civil rights movement, and to teach it accurately to our students. For me, and I suspect many others in our group, it was all that and much more.

 

Jen Reidel, a history and civics teacher in Bellingham, Washington. 

Challenging history, resilience, hope, and transformation are how I would describe my experience as a participant in Stony the Road. Through visits to historic sites, presentations from civil rights scholars, and firsthand stories from those who bore witness to Alabama’s centrality in fight for equality for Black Americans, I gained a deeper and more complex perspective of the civil rights movement and its influence on America today.

As a teacher of U.S. history and civics, I thought I had a decent understanding of the movement; yet through this experience, I have a much broader and more sophisticated grasp of how important Alabama was in the fight for equality in the South and the nation at large. I am excited, as well as challenged, by how this experience will influence and inform my teaching.

On an academic level, the experience has pushed me to reframe my thinking and teaching of the civil rights movement to ensure I’m not perpetuating myths and distorting the realities of the movement. One of the most impacting academic sessions was with scholar Hasan Kwame Jeffries, Ph.D., who identified for us incorrect master narratives that distort the truth of history. He also taught us how to “disrupt” those fallacies with a more well-rounded teaching of civil rights narratives. An example of this is when teachers limit civil rights instruction to the American South. Dr. Jeffries pointed out in doing this it regionalizes white supremacy, distorts and confuses de jure and de facto segregation, and decontextualizes Northern protest. He encouraged us to “complicate the South, add into your teaching the Northern protests.”

Additionally, Dr. Jeffries urged us to abandon teaching a Dr. King-centric approach that suggests: “The movement is MLK, and we wind up running around looking for ‘little Kings.’” When the focus is on the pulpit instead of who was in the pews, students and other learners of history miss studying the richness of the movement and the efforts of the Black working class, the children, and the women who sacrificed for the cause.

Our site-based historical visits through Stony gave life and form to our academic sessions. For me, there are no words to fully describe feelings associated with walking the Edmund Pettus Bridge; worshipping inside the 16th Street Baptist Church; standing on the grounds where men with dogs and hoses attacked children who marched for equality in Kelly Ingram Park; sitting in the pews at Bethel Baptist Church; standing behind Dr. King’s pulpit at Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church; and walking the grounds of the National Memorial for Peace and Justice, sometimes called the Lynching Memorial. I know without a doubt that my witness to history through these site visits will deeply impact my students.

Jen Reidel (red shorts, near center) stands next to Bishop Calvin Woods in a Stony cohort photo with the Birmingham civil rights leader. 

Perhaps most transformative for me were the sessions where we listened to and talked with foot soldiers of the cause, daughters of leaders in the movement, and those who lived through this defining period in our nation’s history. For instance, activist and leader Bishop Calvin Woods shared with us about his experiences working within the Birmingham campaign and the sacrifices he made for freedom, including multiple arrests and time behind bars. He told us: “When you are fighting for real rights, there is no color line.”

Hearing the experiences of those in the movement makes this history all the more recent and relevant. Stories such as those from JoAnne Bland, a civil rights activist and an 11-year-old participant in Bloody Sunday in Selma back in 1965. Bland told us that, as a child, freedom for her meant being able to eat ice cream at Carter Drug Co.’s lunch counter in Selma. Similarly, for Janice Kelsey — a Children’s Crusade marcher in 1963 as a high school junior in Birmingham — freedom meant being able to eat at J.J. Newberry’s lunch counter or trying on shoes before buying them in a department store.

We also heard from Barbara Shores, daughter of civil rights attorney Arthur Shores, and Ruby Shuttlesworth Bester, daughter of civil rights leader Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth, who each spoke about the sacrifices that entire families in the movement made in the fight for equality. Both women shared how it affected them to survive having their homes bombed multiple times by white supremacists, and they revealed the trauma created by those events. Mrs. Shuttlesworth Bester described her family’s sacrifice this way: “Our struggle was one of love, we did what Daddy (Rev. Shuttleworth) asked us to do.” These stories and many others from those who participated in and witnessed history will be invaluable as I teach about civil rights.

I will forever be grateful for the opportunity to confront history in person — up close and alongside some of the finest educators I have met.

History matters and knowing it in its fullness is powerful and transformative.

As civil rights historian and author Glenn Eskew shared with us: “The story (of civil rights in Alabama) is about justice, reconciliation, and changing the world for the better.”

Our students deserve to know the past in all its truth, how it informs the present, and be encouraged by ordinary people who did the extraordinary in their fight for equality. The march continues…

 

Jen Reidel participated in the 2022 cohort of Stony the Road We Trod: Exploring Alabama’s Civil Rights Legacy. Reidel has served as a teacher for 26 years. She currently teaches civics and U.S. history in the Bellingham School District at Bellingham High School, in Washington. 

Educators nationwide arrive in Alabama to witness civil rights history first-hand

July 11, 2022 — The Alabama Humanities Alliance welcomes educators from across the country to participate in an immersive, three-week field study of the modern Civil Rights Movement. “Stony the Road We Trod: Exploring Alabama’s Civil Rights Legacy” is a teaching institute presented by the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Alabama Humanities Alliance.

The program, which runs July 10-30, will enable teachers to learn how events in Alabama impacted not just the South and the nation, but the world. Birmingham will serve as the host city for the institute, with field research taking place in Selma, Montgomery and Tuskegee — all key “battleground” sites in the struggle for human and civil rights.

In all, the Alabama Humanities Alliance selected 27 educators from 17 states to participate, via a competitive, nationwide application process.

WHAT: Stony the Road We Trod: Exploring Alabama’s Civil Rights Legacy. (A National Endowment for the Humanities summer institute, presented by the Alabama Humanities Alliance.)

WHERE: Birmingham, Selma, Montgomery, Tuskegee

WHEN: July 10-30, 2022

MEDIA OPPORTUNITIES: In-person coverage of certain sessions and field research is possible with advance notice. We can also help set up interviews with the project director, AHA staff, and teacher participants. Note that photography may be limited in certain facilities we visit.

 

More information
The project director is Martha Bouyer, Ph.D., an Alabama Humanities Fellow. Among the institute’s speakers: Ruby Shuttlesworth Bester, Joanne Bland, Robert Corley, Hasan Kwame Jeffries, Peggy Wallace Kennedy, Bernard Lafayette, Bishop Calvin Woods, Odessa Woolfolk, and many more.

The ultimate goal of Stony the Road is to equip teachers with first-hand experiences and primary resources that they can use to bring the civil rights era to life in their classrooms and schools. Educators will also learn to better engage their students in conversations about that era’s legacy today.

“The power of this experience comes from getting to walk the same ground where these life-altering events took place, where the promises of the U.S. Constitution became a greater reality for more Americans,” says Dr. Martha Bouyer, Ph.D., an Alabama Humanities Fellow and project director for Stony the Road.

Indeed, educators will have the chance to interact with iconic leaders and foot soldiers of the civil right movement and talk with scholars who are experts in the field. They will also travel to key sites of memory and preservation — from Bethel Baptist Church in Birmingham to the Tuskegee History Center and beyond. Teachers will also have the chance to review archival film footage and primary sources as they develop new curriculum plans to bring back to their schools.

 

About the Alabama Humanities
Alliance Founded in 1974, the Alabama Humanities Alliance is a nonprofit that serves as a state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities. AHA promotes impactful storytelling, lifelong learning and civic engagement. We provide Alabamians with opportunities to connect with our shared cultures and to see each other as fully human. Through our grantmaking, we help scholars, communities and cultural nonprofits create humanities-based projects that are accessible to all Alabamians — from literary festivals and documentary films to museum exhibitions and research collections. Learn more at alabamahumanities.org.

About the National Endowment for the Humanities
Created in 1965 as an independent federal agency, the National Endowment for the Humanities supports research and learning in history, literature, philosophy, and other areas of the humanities by funding selected, peer-reviewed proposals from around the nation. Additional information about the National Endowment for the Humanities and its grant programs is available at neh.gov.

Alabama educator nominated for National History Day ‘Teacher of the Year’

May 10, 2022 — The Alabama Humanities Alliance has nominated Blakeney Doggette of Phillips Preparatory School in Mobile, Alabama, for the Patricia Behring Teacher of the Year award. The National History Day award is sponsored by Patricia Behring in recognition of the pivotal role that teachers play in the lives of students.

Each of the 58 National History Day affiliates may nominate exceptional educators; Blakeney Doggette is this year’s nominee from Alabama. All nominees receive $500 and are eligible for a $10,000 award if they win the national prize. Nominees demonstrate a commitment to engaging students in historical learning through the innovative use of primary sources, implementation of active learning strategies to foster historical thinking skills, and participation in the National History Day contest.

“This award recognizes the very best educators from across the nation and beyond,” said National History Day Executive Director Dr. Cathy Gorn. “These educators are leaders and innovators in the teaching of history, and we are all the more impressed because of the extended difficult teaching circumstances due to the pandemic during the last year. I wish to congratulate Ms. Doggette on her well-deserved nomination.”

The national winner will be selected by a committee of experienced teachers and historians, and announced on June 18, 2022, at National History Day’s awards ceremony (to be held virtually again due to COVID-19). Nominees’ work must clearly illustrate the development and use of creative teaching methods that engage students in history, and help them make exciting discoveries about the past.

“It’s teachers like Mrs. Doggette who make History Day such a meaningful and valuable experience for our students statewide,” says Rachel Hartsell, Alabama History Day coordinator for the Alabama Humanities Alliance. “We’re thankful for all Blakeney did to advance the Alabama History Day program at her school. And we know we’re very fortunate to have many dedicated educators statewide that we could have nominated for this national award.”

 

About National History Day
NHD is a nonprofit organization based in College Park, Maryland, that seeks to improve the teaching and learning of history. The National History Day Contest was established in 1974 and currently engages more than half a million students every year in conducting original research on historical topics of interest. Students present their research as a documentary, exhibit, paper, performance, or website. Projects compete first at the local and affiliate levels, where the top entries are invited to the National Contest at the University of Maryland at College Park. NHD is sponsored in part by, HISTORY®, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the National Park Service, Southwest Airlines, the Crown Family Foundation, The Better Angels Society, the Pritzker Military Museum & Library and the Diana Davis Spencer Foundation. For more information, visit nhd.org.

 

About Alabama History Day
Alabama History Day is a state-level affiliate of National History Day, a year-long project-based learning program focused on historical research, interpretation, and creative expression – open to all students in grades 6-12. By participating in Alabama History Day, students become writers, filmmakers, web designers, playwrights and artists as they create unique contemporary expressions of history. The experience culminates in a statewide contest in the spring and an annual national competition in the nation’s capital in June. Alabama History Day is an Alabama Humanities Alliance program. For more information, visit alabamahumanities.org/program/alabama-history-day.

 

About the Alabama Humanities Alliance
Founded in 1974, the nonprofit Alabama Humanities Alliance serves as a state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities. AHA promotes impactful storytelling, lifelong learning and civic engagement. We provide Alabamians with opportunities to connect with our diverse cultures and to see each other as fully human. Through our grantmaking, we help scholars, communities and cultural nonprofits create humanities-based projects that are accessible to all Alabamians — from literary festivals and documentary films to museum exhibitions and research collections. Learn more at alabamahumanities.org.