Anderson, Nancy

A native Mississippian, Nancy Grisham Anderson did her undergraduate work at Millsaps College and graduate work at the University of Virginia. After teaching in Mississippi, Germany, and South Carolina, she joined the English faculty at Auburn University at Montgomery (AUM) where she taught and published on Southern and American literature and writing.

In a six-year term on the Alabama Humanities Alliance's board of directors, Anderson served as program chair and board chair. She has led AHA teacher institutes and delivered Road Scholar presentations. The 2004 recipient of the Eugene Current-Garcia Award, Anderson has received the AUM Distinguished Teaching Award and AUM Distinguished Outreach Award and an inaugural Chancellor’s Warhawk Spirit Award. She retired from the AUM English Department in 2015 and went to work as Distinguished Outreach Fellow, working with AUM Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) and directing Actions Build Community.

Bailey, Richard

Since returning to Montgomery, Dr. Bailey has been a consultant for the Center for Public Television at The University of Alabama, where he was a consultant for their productions on the Lincoln School of Marion and Reconstruction black officeholders. For the Division of Telecommunication and Educational Television at Auburn University, Bailey was an advisor for the Gee’s Bend story and the Horace King documentary. He was a consultant for the award-winning radio documentary, “Remembering Slavery,” produced by the Institute for Language and Culture at the University of Montevallo. In the mid-1980s, Gov. George C. Wallace appointed him twice to the De Soto Commission to reconstruct the path of the Spanish explorer through Alabama. Kiosks along select Alabama highways identify the route of De Soto.

Among other awards, Dr. Bailey received a joint fellowship to travel and study in Europe and African from Cleveland (Ohio) State University and the University of Massachusetts.

Berry, Donald*

Donald Berry is the director of the Gulf Coast Center for Holocaust and Human Rights Education. The Center promotes and supports middle-school and high-school teaching of the Holocaust and genocide. Berry is recognized as a Lerner Fellow by the Jewish Foundation for the Righteous. His Holocaust training includes the International Seminar at Yad Vashem (2006). He retired as associate vice president for academic services at the University of Mobile in 2015. Berry attended Southern Seminary in Louisville, from which he received a Master of Divinity degree in 1978 and a Doctor of Philosophy degree in 1987.


Bliss Wright, Sarah

Alabama native Sarah Bliss Wright spent 30 years in performing arts before quilts captured her attention. Though she grew up surrounded by quilts, it was not until 2006 that the idea of turning her talents to textile art was born. A crazy quilt that she made from her late father’s silk neckties ignited a desire to add quilting to her creative pursuits. Serious study of quilt history began after a serendipitous meeting of fellow Alabamian Mary Elizabeth Johnson Huff, well-known author of numerous quilt books.

Wright holds a B.A. in psychology from Samford University (Birmingham) and studied at the University of Exeter, England, as a Rotary International Fellow. She is curator for “Our Quilted Past,” an exhibit of Alabama feedsack quilts and Bemis Bro. Bag Company, and her research on the subject is published in "Uncoverings 2013." A member of the American Quilt Study Group, Wright lives in Mobile.

Brown, Alan

Dr. Alan Brown earned his B.A. in English at Millikin University in 1972, his M.A. in American Literature at Southern Illinois in 1974, and his Ph. D. in Rhetoric at Illinois State University in 1985. He has been teaching English at The University of West Alabama since 1986. Dr. Brown has been a member of the Alabama Humanities Alliance's Road Scholars Speakers’ Bureau since 1990. Since 1996, he has published a number of books on Southern ghost stories, including "The Face in the Window and Other Alabama Ghostlore" (1996), "Shadows and Cypress" (2000), "Haunted Places in the American South" (2002), "Stories from the Haunted South" (2004), "Ghost Hunters of the South" (2006), "Ghost Hunters of New England" (2008), "Haunted Texas" (2008), and "Haunted Birmingham" (2009). He has also published two literary tour guides: Literary Levees of New Orleans (1997) and Literary Landmarks of Chicago (2002).

Burger, Michael*

Named Mississippi Humanities Teacher of the Year when he taught in that state, Michael Burger is professor of history at Auburn University at Montgomery. He teaches classes in ancient, medieval, and early modern European history. He is the author of Diocesan Governance in Thirteenth-Century England: Reward and Punishment (Cambridge University Press, 2012), as well as books for students (The Shaping of Western Civilization, 2 vols. [2015]; Reading History [2022], both from the University of Toronto Press), among other works.

Burger has also served as academic dean of a school and a college at AUM, as well as on the board of directors of the Alabama Humanities Alliance. He once lived in a twelfth-century chapel that had been converted into a house, which is probably the only interesting thing about him.


Byrd-Giles, Bettina

Bettina Byrd-Giles is a leading expert in intercultural communication, implicit bias, and health equity. She is also founder and CEO of The Byrd’s Nest, LLC, a consulting, professional development, and social entrepreneurship company.

Byrd-Giles served as co-chair of the Martin Luther King Conflict Resolution Conference in Malawi, sponsored by the Fulbright Foundation, University of Malawi, Miles College, and Diversity University. She has been honored by the Greater Birmingham United Nations Association for founding Diversity University, a cross-cultural program involving six colleges and universities. Byrd-Giles also authored Tales of a Formerly Unhappily Employed Liberal Arts Major: Embracing Your Meandering Career Path.

She holds certificates in intercultural communication, and is a qualified administrator for the Intercultural Development Inventory (IDI). Byrd-Giles has an MA in Education from UAB and a BA in International Relations from the University of Virginia.

Cauthen, Joyce

Joyce Cauthen is the director emeritus of the Alabama Folklife Association, a statewide organization that sponsors research, promotion and preservation of Alabama’s folk culture. She is the author of "With Fiddle and Well-Rosined Bow: Old-Time Fiddling in Alabama," published in 1989 by the University of Alabama Press, and has served as the producer of numerous recordings of traditional music of Alabama, including “Possum Up a Gum Stump: Home, Commercial and Field Recordings of Alabama Fiddlers.” She served as editor of "Benjamin Lloyd’s Hymnbook: A Primitive Baptist Song Tradition" and produced the accompanying CD. Her last project was a CD and booklet entitled "Bullfrog Jumped," which features recordings made across Alabama of children’s folksongs and games in 1947. She is a graduate of Texas Christian University and has a master’s degree in English from Purdue University.

Cook, Ruth Beaumont

Ruth Beaumont Cook is the author of three books related to Alabama history. Her most recent, Magic in Stone, is the story of Sylacauga's high-quality white marble, its quarry history, and the origins of its annual marble festival. Her second book, Guests Behind the Barbed Wire, chronicles life in Aliceville, Alabama, during WWII, when it was home to one of the largest German POW camps in the U.S. This book won a bronze medal for outstanding historical writing by the Independent Publishers Group. Cook has also authored numerous articles on history, business, and the arts for local, regional, and national publications, including Birmingham magazine, Business Alabama, and Alabama Heritage. An Ohio native and graduate of Ohio State University, she has made her home in Alabama since 1970. Cook has served on the planning committee for the Writing Today conference at Birmingham-Southern College and on the board of the Alabama Writers' Forum.

Davis, Rebekah*

Since 2010, Athens native Rebekah Davis has been preserving and sharing the history of her hometown and county as the archivist at the Limestone County Archives. In addition to keeping centuries-old documents in good shape, helping people research their history, and working to keep the historic 1905 L&N Passenger Depot standing, she shares the community story online, in print, and through special exhibits and presentations. Davis gained a unique insight into Judge Horton and the Scottsboro Boys as a result of working with the papers and the family of Judge James E. Horton Jr., and with the effort to erect a monument in his honor. A University of North Alabama graduate, Davis has had previous careers as a journalist, co-owner of a frugal-living website, and domestic engineer.


Davis, Robert

Robert Scott “Bob” Davis is director of the Family and Regional History Program, Wallace State Community College, Hanceville, Alabama. His program pioneers local and family history research in a college environment. The American Association for State and Local History gave his program the Outstanding Leadership in History Award of merit for 2006.

Bob holds a Master of Education degree in history from North Georgia College and a Master of Arts degree from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. His has more than 1,000 publications on records and research include a number of books and more than 100 articles and reviews in professional historical, library, education, and archival journals. He has been quoted in or by Time, Smithsonian, CNN, NBC, and the Wall Street Journal. In Alabama and Georgia, Bob has worked to raise public awareness on saving local government records and has been a member of the Alabama governor’s historical records commission.

Fisk, Scott*

Scott Fisk is an accomplished and versatile designer, artist, and professor, specializing in graphic design. Presently, he serves as chair of the Department of Art and Design at Samford University. Fisk has garnered international recognition for his creative prowess, as evidenced by his extensive participation in esteemed, peer-reviewed exhibitions worldwide. His wide-ranging interests encompass various facets of design, including typography, publishing, photography, motion graphics, and user experience design. Fisk possesses a keen fascination with books, letterpress, ephemera, and traditional printing techniques, which adds a captivating dimension to his work.


Fritze, Ronald

Professor Ronald H. Fritze was born and raised in Indiana. He earned a Ph.D. in history from Cambridge University. Currently, he serves as the dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Athens State University in Athens, Alabama. He is the author and editor of eleven books including "New Worlds: The Great Voyages of Discovery, 1400-1600" (Sutton/Praeger, 2003) and "Invented Knowledge: False History, Fake Science, and Pseudo-Religions" (Reaktion Books, 2009). Professor Fritze appeared in the series "The Conquest of America" on the History Channel. Among his awards, he received the Phi Kappa Phi teaching award and was selected the eighth Distinguished Faculty Lecturer at Lamar University. He is currently vice president/president elect of the Society for the History of Discoveries.

Gandy, Maurice

Maurice Gandy is a teacher and writer who finds “news” in history, especially oral history. Gandy recently retired after three decades as a journalism, literature, and creative writing instructor at Bishop State College in Mobile. He continues to teach American literature and technical writing as an adjunct English instructor at the University of South Alabama. In 2007, iUniverse Publishers released Gandy’s book, "The Capocalypse," a coming-of-age allegory set on the West Coast in the late 1960s. The work earned a Publisher’s Choice award from iUniverse. In addition, he has been a longtime feature correspondent for the Press-Register newspaper in Mobile. His specialty as a journalist is oral history, drawing on interviews with long-time residents, military veterans, and their descendants, to preserve stories and share them anew.

Green, Salaam*

Salaam Green is the 2023-2025 Birmingham Poet Laureate, a sought-after speaker, and award-winning artist and writer; creator of What Black Women Want You to Know; and founder of Literary Healing Arts, which supports individuals and organizations in using writing, poetry, and storytelling to reclaim their voices and transform their lives. In her work as an advocate for racial justice, Green has spoken at the United Nations and facilitated and trained hundreds of leaders throughout the South, including through the Selma Center for Nonviolence, Truth, and Reconciliation and UAB Institute for Arts in Medicine. A graduate of the University of Montevallo, Salaam is a certified practitioner and trainer for the Kellogg Foundation’s Truth, Racial Healing & Transformation process, a former Reimagining Justice and Women's Policy Fellow, and a Community Village awardee for gender justice work in the South.


Hydock, Dolores

Dolores Hydock is an actress and storyteller whose presentations highlight the “story” behind a variety of topics from history, art, and literature. Her work has been featured at conferences, festivals, and special events throughout the United States, including the National Storytelling Festival in Jonesborough, Tennessee. She has served as the teller-in-residence at Jonesborough's International Storytelling Center, and her 12 CDs of original stories have all received awards from Storytelling World magazine for excellence in storytelling. She has collaborated with the Birmingham Museum of Art to blend stories with art, and her Christmas story special airs annually on NPR affiliate WBHM in Birmingham.

Kelly, Mark Everett*

Growing up 40 miles east of New York City, Mark Everett Kelly learned the value of paying attention to the smallest details in order to impress very dedicated sports fans.

His love for sports and ability to see beyond the box score helped Kelly land his dream job at ESPN in 1999. There, Kelly won two Emmy Awards for his work on SportsCenter; served as a lead researcher for shows Cold Pizza and The Hot List; and led ESPN’s college basketball remote production coverage from 2000-2004. However, due to serious health issues, Kelly retired from ESPN in 2009.

Since then, he's published more than 500 articles on ckmagicsports.com and produced 300-plus podcasts on sports and society. In 2019, Kelly published My Scars Tell a Story, and often refers to his battle with cancer, helping to inspire others fighting their own personal battles. Kelly’s presentations always go beyond sports, thanks to his ability to integrate the culture of any era.


Lang, Christopher

Christopher Lang graduated from the College of Wooster (Ohio) with a double-major in History and Art. He trained in furniture conservation at the Smithsonian Institution in Suitland, Maryland, and the Conservation Laboratory of the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, in Williamsburg, Virginia. While at Colonial Williamsburg, he worked for several years at the Anthony Hay Shop as a cabinetmaker and historical interpreter.

For eleven years, Mr. Lang was master cabinetmaker at the Walker Allen Cabinet Shop at Alabama Constitution Village, Huntsville, Alabama. He provided historical interpretation and demonstration of early 19th century customs and crafts. He also served as curator of collections and exhibits of the EarlyWorks Museums in Huntsville. Included among his projects was a special exhibit and lecture series on Alabama-made furniture at the Humphreys-Rodgers House.

Today, Christopher builds on his woodworking experience of over two decades through research and interpretation.

Leader, Anne*

Anne Leader, Ph.D., is an instructor at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at Auburn University. She's also a visiting fellow at the University of Virginia’s Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities, where she is developing Digital Sepoltuario, an interactive website that chronicles the memorial landscape of medieval and Renaissance Florence, Italy.

Born and raised in Houston, Texas, Dr. Leader holds a History-Art History B.A. from Emory University, and earned her M.A. and Ph.D. in the History of Art and Archaeology from the Institute of Fine Arts at New York University. She was Rush H. Kress Fellow at Villa I Tatti, The Harvard University Center for Italian Renaissance Studies in Florence, where she completed her monograph, The Badia of Florence: Art and Observance in a Renaissance Monastery (2012). Dr. Leader has taught art history at the University of New Hampshire, Kean University, The City College of New York, and SCAD-Atlanta.


Mebane, John*

John Mebane, Ph.D., is professor emeritus of English at the University of Alabama in Huntsville. Originally a specialist in Renaissance literature and culture, for the past 20 years he has also pursued interdisciplinary studies in religion and warfare, especially the conflicts among pagan heroic ideals and Christian ideas concerning pacifism and principles of justice in warfare. His interest in this topic stems in part from his experience in combat in Vietnam and Cambodia in 1969-70. He has published two books and a number of articles on Renaissance literature and culture, including a study entitled “’Impious War’: Religion and the Ideology of Warfare in [Shakespeare’s] Henry V.” He is currently expanding his research into the history of principles of justice in warfare in the West in recent history. Mebane holds a bachelor’s degree from Presbyterian College and a Ph. D. from Emory University.


Metress, Christopher

Christopher Metress, Ph.D., is university professor at Samford University. His interests include Southern fiction and history, and his AHA presentations are an extension of his research on the civil rights movement. His 2002 book The Lynching of Emmett Till was featured in The Washington Post, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and Nation magazine, and on ABC’s World News Tonight. He has lectured widely about the case, including at New York University, Brown University, and the University of Connecticut. In 2023, he was invited to the White House for a special screening of the film Till, where he was honored along with other historians for promoting a deeper understanding of the case and its legacy. In 2019, he received the Eugene Current-Garcia Award for Distinction in Literary Scholarship, given by the Association of College English Teachers of Alabama to a scholar who has made a significant lifetime contribution to the humanities in the state.

Morrison, Melanie*

Melanie S. Morrison, Ph.D., is a Michigander with ancestral roots in Alabama. She is the author of five books, including Murder on Shades Mountain: The Legal Lynching of Willie Peterson and the Struggle for Justice in Jim Crow Birmingham (Duke University Press, 2018). Her newest book, Letters from Old Screamer Mountain, was published in the fall of 2021 by RCWMS Press.

As a racial justice educator, Morrison has 30 years of experience designing and facilitating transformational group process. She has served as executive director of Allies for Change, a national network of social justice educators, and as director of the Leaven Center, a retreat and study center in Michigan dedicated to nurturing the relationship between spirituality and social justice. Morrison has a master’s degree from Yale Divinity School and a Ph.D. from the University of Groningen in The Netherlands.


Olliff, Marty

Marty Olliff received his Ph.D. in U.S. History from Auburn University in 1998. He was assistant university archivist at Auburn, 1996-2002, then became director of The Wiregrass Archives at Troy University Dothan Campus in 2002. He is currently a professor of history at Troy University.

Olliff’s research concerns the Progressive Era in Alabama. He edited "The Great War in the Heart of Dixie: Alabama During World War 1," University of Alabama Press, 2008, and authored "Getting Out of the Mud: The Alabama Good Roads Movement and State Highway Administration, 1898-1930," also published by the University of Alabama Press in 2017.

Olliff is active statewide. He served as president of the Alabama Historical Association, the Alabama Association of Historians, and the Society of Alabama Archivists; has sat on the board of directors of the Historic Chattahoochee Commission, the Alabama Historical Commission, and the Alabama Humanities Alliance; and has served on numerous editorial boards.

O’Sullivan, Robin

Robin O’Sullivan received her Ph.D. in American Studies from the University of Texas—Austin in 2010. Robin O’Sullivan is a lecturer in the History and Philosophy Department at Troy University. Her book, "American Organic: A Cultural History of Farming, Gardening, Shopping, and Eating," was published by the University Press of Kansas in 2015. She has presented academic papers at the American Studies Association; American Society for Environmental History; Gulf South History & Humanities Conference; Southern Forum on Agricultural, Rural, and Environmental History; and other meetings. She received the Faculty Senate Excellence in Teaching Award from Troy University in 2012.

Towns, Peggy Allen*

Peggy Allen Towns is a native of Decatur, Alabama. She retired after 20 years as a Congressional aide in 2011 from the U.S. House of Representatives. She’s authored three books: Duty Driven: The Plight of North Alabama’s African Americans During the Civil War (2012), Scottsboro Unmasked: Decatur’s Story (2018), and Scapegoat: The Tommy Lee Hines Story (2021).

Towns has done extensive research on the African American community in her hometown; she's been instrumental in educating the public about the indelible contributions of African Americans. From her efforts, several sites have been placed on the Alabama and National Registers of Historic Places, as well as the Alabama Historic Cemetery Register. She leads walking tours and portrays characters.

Towns has received numerous recognitions, including the Spirit of Freedom Commemorative Medal of Honor and the Alabama Historical Association's 2022 Virginia V. Hamilton Award.


Rudder, Justin

A passion for sharing stories from overlooked chapters of our past drives Justin Rudder’s work as a digital asset archivist at the Alabama Department of Archives & History, as well as the preservation and interpretation services he provides through his Digital Grassroots digital heritage proprietorship. His articles in Alabama Heritage, the Alabama Review, and the Encyclopedia of Alabama focus on slavery, civil rights, and Black historiography. Rudder has received the Writer-In-Service award from the Lillian Smith Center, as well as a Joyce Cauthen Fellowship from the Alabama Folklife Association to fund completion of his manuscript, Black Towns of Alabama: Southern Alabama.

Understanding Black history creates a better appreciation of American history. The following talks will help attendees apply historical writing, records preservation, geographic orientation, and reckon with divisive issues to issues to improve life for themselves and their communities.

Schaefer, Robert*

Robert Schaefer, Ph.D., is professor and chair of the Political Science Department at the University of West Georgia. He teaches classes on American government, ancient political theory, American political parties, and state and local politics. His areas of interest also include state constitutions and Shakespeare. He is co-editor of American Political Rhetoric — a reader in American politics. While living in Alabama for almost two decades, Schaefer was very involved in a number of civic activities. He was technical advisor for Gov. Bob Riley’s Alabama Citizens’ Constitution Commission, president of the Society Mobile-La Habana, and transition team associate manager for Mobile Mayor Samuel Jones.


Scrivner, Joseph*

Joseph Scrivner co-authored "A Handbook to a Grammar of Biblical Hebrew" (Abingdon), a supplemental volume to the Hebrew textbook by C.L. Seow. He has also written brief articles for Teaching the Bible (Eerdmans), The New Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible (Abingdon), The Peoples’ Bible (Fortress), and the Encyclopedia of the Bible and Its Reception (de Gruyter). Scrivner’s research and teaching interests include Israelite wisdom literature, the relationship between social location and interpretation, and the interplay between a rigorous literary-historical analysis of the Bible and contemporary religious beliefs. He is an ordained minister who preaches and teaches occasionally at Sixth Avenue Baptist Church, where he is a member, as well as in other churches in the area. Scrivner received his B.A. from Crichton College, an M.A. from Reformed Theological Seminary, and his Ph.D. from Princeton Theological Seminary.


Simpkins, Daphne*

Daphne Simpkins writes The Adventures of Mildred Budge, a book series about church ladies of the South. The four novels include Mildred Budge in Cloverdale, Mildred Budge in Embankment, The Bride's Room, and Kingdom Come. The series also includes two short story collections and a Christmas novella.

Earlier in her career, Simpkins wrote a short biography for children, Nat King Cole: An Unforgettable Life of Music and, later, three memoirs about caregiving: The Long Good Night, What Al Left Behind,and Blessed. A retired teacher, Simpkins has written more than 200 articles and essays published in the United States and Canada. She was most frequently published in The Chicago Tribune, Atlanta Journal-Constitution and The Baltimore Sun.

*Simpkins is a dementia-friendly presenter and welcomes the opportunity to serve all age groups, including those with memory or dementia issues.

Smith Waters, Mollie

Mollie Smith Waters is a professor of composition, literature, theater, and speech at Lurleen B. Wallace Community College in Greenville. Waters writes for various publications including Bookkaholic, Southern Literary Review, The Camellia Magazine, Encyclopedia of Alabama, and Alabama Heritage. Waters is a past-participant of several National Endowment for the Humanities summer programs, including seminars on the American Lyceum, the Pilgrims & Wampanoag Indians, and the Transcendentalists. In 2008, she was a Group Study Exchange team member to Brazil. In 2013, she directed her first play, "Crimes of the Heart," and she helped to create the Greenville Community Theatre.

Waters has been a teacher for 24 years. During her spare time, she enjoys reading, writing, traveling, and walking. She is married to Ronald Waters, and she has a son, Reagan, and a stepdaughter, Katelin.

Upshaw, Allison

Allison Upshaw, Ph.D., has worked as an opera singer, a professional actress, and a poetry performer. She is also a master teaching artist for grades K-12, engaging students and teachers by integrating the arts into the learning process. She is a newly selected fellow in the Intercultural Leadership Institute and is currently enrolled in another terminal degree program.

A native of Forest Home, Alabama (20 miles outside Greenville), Dr. Upshaw grew up in a small community descended from the formerly enslaved peoples of the Lewis plantation. She holds a bachelor’s degree from Oberlin Conservatory and a master's degree from LSU, both in voice performance. Her doctorate from the University of Alabama is in interdisciplinary studies and incorporates performance/education/arts-based research methods.


Utz, Karen

Karen R. Utz has a B.A. in Sociology and Marketing from Central Missouri State University, and a M.A. in History from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Now retired, she previously served as executive director of Sloss Furnaces National Historic Landmark in Birmingham. Her primary objectives included planning, directing, coordinating, and supervising the operations and maintenance of the historic site.

Utz was an adjunct historian at the University of Alabama at Birmingham for 25 years and taught a variety of courses; Early and Modern American History, Southern Labor, African American Studies, and America in the 1960s. She is a contributor to "Work, Family, Faith: Women of the Twentieth Century South," "Man Food: Recipes from the Iron Trade," and "Iron & Steel: A Guide to Birmingham Area Industrial Heritage Sites." Utz has served on various committees including the Southeastern Museum Conference, Society for the History of Technology, and the American Association of Museums.

Ward, Tom^

Formerly a professor at Spring Hill College in Mobile, Alabama, Tom Ward is an award-winning historian and assistant dean of the School of Arts & Sciences at Farmingdale State College-SUNY. A noted authority on issues of race and health care in the American South, Ward is the author of "Black Physicians in the Jim Crow South" (2003) and "Out in the Rural: A Mississippi Health Center and its War on Poverty" (2017), along with numerous articles and reviews. He is currently involved in a book project on health care and the Civil Rights Movement.​ A native of Annapolis, Maryland, Dr. Ward now lives in Northport, New York, with his wife and three sons. He received a B.A. in history and political science at Hampden-Sydney College in Virginia, M.A. in history at Clemson University, and a Ph.D. in history from the University of Southern Mississippi.