Category: Public History Initiative Research Blog

SCSS PHI Interns Kisha Emmanuel and Charles Thomason explore the Jennie B. Scott Family Papers

The Summersell Center for Southern History’s Public History Initiative partners students with on-campus and local organizations, such as the Gorgas House, W.H. Hoole Special Collections Library, and local churches and clubs, to conduct research and create projects that communicate their history to the public.

This semester, Kisha Emmanuel and Charles Thomason, are interning at Hoole Special Collections Library here on The University of Alabama’s campus. They have the following to say about their experiences so far:

Kisha Emmanuel

Newspaper clipping discussing the fact that race has nothing to do with nursing ability.For this internship, we are primarily working with the Jennie B. Scott Family Papers which are housed in the W.S. Hoole Special Collections Library. This collection contains an impressively consistent set of journals maintained by Mrs.Scott and various scrapbooks, books, and photos. Furthermore, there are materials from her sister, Rosa Lee, with whom she lived in Tuskegee after they were both widowed, and from her daughter Ruth. Mrs. Scott was a retired African-American teacher living in the South from the late-19th century through the mid-1960s. Her collection gives insight into middle-class African-American life and culture in the Jim Crow era. We have been tasked with exploring this collection and finding an aspect of it which we wish to highlight within an exhibit of our creation. Throughout our research, we noticed how her life, and the life of those around her, was shaped profoundly during the 1918 influenza pandemic. As a result, we have decided to focus on healthcare disparities in the African-American community during the Jim Crow era.

Charles Thomason

This semester I have been working at Hoole Special Collections with a team doing research on the Jennie B. Scott Family Papers, which includes items from an African-American Alabama family from the late-18th century to the mid-1960s. I’ve found looking at her diary entries to be particularly interesting because she wrote prolifically on a daily basis throughout her life and often on similar themes. You can compare what she found important during her early life with that of her later life. Later this semester our team will be using these sources to put together a display highlighting a particular facet of the Jim Crow South.

SCSS PHI Intern Lindsey Glick Explores the Role of Female Athletes at the Capstone

The Summersell Center for the Study of the South’s Public History Initiative partners students with on-campus and local organizations, such as the Gorgas House, W.H. Hoole Special Collections Library, and local churches and clubs, to conduct research and create projects that communicate their history to the public.

This semester, Lindsey Glick, one of the Department of History’s undergraduate majors, is interning at the Gorgas House, here on The University of Alabama’s campus, and had the following to say about her experience so far:

This year marks the 125th anniversary of Women’s admission at the University of Alabama. The admittance of women marked an important shift in the University’s history and its culture. The Gorgas House is in the midst of preparing an exhibition that commemorates and celebrates the impact of women on the University. Through an internship at the Gorgas House this semester I have been researching women’s sports at the University of Alabama and its role on campus from a historical perspective to be included in the exhibition. To research women’s sports at the University of Alabama I first began by looking at multiple sources from the Bryant Museum. Next, I examined a thesis written by a past graduate student addressing the integration of SEC sports to garner an understanding of the impact of integration on women’s athletics at the University. Finally, I have scoured online sources to locate photos and videos of past and present University of Alabama female athletes. Later this semester, we will be working on getting interviews with current and possibly past female athletes and coaches who have had a profound influence on women’s sports at the University. Through this research we will create an exhibit as well as a digital exhibit dedicated to the historical significance of women’s athletics at the University, which will be displayed in Gorgas House in conjunction with the exhibition of the effects of Women on campus in general. The exhibition, including my exhibit on women’s athletics, will be open to the public. On a personal note, this experience so far has been extremely beneficial and enjoyable, allowing me to gain an understanding of what type of work is done as a public historian. This internship has strengthened my love for history, provided valuable experience with conducting in depth research, and peaked my interest in trying my hand at being a public historian.

UA president Joab Thomas with olympic gold medalist Lillie Leatherwood
Lillie Leatherwood, 3rd from right; UA President Joab Thomas, right.

Graduate Student Caroline Gray Interns at the Gorgas House

The Summersell Center for Southern History’s Public History Initiative partners students with on-campus and local organizations, such as the Gorgas House, W.S. Hoole Special Collections Library, and local churches and clubs, to conduct research and create projects that communicate their history to the public.

Pruitt 2003 library book
Left to right: Edna Miller-Gardner, Brenda McCampbell Lyons, Vivian Malone Jones, Autherine Lucy Foster, and Terry Points Boney

This semester, Caroline Gray, one of the Department of History’s MA students, is interning at the Gorgas House here on The University of Alabama’s campus. She has had the following to say about her experience so far:


“I am currently researching the history of African American women at The University of Alabama as a part of the upcoming Women at the Capstone Exhibit. As we remember 125 years of female enrollment at the university, it is important to remember the women who have long had a presence at UA, but have only recently enrolled as students. My primary research so far has focused on the last sixty years, examining the long process of integration from Autherine Lucy to sorority integration in 2013. One of the most useful documents I have come across is Dr. Samory Pruitt’s extensive dissertation that contains interviews of notable African American students, including Autherine Lucy, Vivian Malone, Edna Miller-Gardner, Terry Points, and Brenda McCampbell. These interviews are incredibly useful for this project because they bring these women to life, offering a glimpse not only of their experiences, but also their personalities. I am looking forward to getting to know these and other remarkable women as I continue to research this semester.”

Summersell Center Sponsors Visit to EJI Offices in Montgomery

This image shows students, along with Dr. Giggie, standing outside the EJI office in Montgomery, AL.

Students in Dr. Giggie’s HY 400 – Southern Memory: Lynching in Alabama course visited the Equal Justice Institute in Montgomery, Alabama on October 18th as part of their work to better understand and encourage awareness of racial violence during the post-Reconstruction era in Alabama.

The students, who are researching ten African-Americans lynched in Pickens County between 1883 and 1933, presented their findings to the officials at EJI. The students have been working in a variety of sources – newspapers, journals, census, wills, deeds, birth and death records – to recover the lives of the victims.

They are also building a digital humanities website meant to educate the public about these events and to serve as a database for other researchers. The students have previously worked with EJI to erect a memorial to these lynching victims in Tuscaloosa County, which was unveiled last year.

This image shows students in Dr. Giggie's class viewing the dirt samples from various Alabama lynching sites at the EJI offices in Montgomery, AL

Summersell Center Helps UA Students tell the Stories of Tuscaloosa County Lynching Victims.

This article appeared originally on The University of Alabama’s Center for Ethics and Social Responsibility’s website.

by Erin Mosley and Jamon Smith

An HY 300 student explores archival materials.

Dr. John Giggie describes the eras most Americans refer to as Reconstruction, the Gilded Age and the Roaring Twenties as periods of racial terror for a significant portion of the country’s population. “At a time when the United States was in fact growing and prospering, many African-Americans feared for their lives,” says Giggie, associate professor of history and African American studies at The University of Alabama and director of the Summersell Center for the Study of the South.

More than 4,000 black people in 12 Southern states were lynched between 1877 and 1950, according to the Equal Justice Initiative, a Montgomery, Ala.-based nonprofit human rights law firm whose mission includes challenging racial and economic injustice. And these are just the cases EJI has documented. At least 360 lynchings took place in Alabama, and at least 10 Tuscaloosa County men were murdered in this way.

Giggie took the Equal Justice Initiative’s baseline data on lynchings in Tuscaloosa County and asked his students to delve deeper. After exploring the history of lynching in America, students learn the research skills they need to find important documents and share them through a digital humanities website.

Andrew Robertson searches at the Tuscaloosa County Courthouse for information about the preliminary trials of two men lynched in Sylvan, Ala., in 1892.

Fifteen UA students enrolled in HY 300/AAST 395 Southern Memory: Lynching in the South collectively spent more than 1,000 hours documenting the lives and circumstances surrounding the deaths of 10 Tuscaloosa County residents who were lynched between 1884 and 1933. They created a digital humanities website to share their findings with the public and serve as a database for lynchings in the South.

Students also worked in partnership with the Equal Justice Initiative to advocate for a historical marker commemorating victims. On March 6, 2017, the marker was erected in front of the old Tuscaloosa County Jail. After the unveiling, more than 1,000 people attended a ceremony hosted by UA students, EJI representatives and community members at First African Baptist Church to honor the victims. Students Maruka Walker and Ellie Bowers were among the speakers, and discussed their research.

To continue reading this story, visit the Center for Ethics and Social Responsibility’s website.

PHI Intern Ryan Tullock Explores House Museums

By Ryan Tullock

This image shows William C. Gorgas seated, reading a letter.
William C. Gorgas, US Surgeon General
Courtesy of the Library of Congress

I went on my first house tour when I was in the eighth grade. I toured The Hermitage in Nashville, Tennessee. I can almost remember every detail about that tour and was blown away by the fact that someone, albeit a very important someone, had their house turned into a museum. From that point on, it has been a wish of mine to be involved with a house museum of some sort. With that in mind, and knowing that desire was bubbling near the back of my mind, when the opportunity to work at Gorgas House in some respect presented itself, I could not help but jump at the opportunity! This was the opportunity I had been waiting for!

However, that’s getting a little ahead of myself. In the fall of 2016, I found myself in the Public History course being offered by Dr. Giggie. I was interested because I had never really considered Public History as line of work. To be honest, I did not know what Public History meant. As far as I knew, it could have been a course on writing books that appealed to the public, hence Public History. Whatever the reason, it caught my eye. At the very least, I could add it as a line on my Curriculum Vitae. Besides, what could it hurt? After a session or two, I realized that Public History was really just the idea of how the public interacts with history, whether that be through museums, publishing, digital humanities, or archival work. I could see myself in any of those disciplines, but still in the back of my mind was this desire to work in a house museum. Then Gorgas House opened as a possibility. I was hooked.

Now that I was on at the Gorgas House, the question turned to what I would make of my time there. When I had visited the house at an earlier date, I noticed that the mention of William Gorgas was contained almost exclusively to his time in the military. The remarkable thing is that Gorgas was much more than just a soldier. He oversaw sanitation in the Panama Canal zone, served as president of the American Medical Association, and most importantly was on the team that discovered that mosquitoes carry yellow fever! Yet none of this was being told. This rich history was shut up somewhere and I felt it my duty, if you will, to dig it out of the doldrums. My hope is that by the end of my time at Gorgas House, there will be a fully functional, online exhibit tracing the importance in the medical field of a man whose only accolade on this campus is as Surgeon General. While this is a noble title and a singularly important position, it only tells a very small portion of the story.

Lastly, having talked with Lydia Ellington Joffray, director of the Gorgas House, we both believe that this project is a great example of the mission of Gorgas House: to illuminate the lives of the Gorgas family and to educate people about this very important Alabama family. This project, as previously mentioned, will shine a light into the background of William Gorgas’ medical achievements.

In the end, I am excited to have the opportunity to work with the house and Hoole Library in illustrating this man’s background and how important he is, not only for the University of Alabama or United States military history, but also his great impact in the history of medicine.

PHI Intern Matthew Culver Works with Gorgas House to Create Exhibit on Centennial of US Entry into WW I

By Matthew Culver

This image shows the emblem of the 167th Infantry Regiment, an Alabama National Guard unit that served in France during WW I.
Coat of Arms of the 167th Infantry Regiment, an Alabama National Guard unit.
Courtesy of the US Army Institute of Heraldry

For the spring of 2017 I am working with the Gorgas House Museum to curate and display an exhibit commemorating the 100th anniversary of American entry into the First World War. I chose this internship to compliment my prior experience in military museums, as well as have the opportunity to serve in a “leadership” capacity during exhibit curation, which will afford me invaluable experience in the curation process.

I picked the subject of WWI based on my prior experience of working with US Army museums, particularly research pertaining to the World Wars. Normally my focus has centered around logistics, and this internship is allowing me to expand on military operations, considering medical work as well as combat roles, and of course more logistics. By the end of the semester, I hope to have successfully curated and exhibited an intriguing collection of macro artifacts, photographs and documentation telling the story of the University, the state of Alabama, and the United States at war. I hope to gain firsthand experience in curation that I can carry forward into a potential museum career.

The Gorgas House hopes to provide a valuable source of education into the role of Major General William Crawford Gorgas, the University, and the state of Alabama’s contribution to the First World War, highlighting a period of history that is quickly fading from public memory.

PHI Intern Ashley Tickle Creating an Exhibit at the W.S. Hoole Special Collections Library on a Day in the Life of a Miner

By Ashley Nicole Tickle

This image shows coal miners standing around in Walker County.
Coal Miners in Walker County, Alabama
Photo Courtesy of the Library of Congress

I decided to do the project at the W.S. Hoole Special Collections Library because I am interested in museum work. I felt that creating an exhibit using

the materials in the collection would give me the best experience for that type of work. Lewis and I met with Dr. Kate Matheny, the Reference Services and Outreach Coordinator for Special Collections at Hoole, in mid-December 2016 to discuss what materials are available to work with. She presented us with three ideas. First, was an exhibit on industry in Birmingham using the Woodward papers and the Working Lives interviews. Second, was an exhibit using papers from a Harvard psychologist who used and experimented with LSD. Finally, she indicated that Hoole had a collection of old church hymnals. We decided that the Birmingham project would work best because of the interest it would have to the local population and a wide audience.

This image shows Ashley Tickle reviewing archival materials.
Ashley Tickle reviews archival materials at W.S. Hoole Special Collections Library

Having looked through much of the material, Lewis Whilden and I are going to create an exhibit displaying a “Day in the Life of a Miner” with focus on the types of work available, how much miners were paid, how miners used strikes and membership to labor unions to leverage pay and benefits, what kinds of risks were involved in mining (including accidents and health risks), and what miners did for entertainment (including baseball). In looking at these aspects of miner’s lives we will also have some focus on race relations and segregation since race affected what kinds of jobs one could get and thus how much one was paid.

From this experience I would like to gain a better understanding of the process of creating exhibits in museums and libraries. I hope that this will make me better able to read displays and exhibits when I go to museums in the future and will cause me to think more about what went into creating these exhibits. Finally, I hope that this experience will help me to be a better communicator since I will not be able to explain my findings in pages worth of print but instead must condense my findings into comprehensible snippets in a display case.

Our creation of this display furthers the mission of Hoole because it advertises to the public what is available in their collections. Several research papers could be written from the information in our exhibit. Further, one of Dr. Matheny’s goals is to have a well-researched academic exhibit displayed. This showcases how students in particular can use the library’s materials and can help get people into the library to use such material available in their collections.

PHI Intern Kevin McPartland Works with Tuscaloosa’s First United Methodist Church

By Kevin McPartland

This image shows the historical marker placed in front of the the Tuscaloosa First United Methodist ChurchI became interested in this project because of the time period spanned by the Church. The Church has its beginnings in some very unique times in American history. Not only was it a product of the second great awakening, but it also comes about during Alabama fever, and the establishment of a slave economy in what was then the American Southwest. Early America through the Civil War is my area of interest, so this project provides a chance to really examine these times on a local level.

I am particularly interested in seeing how the Church reacted to the Civil War itself. The University was essentially an officer training school, and members of the congregation almost undoubtedly fought for the South. It would be great to know who went, and why, and how the congregation dealt with the war. How did they feel about the cause? Were they pushing for secession beforehand? Was the Church political at all?

As for this semester, I plan on working mostly with the Church’s roll book from the 1830s. This is an amazing primary source document that could really shed light on who attended the church and what their lives were like. I would like to try to match the names to census records and tell some of the biographical stories of these early members. Additionally, the book can serve as a great view into the world of antebellum religion. The Church had slave members and they are listed on the roll. What was it like to be in the Church then? How did things change post-Nat Turner? What was the socio-economic status of the people in the Church, and how did they interact with each other? The court cases also give insight into the nature of the law in what was still largely frontier Alabama. The book as a whole is a tremendous piece of information, and it will be harder to narrow down options than to come up with them.

I really would like to build research skills during this project. The book will require some archival research to be sure, and the sources might be scant. It will be a challenge to synthesize these stories with the little information I will have. I also want to work on writing for a lay audience. Most people will not care about the broader historical implications, but they will want to feel connected to their Church ancestors. I want to be able to connect with them in a way that will leave a lasting impact.

Ultimately, that is the goal for the whole project. I want to situate the Church of 1831 with the congregation of 2018. This is their history, and it is my job to help them learn and understand it. They have given us free reign with the project, and I would like to see it be something they will reference and something that will anchor them in the past as they look towards the future. I want the average Church member to feel a connection with the past, even if they do not fully understand the full historical context.

PHI Intern Morgan Wilson Works with Civil Rights Commission

By Morgan Wilson

This image shows four white Tuscaloosa police officers and sheriff's deputies placing a black man into a prisoner transport.
Tuscaloosa Police and Sheriff’s Deputies Arrest a Demonstrator.
Photo Courtesy of the Tuscaloosa News.

This spring, I am participating in the Civil Rights Commission internship, which involves gathering and compiling information on civil rights in West Alabama. I chose to work on this project because I want to learn more about the rich but often underestimated civil rights events and legacies of the Tuscaloosa area. While American history and civil rights are not subjects that I have formally researched in recent years, I have a very personal investment in these topics on the local level. Members of my family have called the Tuscaloosa area home for at least four generations, and some were involved in events like Bloody Tuesday when marchers were beaten, hosed, and tear-gassed by policemen in 1964. Many of them still live here, and embarking on this internship has already inspired me to ask more questions about their viewpoints and experiences. The current political climate has also sparked a renewed interest in the issues of equality and progress, and motivated me to look back in order to understand and process recent events and debates.

As a public history intern, my current task is to research three sites: Greenwood Cemetery, Dinah Washington Cultural Arts Center, and the Alabama Citizen and its building. I will be describing their origins, their roles in the community, and their ties to the Civil Rights Movement. These sites, along with ones like the Alston Building and First African Baptist Church researched by my fellow interns, are intended to become stops on the future Tuscaloosa and West Alabama Civil Rights Tour. I am excited to help build an experience that will bring parts of a fascinating and important history to life for both locals and outside visitors.