The Summersell Center for the Study of the South promotes excellence in teaching and research about the American South. It hosts a broad range of public programming throughout the year, including speakers, symposia, and conferences. It also sponsors fellowships for research in the W. S. Hoole Special Collections LIbrary (in conjunction with The University of Alabama Libraries); the biannual Summersell Deep South Book Prize in Southern History; and travel grants for UA students to facilitate conference attendance and archival research.
Creating new and innovative research opportunities for undergraduates lies at the heart of the Center’s mission. The Center recently launched three major projects initiated by students and deeply immersed in the local community. They include Religion and Civil Rights (conducting oral histories of local civil rights leaders), Alabama Memories (mapping the lives of lynching victims in the state), and Queer History South (chronicling the emerging of the queer movement at the University of Alabama and the state). Each course challenges undergraduates to recover stories lost or silenced in the southern past and stitch them into modern understandings of our shared histories.
In its work with undergraduates and graduate students, the Center strives to train students to become public intellectuals. It encourages them to create research projects in close collaboration with community partners and blend traditional historical methods with skills in social media, digital humanities, and metadata analysis. A recent example of student leadership is the start of “History of Us: Researching African American History in Tuscaloosa,” a grant-funded year-long class at Central High School in which 11th and 12th graders study slavery, segregation, the Civil War, and the civil rights movement in their own community. The Center is funded by a generous endowment from the estate of Francis S. Summersell.