Speakers Bureau

The AHA Speakers Bureau features Alabama historians who volunteer their time to present programs to libraries, museums, clubs, civic groups, genealogical societies and any group with an interest in Alabama history.

 

AHA does not charge for these programs, but we do ask that groups or institutions booking a speaker provide a minimum of $50.00 for the speaker’s travel expenses.

 

To book a program, please contact the speaker directly.

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Jim Baggett

Jim Baggett is Head of the Department of Archives and Manuscripts at the Birmingham Public Library and Archivist for the City of Birmingham. He has served as president of the Society of Alabama Archivists and currently serves as President of the Alabama Historical Association. Jim has lectured throughout the U.S. and in Europe and has been featured on Alabama Public Television, Alabama Public Radio, National Public Radio, and C-SPAN. He has authored two books on Alabama history, edited three others, and has written dozens of articles. He also writes the “Reading Birmingham” book column for the online news site BirminghamWatch. Jim lives with his wife and daughter in Birmingham and Mentone, Alabama.

Contact: BirminghamBaggett@gmail.com

                205-226-3631

 

The Black and White Families of Faunsdale Plantation

Using letters, diaries, harvest records, and church registers this talk explores what we know, and what we can know, about the lives of free white people and enslaved African Americans on one southwest Alabama plantation.

 

Presentation: This talk is available in-person

Setup: This talk can be given as a PowerPoint presentation or can be presented without PowerPoint. For PowerPoint, a laptop, screen, and digital projector are required (presenter can provide laptop).

 

John Wilkes Booth in Alabama

More than four years before murdering Abraham Lincoln, the actor John Wilkes Booth performed in Montgomery, Alabama and took part in the city’s debates on secession. This talk explores Booth’s impact on Alabama during his life and after his death.

 

Presentation: This talk is available in-person

Setup: This talk can be given as a PowerPoint presentation or can be presented without PowerPoint. For PowerPoint, a laptop, screen, and digital projector are required (presenter can provide laptop).

 

Discovering 19th-Century Life in Alabama Letters and Diaries

From matters of love, death and politics to the price of shoes, nineteenth century Alabamians recorded their experiences in letters and diaries. This talk explores life in the 1800s through the personal writings of one Alabama family.

 

Presentation: This talk is available in-person.

Setup: This talk can be given as a PowerPoint presentation or can be presented without

PowerPoint. For PowerPoint, a laptop, screen, and digital projector are required

(presenter can provide laptop).

 

"It Came Like a Cyclone": Alabama and the 1918 Influenza 

As World War One came to a close, tens of millions of people around the world contracted influenza in the worst pandemic in human history. Alabama was not spared the misery, and almost 150,000 Alabamians became ill in every part of the state. Thousands, including whole families, died. Stores, theaters, fairs, schools, and even churches were closed to try and stop the spread of the disease. With not enough doctors or hospital beds to tend the sick, neighbors pulled together to care for one another. This talk explores the story of the great influenza in Alabama and around the world.

 

Presentation: This talk is available in-person.

Setup: This talk is given as a PowerPoint presentation. A laptop, screen, and digital projector are required (presenter can provide laptop).

Old School Scrapbooking

From Victorian era school girls to a county coroner with an interest in grisly murders, Alabamians often saved mementos in scrapbooks. This talk explores scrapbook keeping and the keepsakes--visiting cards, photographs, letters, poems, theater programs, paper dolls, newspaper clippings--that people treasured and saved.

Presentation: This talk is available in-person.

Setup: This talk is given as a PowerPoint presentation. A laptop, screen, and digital projector are required (presenter can provide laptop).

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Alex Colvin

Dr. Alex Colvin is the public programs curator at the Alabama Department of Archives and History. She earned her PhD in History from Auburn University in 2019. Her work on biculturalism among the Creek people won the Distinguished Dissertation Award from Auburn and the Jacqulyn Dowd Hall Prize from the Southern Association of Women’s Historians. As the public programs curator, Alex helped coordinate commemorative efforts for Alabama’s Bicentennial in 2019 and the Centennial of the 19th Amendment in 2020. She has assisted in the research and writing for the ADAH’s temporary exhibits and publications. She travels around the state to talk on Creek history and other Alabama topics.

 

Contact: Alex.Colvin@archives.alabama.gov

               334-663-4689

One Large Connected Family: Understanding Early Creek Life

The foundation of Creek government and society was the bond of kinship. The complex system of relationships varied between tribes, but the Creek traced their lineage, birthright, and social classification through the mothers line. This talk will look at how the Creek lived in the eighteenth century, focusing on how they organized their families and towns. It will also cover the early relationship between the Creek Nation and the United States.

 

Presentation: This talk is available in-person.

Setup: This talk is given as a PowerPoint presentation. A laptop, screen, and digital projector are required.

 

“Desirous of establishing permanent peace:” Alexander McGillivray, George Washington, and the Treaty of New York

Following the American Revolution, Alexander McGillivray became a diplomat and negotiator for Creek towns. After initially working with the Spanish in Mobile and Pensacola, McGillivray turned to the burgeoning federal government of the United States to establish peace and trade. The resulting Treaty of 1790 was a significant and controversial document for both the United States and Creek, forever changing their diplomatic relationship with one another.

 

Presentation: This talk is available in-person.

Setup: This talk can be given as a PowerPoint presentation or can be presented without PowerPoint. For PowerPoint, a laptop, screen, and digital projector are required.

 

What is Rightfully Ours: Creek Families in Alabama

This presentation will focus on the Creek community that formed in the Mobile-Tensaw Region. It examines the continuation of Creek traditions, particularly matrilineal inheritance, as their property and community became legally incorporated into the state of Alabama in 1819. Using court and legal records, Colvin will tell the stories of the Creeks as they utilize wills, the Orphans Court, and the Alabama Supreme Court to uphold traditional customs even as aspects of their everyday lives changed.

 

Presentation: This talk is available in-person.

Setup: This talk is given as a PowerPoint presentation. A laptop, screen, and digital projector are required.

 

Justice Not Favor: Understanding Women’s Suffrage in Alabama

This presentation covers the complex story of how Alabama women fought for (and in some cases against) obtaining the right to vote. In a battle that spanned almost a century, these women used various tactics—from petitions to marches to baseball games—to gain momentum for their cause. In voting-rights movements that were largely unpopular throughout the state, this story illustrates the perseverance of these women as they sought justice and equality for all Alabamians.

 

Presentation: This talk is available in-person.

Setup: This talk is given as a PowerPoint presentation. A laptop, screen, and digital projector are required.

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Marty Olliff

Dr. Marty Olliff is Professor of History and Director of the Wiregrass Archives at Troy University Dothan Campus. Olliff is the editor of The Great War in the Heart of Dixie: Alabama during World War 1 (University of Alabama Press, 2008) and author of Getting Out of the Mud: Alabama's Good Road Movement and Highway Administration, 1898-1928 (University of Alabama Press, 2017). He has also authored a number of articles in The Alabama Review and other journals. Olliff has served as the president of the Alabama Historical Association, the Alabama Association of Historians, and the Society of Alabama Archivists.

 

Contact: molliff@troy.edu

                 334-983-6556 x21327

The Girl the Wildcats Left Behind: Irene Pierce and Tallassee’s Doughboys of World War I

In May 1918, a group of young men from Tallassee, Elmore County, Alabama, were drafted into the AEF for service in France.  They left behind their neighbor, a 17-year-old mill worker named Irene Pierce who did homefront service on Red Cross projects and also as a volunteer pen pal. She kept some of her correspondence and a scrapbook of photographs that offer a glimpse into the world of young soldiers and their homefront friends during World War 1.  Olliff’s presentation tells some of the stories in her collection in the context of Tallassee and military life a century ago.

 

Presentation: This talk is available in-person or virtually.

In-person Setup: This talk is given as a PowerPoint presentation. A laptop, screen, and digital projector are required (presenter can provide laptop and projector).

Alabama's First Good Roads Governor: Emmet O'Neal

O'Neal, son of Redeemer governor Edward O'Neal, served as governor from 1911 to 1915. With the hated railroads tied up in litigation over state regulations and the prohibition issue temporarily quelled, O'Neal had little to leave as a legacy so he promoted a minor part of his 1906 campaign for Lt. Governor and his 1910 campaign for Governor – good roads. He wanted two things: well surfaced farm-to-market roads funded by counties and a system of highways that "start somewhere and end somewhere" funded by state matching grants. He oversaw the first State Highway Commission, the first state matching grant program, creation of the Good Roads Day state holiday, "Federal Project No. 1" (a fifty-mile post road improvement project funded by federal money), and he drew national attention to Alabama as a lifetime vice president of the National Highways Association. In 1914, Southern Good Roads magazine called him "Alabama's First Good Roads Governor," a title he had truly earned.

Presentation: This talk is available in-person or virtually.

In-person Setup: This talk is given as a PowerPoint presentation. A laptop, screen, and digital projector are required (presenter can provide laptop and projector).

The Montgomery Cooperative Canning Club: Canning the War Garden Produce and the Kaiser, too

Alabama women joined homefront efforts in World War 1 to support US doughboys and to ameliorate war-time problems at home. Many joined with the Red Cross to supply aid to the front lines, others near military bases joined the War Camp Community Service, and still others joined the Women's Committee of the Council of National Defense. Elite white club women of Montgomery saw the quickly-rising cost of food and created the Montgomery Cooperative Canning Club to fight it. They raised funds, built a canning factory in downtown Montgomery (then moved it in 1918), scheduled workers, and canned over 14,000 cans of produce from the local War Gardens. This idea spread to Tuscaloosa and Norwich, CT, from their efforts.

Presentation: This talk is available in-person or virtually.

In-person Setup: This talk is given as a PowerPoint presentation. A laptop, screen, and digital projector are required (presenter can provide laptop and projector).

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Howard Robinson

Dr. Howard Robinson is the Associate Library Director for Archives and Cultural Heritage Services at Alabama State University (ASU). At ASU Robinson also serves as a historian with the National Center for the Study of Civil Rights and African American Culture. Prior to his work with the University Archives, Dr. Robinson spent seventeen years as the ASU Archivist, where he helped establish the school’s archives as an important repository for materials related to the modern civil rights movement, with a focus on the Montgomery Bus Boycott, the 1961 Freedom Rides, student protest of the 1960s, as well as the voting rights campaign of the 1960s. He attended Alabama State University where he earned B.A. in 1986, and a M.A. degree in 1993. Before leaving Montgomery, Robinson worked at WSFA Television and with the Alabama Department of Archives and History. In 1999, Robinson earned a Ph.D. degree in American History from the University of Akron.

 

Contact: Hrobinson1985@gmail.com

                 334-294-8559

 

The Long Civil Rights Movement

Dr. Robinson looks at the “Long” Civil Rights Movement and places the movement of the 1950s

and 1960s into a historical context. Robinson also has factored into his analysis recent protests

around Black Lives Matter, and compares and contrasts student demands over time.

 

Student Activism

Dr. Robinson looks at Black student activism with a particular emphasis on the Student Non-

Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). At the same time, he also treats student activism prior

to the 1960s, focuses on student collaborations with adult direct-action organizations,

interactions across student organizational lines, and the evolution of the student movement over time.

 

Juneteenth: America’s Second Independence Day

Dr. Robinson looks at the people, places, and events that mark the origins and development of

Juneteenth as a local coastal Texas celebration. Robinson then traces the efforts that transformed the Galveston, Texas celebration into Juneteenth becoming a national holiday commemorating the end of slavery in the United States of America.

 

Black Community Development

Dr. Robinson uses the origins and evolution of the Black community in Montgomery, Alabama to

highlight patterns of post-Civil War Black community development region wide.

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Ruth Truss

Dr. Ruth Truss is professor of history and Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Montevallo and currently serves as Vice President of the Alabama Historical Association.  She is the author of several journal articles and book chapters on the Alabama National Guard and the co-editor with Dr. Sarah Wiggins of The Journal of Sarah Haynsworth Gayle, 1827-1835

 

Contact: trussr@montevallo.edu

                205-665-6507

  

The Journal of Sarah Haynsworth Gayle

Using the lengthy journal of an early nineteenth-century woman in Alabama, this talk discusses some of the highlights of Sarah Gayle’s interests as revealed in her journal (literature, family life, slavery, culture) as well as the process of editing an almost 200-year-old document.

 

Presentation: This talk is available in-person or virtually.

In-person Setup: This talk is given as a PowerPoint presentation. A laptop, screen, and

digital projector are required.

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Alabama’s 167th Infantry Regiment, 1916-1919

This presentation looks at the Alabama National Guard during the World War I era and can focus on either the ANG during the Mexican Border Service period (1916-1917) or the World War I period (1917-1919) for the Guard’s participation in guard duty around the state or for the 167th’s time overseas.

 

Presentation: This talk is available in-person or virtually.

In-person Setup: This talk is given as a PowerPoint presentation. A laptop, screen, and digital projector are required.

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Dorothy Walker

Dorothy Walker serves as the first full time Site Director of the Freedom Rides Museum, a historic site of the Alabama Historical Commission (AHC). She has nearly 25 years of experience working in historic preservation and cultural resource advocacy, planning, outreach, research, budget and project management. She has a BA from Jacksonville State University and a MA in Historic Preservation from Savannah College of Art and Design. Under her tenure as director, the museum is installing a new, interactive permanent exhibit and restored a vintage Greyhound Bus similar to those the Freedom Riders rode in 1961. The restored bus now serves as a mobile extension of the museum. Her other areas of preservation interest include the state’s Historic Black Colleges and University (HBCU) campuses, Rosenwald and Equalization Schools and Civil Rights sites across the state.

 

Contact: dorothy.walker@ahc.alabama.gov

               334-230-2676

 

Putting the Movement on the Move: The 1961 Freedom Rides

Eleven years before Mrs. Rosa Parks was arrested for refusing to give her seat to white passengers on a Montgomery city bus, Ms. Irene Morgan refused to give her seat to white passengers on a Greyhound Bus in Virginia. Ms. Morgan’s courageous action and brutal arrest led to a landmark ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court declaring it unconstitutional for Greyhound and Trailways buses to segregate passengers. However, these buses, planes and trains, especially in the Deep South continued to operate as segregated. This presentation examines the Freedom Rides, a campaign involving 436 Black and white men, women and youth from 35 states who traveled into the Deep South during the summer of 1961 risking their lives and their freedom to try to bring about an end to these segregated practices. Some were violently attacked and nearly killed while more than 300 were arrested and incarcerated in Mississippi’s infamous Parchman Penitentiary. This presentation will examine the stories and heroism of the Freedom Riders while also detailing the failures of leadership at the local, state and federal level.

 

Presentation: This talk is available in-person or virtually.

In-person Setup: This talk is given as a PowerPoint presentation. A screen and digital projector are required.

 

How Firm a Foundation: Alabama’s Historic Rosenwald and Equalization Schools

Between 1912 and 1932, Dr. Booker T. Washington (“The Wizard of Tuskegee”) teamed up with Julius Rosenwald, president and CEO of Sears and Roebuck to construct more than 5,000 schools in 15 Southern states for Black children. Designed by Robert Taylor, the first Black licensed architect in the country, these buildings had distinctive architectural features that rivaled some white schools, especially in rural communities. These schools provided educational opportunities for thousands of students who may not have had access to formal education otherwise. By the time the fund ended in 1932, 1 in 5 schools across the South was a Rosenwald School. Alabama had 389 schools. All but two Alabama counties had Rosenwald Schools. Today, we have located less than two dozen of the 389.

 

During the “Separate but Equal” period, Alabama (and many other Southern states) sought to maintain a dual system of education into the 1960s and even early 1970s. At this time, many of the Rosenwald Schools were replaced with what are now known as Equalization Schools. These “Equalization Schools” were often larger than Rosenwald Schools, with well-built brick, concrete, and steel construction that mirrored white schools in some communities. Many of these schools are still in operation today, though they are increasingly being replaced through consolidation efforts. Unlike the Rosenwald Schools, the AHC does not know how many equalization schools were originally built in Alabama. However, the AHC has been working with communities to document and preserve Equalization School buildings in several counties across the state.

 

This presentation will provide information on the history of Rosenwald and Equalization Schools and provide details on some of the projects that have been preserved to date.

 

Presentation: This talk is available in-person or virtually.

In-person Setup: This talk is given as a PowerPoint presentation. A screen and digital projector are required.

 

 

PROTECT, PRESERVE, AND INTERPRET: How the Alabama Historical Commission (AHC) helps preserve the state’s historic places

The Alabama Historical Commission (AHC) was created on August 19, 1966, when Governor George Wallace signed Act Number 168 of the Special Session. The Commission is the agency designated to carry out the state’s responsibilities under the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 as amended and operates under the provisions of the Code of Alabama 1975. The Commission works to accomplish their mission through two fields of endeavor: Preservation and promotion of state-owned historic sites as public attractions; and statewide programs to assist people, groups, towns and cities with local preservation activities.

 

This presentation will provide brief information on the programs of the AHC such as the historic cemetery program, historical marker program, historic tax credit program and more to help Alabama’s citizens preserve their historic places.

 

Presentation: This talk is available in-person or virtually.

In-person Setup: This talk is given as a PowerPoint presentation. A screen and digital projector are required.

The Alabama Humanities Alliance also offers a separate speakers bureau program with a diverse group of topics by Alabama historians who are active members of the Alabama Historical Association, including Richard Bailey, Joyce Cauthen, Rebekah Davis, Ronald Fritze, Marty Olliff, Frances Robb, and more.
 
Visit the Alabama Humanities Alliance Road Scholars Speakers Bureau website to learn more.