Ol’ Curiosities and Book Shoppe and Monroe County Heritage Museum present: Forgotten Alabama & More Forgotten Alabama photographer Glenn Wills at Old Courthouse Museum

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Huntsville, Alabama native Glenn Wills has taken nearly 15,000 pictures across all 67 counties in the state of Alabama. It began when one day Glenn noticed an old car by the side of the road, but realized that he didn’t have a camera with him to capture the moment. From that moment, Glenn set out to photograph “forgotten” physical reminders of our past. His photographs range from abandoned stores and buildings to old cars and houses, and more.

Glenn took his collection of photographs and turned them into not one, but two photography books: Forgotten Alabama and More Forgotten Alabama.

Glenn will be at the Old Courthouse Museum in Monroeville, Alabama next Thursday February 23rd from 4:30 pm to 6:30 pm. Forgotten Alabama and More Forgotten Alabama will both be available for purchase, and Glenn will be happy to autograph them. He will also be sharing a PowerPoint presentation that will take viewers on a journey, explaining how the project came to be and showing examples of his photography. Following the presentation, there will be a question and answer session with Glenn.

We hope to see as many of our friends as possible next Thursday to meet Glenn and explore and discuss Forgotten Alabama and More Forgotten Alabama at the Old Courthouse Museum.

If you can’t wait until next week and want a sneak peek of Glenn’s work, visit https://www.facebook.com/forgottenalabamathebook/.

 

For questions or further information, please contact one of the following:

Nathan Carter

Old Courthouse Museum

251-575-7433

mchm@frontiernet.net

Ann Mote
Ol’ Curiosities & Book Shoppe
251-575-1050
ocbookshoppe@gmail.com

Wayne Flynt-Interview with the author of Mockingbird Songs: My Friendship with Harper Lee

Wayne Flynt Interview with the author of Mockingbird Songs

Professor Wayne FlyntWayne Flynt, an expert on Southern culture and politics, as well as a good friend to the late Harper Lee, has recently published a collection of letters between himself and the beloved author of To Kill a Mockingbird.  The correspondence is titled Mockingbird Songs: My Friendship with Harper Lee and occurred between 1992 and Lee’s death in February, 2016. Professor Flynt sat down to answer some of our questions during a recent interview:

About Wayne Flynt

OCBS: Tell us a little about yourself and your background.  How was your childhood unique?

Wayne Flynt: I grew up mainly in Alabama. We moved often (I went to 12 schools between the ages of 6 and 14): Anniston came closest to being my home town though we lived in Birmingham, Sheffield, Gadsden, Dothan, Atlanta, Augusta, GA., etc. It was mostly unique because I was an only child, had few friends growing up, and compensated by assuming solitary habits, especially building model WWII airplanes, collecting stamps, and reading.

OCBS: Have you always wanted to be a historian?  If not, what else did you consider as a career and why?

Wayne Flynt: I have always loved history and majored in history and speech in college, but planned to be a Baptist minister until my changing racial views in the early 1960s made that an impossible course for me, or so I thought.

OCBS:   You’ve enjoyed success in academia and as a writer of history.  What are your ongoing goals for your career?

Wayne Flynt: My goals are continue to write history and popularize them in op.ed. columns, articles, and books.  I embrace the role of “public intellectual” and could not ethically remain in Alabama without working constantly for the goals Nelle embraced: the extension of justice, community, tolerance, and racial reconciliation.

Wayne Flynt on Harper Lee

OCBS:  Tell us about your relationship with Harper Lee and her sisters?  How did it begin?  What are your fondest memories of Miss Lee?  How did she inspire you personally and professionally?

Wayne Flynt: I deal extensively with this question in the book, but I first met Louise when she served on the planning committee of Auburn’s History and Heritage Festival in Eufaula in 1983.  Nelle agreed to attend and speak, and I met her that March evening in 1983.  We had a long and happy friendship with Louise before we came to know Alice casually when she showed up at a seminar at the University of Montevallo, where I lectured on the Depression-era historical context of TKAM.  I came to know Nelle only in the early 21st Century, when her concerns about Louise’s failing health caused her to contact us.  We began to write each other, but the friendship really deepened only after her stroke brought her to Health South rehab in Homewood (where we visited her regularly) and to Monroeville (where we wrote her frequently and visited at least once a month on average for a decade).  I actually swore after the terrorist bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in 1963 that I would never come back to Alabama to teach.  But months later I read TKAM for the first time and was so impressed with this remarkable story of courage, tolerance, justice, and community, that I changed my mind.  Though that event was only one of several that brought me “home,” it was pivotal.

Wayne Flynt on Writing

OCBS:   Which other writers inspire you?  Why?

Wayne Flynt: Harper Lee, Eudora Welty, Flannery O’Connor, William Faulkner, Boris Pasternak.  Each in his or her own way–utilized storytelling, community, and forgiveness/reconciliation as central motifs in their writing.

OCBS:  What is your favorite piece that you’ve authored and why?

Wayne Flynt: My favorite book is Poor But Proud because it gave people like my family (who appear throughout the book) the ability to tell their stories of great courage against long odds of poverty and stereotyping.  I consciously have written history from the bottom up, not from the top down, the stories of ordinary people who have lived extraordinary lives.

OCBS:  Do you have other books in the works?  If so, can you tell us a little about them?

Wayne Flynt: I plan two more books about Harper Lee if I live long enough.

OCBS:  Are there others with whom you’d like to collaborate?  Why?

Wayne Flynt: I have not enjoyed collaboration very much.  Unless someone shares your work ethic and goal orientation, discipline and capacity for deferred gratification, collaboration is almost always frustrating.  The one exception was Alabama: History of a Deep South State.

OCBS:  What advice can you offer aspiring authors?

Wayne Flynt: The hardest part of any endeavor is getting started.  Everything is easier after you begin.  Seek out your most honest and caring friend to critique your work with candor and frank criticism.  You don’t have to agree with them, but they will teach you to try always to improve.

OCBS:  Where do you find inspiration for your work?

Wayne Flynt: lnside myself.

OCBS:  What is the hardest thing about writing?

Wayne Flynt: The solitude it requires; the tremendous discipline it imposes.

OCBS:  If you could have been the original author of any book, what would it have been and why?

Wayne Flynt: The Bible.  It is even longer than the books I write.

OCBS:  What do you want readers to know about you?

Wayne Flynt: That I am an honest, authentic writer; that the most plausible explanation of any event is probably correct; conspiracies are rare.

More from Wayne Flynt

OCBS:  What’s your favorite genre to read?

Wayne Flynt: I enjoy history, theology/ethics, and Southern fiction.

OCBS:  Who is your favorite author and why?

Wayne Flynt: Harper Lee, my first real inspiration.

OCBS:  What book/s are you reading at present?

Wayne Flynt: Like Alice Lee, I typically read several books at the same time.  I just finished Olin Butler’s Perfume River, Natasha Treathway’s Thrall, Frederick Buechner’s Beyond Words, and Zora Neale Hurston’s The Complete Stories.  I am about to finish Kathie Farnell’s delightful memoir, Duck and Cover: A Nuclear Family (which the University of South Carolina Press is about to publish). 

OCBS:  Who is your support system, i.e. the first to read your work, review it, and critique it?  How do you choose these advisors?

Wayne Flynt: My wife was always my first and best critic.

OCBS:  What is your favorite saying and why?

Wayne Flynt: “We become the custodians of our own contentment.” The meaning is self-evident.

OCBS:  What advice would you give to your younger self?

Wayne Flynt: I am the custodian of my own contentment.

To order your copy of Mockingbird Songs: My Friendship with Harper Lee please visit our online store.

Which authors have influenced you most and why?  Has a personal experience with a writer impacted you?  We’d love to hear your stories.  Please comment below.

 

Black History Month: The Watsons Go to Birmingham – 1963

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thSince February is Black History Month, I thought it would be a great time to talk about the children’s book The Watsons Go to Birmingham – 1963. Written by Christopher Paul Curtis, this children’s historical fiction novel takes place, for the most part in Birmingham, Alabama.

The Story

The Watsons Go to Birmingham – 1963 is the story of an African American family, the Watsons, who live in Flint, Michigan. The year is 1963, of course. The Watson family consists of Dad (Daniel), Mom (Wilona), Byron (older brother), Kenny (narrator) and Joey (younger sister). Byron starts getting into some trouble, so his parents decide the best course of action is to let him spend the summer with his maternal grandmother in Birmingham, Alabama. The Watson family then takes a road trip to Alabama. While there, the family witnesses a historically tragic event, based off of an actual event that the author writes into the story. The grandmother’s church is bombed, with children inside, who either die or end up injured as a result of the bombing. Kenny doesn’t understand what has happened. He thinks he is imagining things, because he has not encountered racism to this degree before. The parents want to avoid explaining the tragedy more than they absolutely have to, so they return home to Michigan with all three children.

The Reality

The actual event that Curtis used as basis for his fictional church bombing was the 16th Street Baptist Church Bombing. This event took place during the Civil Rights Movement in September of 1963 in Birmingham, Alabama. An African American church was bombed by KKK members, resulting in the injury of twenty-two people, and the death of four little girls. This tragic event happened at a time when progress when seemingly being made in the South regarding racism. Schools were beginning to be integrated. Then this happened. However, as grim and tragic as it was, this bombing was a pivotal point in the Civil Rights Movement and would later be used as fuel to pass the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

 

While The Watsons Go to Birmingham – 1963 does touch on a delicate subject, for the most part the book is humorous. This is a great middle grade children’s book because not only do they learn a bit of history, but it is presented in a way that is enjoyable as well.  Have you read The Watsons Go to Birmingham – 1963? What were your thoughts? Leave us a comment below!

 

An Interview with Professor Wayne Flynt

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Ol’ Curiosities & Book Shoppe recently had the privilege of interviewing Professor Wayne Flynt, Distinguished Professor Emeritus in the Department of History at Auburn University. Professor Flynt is a premier Alabama scholar and historian, as well as a close friend of Harper Lee. He stops in our little shoppe from time to time, and has graciously agreed to answer a few questions for our blog!

Professor Wayne FlyntProfessor Flynt, you hold the title of Professor Emeritus in the Department of History at Auburn University. What made you want to enter the world of academia?

Though when I entered Howard College in 1958 I planned to become a minister, by the time I graduated my views about race diverged so much from southern white culture and especially Southern Baptist majority opinion that I decided to enter grad. school and take a Ph.D. while waiting for attitudes to change. When I finished my degree in 1965, white racial views if anything had hardened due to the influence of George C. Wallace and “massive resistance.” At first I became a college teacher because my first love seemed impossible if I wanted to remain Baptist and live in the deep South. But in time, I felt a sense of calling to college students as a ministry as much as I once felt that call to pastor a church. Over the years, that sense strengthened as I taught college Sunday school classes, began tutoring programs in black high schools, and mobilized students to help register black voters and engage in work with the poor.

Much of your research and work involves Alabama, what about Alabama initially sparked your interest?

My initial research focused on 20th century Florida, and my first two books were political biographies of a FL. governor and U. S. senator. Then I changed focus to write about the people from whom I came, southern poor whites. Because I taught for 38 years at Samford U. and Auburn, I gradually specialized more and more on my home state, writing 9 of my 14 books about Montgomery, Alabama’s economy, Alabama Baptists, Alabama missionaries who served in China in the 20th century, and co-authored the state’s standard history. My interest grew from my family history in Alabama, which extends back 6 generations.  

Professor Flynt throughout your career as a teacher and historian, you’ve done a lot of writing. Can you talk about your inspiration when it comes to your writing? And your process?

Early in my career, I loved conducting research and hated writing. Now I love writing and hate research. Writing is lonely, solitary work that does not prosper from interruptions. I am a highly social person who loves people and talking. Therefore, I really had to discipline myself. Now, in my mid 70’s, I think I am less social and more solitary. I also have lots more confidence in my writing skills. I never try to write unless I have at least half a day clear of interruptions. During that time, I don’t answer the phone or do anything else that diverts my attention.  Also, I don’t do Facebook, Twitter, or any social media, which really helps avoid disruptions. I write hard on a first draft without any revisions. When I finish a chapter, I begin a meticulous revision consisting generally of 20 rewrites, the first of them pretty comprehensive. After that, my revisions are mostly wordsmithing.  

Professor Flynt what was your favorite book to write? Which was the most difficult?

Keeping the Faith, by Wayne Flynt
Keeping the Faith, by Wayne Flynt

My favorite book to write was my memoir, KEEPING THE FAITH: ORDINARY PEOPLE, EXTRAORDINARY LIVES. It was deeply introspective, forced me to confront some things about myself I did not like, and challenged memory as a guide to the past. Often, I found that what I wanted to remember was not likely what happened. Also, it is much easier to remember what I did (I often kept extensive journals) than the MOTIVE for what I did.  

The most difficult book was TAKING THE GOSPEL TO CHINA: ALABAMA MISSIONARIES IN THE MIDDLE KINGDOM. The book was a collective biography of 50 people, and I couldn’t allocate 50 chapters, one to each of them. So, I had to find common experiences, which was often quite difficult.  

What do you like to read? What’s your favorite book?

I like to read southern history, history of W.W. II, and southern fiction. My favorite book, not surprisingly is TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD. I first read it in 1963 as a race novel, but during ensuing years have found different meaning at each stage of my life. Now, I consider the novel about tolerance and non-judgment.  

What are your favorite pastimes?

My favorite pastimes are creek fishing from a canoe on Alabama creeks and small rivers and basketball. I enjoyed playing basketball on an Auburn city league team and was a rabid fan of college basketball both at Samford and Auburn. I also grow roses, with a peak of 77 bushes, now diminished by lack of energy. Roses are like children: they reward attention and punish neglect.

Professor Flynt, what’s your proudest achievement (personal or professional)?

My proudest achievements are my wonderful 54 year marriage to Dartie, my best friend, two incredible sons, and 6,000 students also mostly wonderful and incredible, people of integrity, committed to justice, and making the world better by their presence in it.

Professionally, I am most proud of my election as president of the Southern Historical Association. The Southern Historical Association is the largest organization in the world dedicated to the study and explanation of the American South, with some 5,000 members worldwide. Curiously enough, there is a robust Southern Studies Group in Europe involving scholars from Russia to the United Kingdom who specialize and teach Southern history and literature as a regional subgroup of what is taught there as “American Studies.” The South is the only “region” of the U. S. studied and taught as a separate area of studies.

The Wondrous McCrarys, Alabama Pioneers by Joseph Jones

The Wonderous McCrarys by Joseph Jones
The Wondrous McCrarys by Joseph Jones
The Wondrous McCrarys by Joseph Jones

The Wondrous McCrarys tells the story of Thomas McCrary, a young man from Lauren’s County, South Carolina to Northern Alabama in 1809 and his descendants.  From a family of some means, the twenty-year-old McCrary settled the land along with a pair of brothers, the Wrights, whose own family would play a major role in the legacy he created in what would become Madison County, Alabama.

The Wondrous McCrarys: The History of the Oldest Farming Family in Alabama

It would be some ten years before the land McCrary purchased became part of the great state of Alabama, and through it all, McCrary and his family held tight to the idea of maintaining their land. In doing so, the McCrary farm became the oldest in Alabama.

The Wondrous McCrarys traces the lineage of Thomas McCrary through generations, outlining what became of McCrary’s children via his first wife, and then the one child that lived to adulthood from his second wife, who happened to the cousin of the first. The younger McCrary had eleven children of his own and continued—with the ample help of his wife and living children, as well as a multitude of slaves—to maintain the more than 2,000-acre plantation that the older McCrary began.

The Wondrous McCrarys offers details not only about the patriarch’s farming endeavors, but his involvement in local government and commerce, as well as how the family fared throughout the Civil War and the means it took to rebuild their lives after his death and through the times of reconstruction.

The Wondrous McCrarys and Modern Times

Family members are counted and their stories told throughout the decades into modern times, when the story reaches the precipice of the “Final McCrary,” the namesake of his great-grandfather, 100-year-old Thomas McCrary, who at the time of the book’s publication still farmed and tended to the land that was so dear to his ancestors.

The book also offers an epilogue for those who might have some curiosity as to who will care for the McCrarys’ place once the Final McCrary is gone, bestowing that designation on a much younger cousin, William Ellison, who has a taken a special interest in the heritage and upkeep of the property which can be traced through his mother’s line.

 

 

If Perfectly Agreeable: A Love Story… by Anne Stanton Sims

If Perfectly Agreeable by Ann Stanton Sims
If Perfectly Agreeable by Anne Stanton Sims
If Perfectly Agreeable… by Anne Stanton Sims

If Perfectly Agreeable:  A Love Story…

If Perfectly Agreeable:  A Love Story and Life in the 1880s and 1890s in Northwest Florida and Southwest Alabama by Anne Stanton Sims is the true tale of J.P. “Joe” Harrison and Fannie McDavid Harrison, told through their letters to one another over a period of approximately four years –from 1891 to 1895.  Sims is the couple’s great granddaughter, and offers up the letters to preserve the history not only of her family but of the region where their story took place.

If Perfectly Agreeable:  Challenges and History

Joe and Fannie were separated by the Escambia River, nothing daunting by today’s standards, but in their time, quite an obstacle.  The couple communicated by mail, as Fannie lived in Coon Hill on one side of the River, and Joe lived in the McDavid community.  Their towns were connected by a Ferry, but one that could often not cross the River, depending on how engorged it might be.  Letters were the couple’s means of setting dates for courting and staying touch.  In those letters, a history is recorded that gives us a wonderful glimpse into the world that was the Florida Panhandle of the late 1900s.

If Perfectly Agreeable:  Getting to Know Joe and Fannie

Not only does the reader of If Perfectly Agreeable get to know Fannie and Joe almost intimately, and enjoy watching their relationship blossom over time, he or she also enjoys insight into their lives as they were lived at the time.  Fannie stayed and kept house with her mother and sisters, and spent much time traveling to see relatives in neighboring townships, while Joe was employed at a local sawmill.  He was 31 and she 22 when they began corresponding, and their story would not end even with their deaths in the 1950s…

If Perfectly Agreeable:  A Treasure for Lovers of History

For those who enjoy history, this primary source from the Harrison family is nothing short of a treasure.  For those who enjoy romance, there may be no truer tale of how love, occasional challenges, and noteworthy commitment continue to be the catalysts for great relationships—and even better stories.  The format is enticing, the tale is enjoyable, and truth—especially in this case—is better than much fiction.  History buffs among you (especially those from Florida and Alabama), be warned:  this is a book you won’t want to put down, and will be certain to be one remembered and referred to for many years to come.

If you’ve already read If Perfectly Agreeable, tell us what strikes you most about the relationship detailed in the letters of this work.  What parallels can you draw to your own family?
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