Saturday, February 29, 2020

Alabama History & Culture News: February 29 edition

Here's the latest batch of links to just-published Alabama history and culture articles. Most of these articles are from newspapers, with others from magazines and TV and radio station websites. Enjoy!

Alabama's two senators introduced the resolution regarding Clotilda and ... (3) the Africatown Cemetery, where many of the individuals who survived ...

Fire Destroys Century-Old Church
Fire destroyed a century-old church about seven miles north of Flomaton Thursday night, and the  State Fire Marshal was called to investigate. ... structure on Pineview  Road and Pine Street were visible for miles.

 Voices: Johnny Long built a musical legacy at Troy University
Montgomery Advertiser
Lee High School's first band director, Johnny Long, left talks with a guest at Thursday's lecture at the  Department of Archives and  in ...

Don't miss Pattie and Josephine: Waiting in , a one-act play at Vulcan Park & Museum on ...
Bham Now
Lee has written scripts about Booker T. Washington, Virginia Durr, Alvin Vogtle and several other famous people from . In addition to ...


NYC students enjoy free performance of 'To Kill A Mockingbird' at Madison Square Garden
New York Daily News
The  was adapted for the stage by renowned screenwriter Aaron Sorkin and features Ed Harris in the lead role of Atticus Finch, an  ...

Alabama looking for 'bicentennial babies'
The “bicentennial babies” may receive a copy of “ My Home Sweet Home,” a children's  by  author Charles Ghigna, also known ...

This cozy little bookstore is one of Alabama's hidden gems
Then they'll start roaming the narrow aisles between shelves crammed with  on everything from the birds of  to the history of France, ...

Tuscaloosa Africana Film Festival brings African culture to community
The Crimson While
“So when you have an event like this that celebrates not only Black  Month, but also women in , and the culture of  and this area ...

How the Southern Museum of Flight Takes Off
Birmingham Times
“You really learn the  of where everything came from, … where the stories came from, the  of America and , … the  of ...

The lost congressman: Sources for Jeremiah Haralson's remarkable life
Montgomery Advertiser
I first encountered Jeremiah Haralson as I worked on a story on  ... A recent walk around Selma's Live Oak  did not uncover any ...

ASU announces opening of third Selma to Montgomery March interpretive center
Montgomery Advertiser
Fifty-five years after the  march from Selma to Montgomery, the third and ... “I consider  State University the epicenter of civil rights and I ...

ASU recognizes 60th anniversary of sit-in protest
WTVY, Dothan
MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) -- It's the last week of Black  Month, and  State University is recognizing some of histories bravest heroes ...
HistoryAlabamaGroup of Native Americans wants housing developers to stop construction on possible ancient ...

University of South  graduates bring artistry to Mobile Carnival
Alabama NewsCenter
Mussell, who studied in what is now the art and art  department, has hired many South -trained artists over the years. Some went on to ...

Montgomery sit-in protesters remember  day 60 years later
Montgomery Advertiser
Three of 29  State College students who led the first sit-in protest in the state six decades ago on Feb. 25 when they refused to leave a ...

First African American female pilot in the  National Guard will be honored again
(WBRC/AUSA) - First Lieutenant Kayla Freeman, 26,  National Guard, became the first African-American female helicopter pilot in the  .

State reviewing possible artifacts at construction site
Times Daily
The  Commission is reviewing reports of nearby residents and an Army archaeologist who raised concerns about items found near ...

Alabama-born Brooklyn artist displays work in Sunset Park gallery
News 12 Bronx
Alabama-born Brooklyn artist displays work in Sunset Park gallery ... Brown is also working on her  "My Selma," which recounts what life was like ...

Authors tell Turner's story
Selma Times-Journal
... his earlier works, “Cradle of freedom” which tells the story of  Civil ... Both Gaillard and Rosner commended the  illustrator, Jordana ...

Wayne Dean preserving  place in Mardi Gras history
Alabama NewsCenter
Wayne Dean preserving  place in Mardi Gras history ... The 700-plus-page  details the history of Joe Cain in  Port City.

Historic Alabama home makes its mark
Crestview News Bulletin
That's when members of the Crestview  Preservation Board ... Bush was born in Fort Deposit, , moved to Crestview in 1910 and lived ...

Friday, February 28, 2020

"Alabama" in Three Poems

I recently stumbled across the three poems below that contain the word "Alabama". I failed to note the site where I found them, but they are available on various places around the web. Since National Poetry Month is coming in April, I thought I would write a few posts on such appearances in poetry, poets from Alabama and such. 

Margaret Walker is the only one of the three authors with a direct Alabama connection; she was born in Birmingham in July 1915. When she was young her family moved to New Orleans, and she finished growing up there. Heading to Chicago for college, she graduated from Northwestern in 1935. She remained in that city for several years, working for the Federal Writers Project that was part of the New Deal during the Great Depression. 

In 1942 she earned a masters degree in creative writing from the University of Iowa. Her revised thesis was published that year as For My People; the title poem is below. The third verse no doubt draws on her Birmingham childhood memories. Walker taught at what is now Jackson State University in Mississippi for thirty years and before her death in 1998 published other collections of poetry and the novel Jubilee. 

Francisco Aragon's poem "Blister" has only an incidental connection to the state. The speaker in the poem talks of someone who lives on "Alabama Street" in whatever city the poem's action inhabits. Aragon is a Latino writer, poet & editor born in San Francisco who has studied at universities in Berkeley and Davis, California and New York City. Aragon spent a year living in Spain, and currently directs the literary program at the Institute of Latino Studies, University of Notre Dame. Wherever Aragon's "Alabama Street" is located, it's one of many around the United States. 

This stamp honoring Whitman was issued in 1940.

Source: Wikipedia

Walt Whitman needs no introduction from me; read more about one of America's greatest poets here and in various biographies. In "Out of the Cradle Endlessly Rocking" he meditates on a trip to the beach on Paumanok (the Native American name for Long Island) as a young boy. Day after day he watched the behaviors of two mockingbirds "feather'd guests from Alabama." One day the female disappears, and the older poet speaks the male's reaction through his younger self's perceptions. The poem has been interpreted in ways you can read more about here and here.  

The poem was first published in a newspaper on December 24, 1859, and included under a different title in the edition of Leaves of Grass published the following year. Why did Whitman choose to place the birds from Alabama? I have no idea. But Whitman does connect to the state in strange ways sometimes. Jennifer Crandall's documentary Whitman, Alabama uses the poet's "Song of Myself" to aid residents in speaking about themselves. And then there's Jake Adam York's wonderful poem "Walt Whitman in Alabama" which brings the poet to Gadsden and Attalla. And the mocking birds were there....


By Margaret Walker

For my people everywhere singing their slave songs
     repeatedly: their dirges and their ditties and their blues
     and jubilees, praying their prayers nightly to an
     unknown god, bending their knees humbly to an
     unseen power;

For my people lending their strength to the years, to the
    gone years and the now years and the maybe years,
    washing ironing cooking scrubbing sewing mending
    hoeing plowing digging planting pruning patching
    dragging along never gaining never reaping never
    knowing and never understanding;

For my playmates in the clay and dust and sand of Alabama
    backyards playing baptizing and preaching and doctor
    and jail and soldier and school and mama and cooking
    and playhouse and concert and store and hair and
    Miss Choomby and company;

For the cramped bewildered years we went to school to learn
    to know the reasons why and the answers to and the
    people who and the places where and the days when, in
    memory of the bitter hours when we discovered we
    were black and poor and small and different and nobody
    cared and nobody wondered and nobody understood;

For the boys and girls who grew in spite of these things to
    be man and woman, to laugh and dance and sing and
    play and drink their wine and religion and success, to
    marry their playmates and bear children and then die
    of consumption and anemia and lynching;

For my people thronging 47th Street in Chicago and Lenox
    Avenue in New York and Rampart Street in New
    Orleans, lost disinherited dispossessed and happy
    people filling the cabarets and taverns and other
    people’s pockets and needing bread and shoes and milk and
    land and money and something—something all our own;

For my people walking blindly spreading joy, losing time
     being lazy, sleeping when hungry, shouting when
     burdened, drinking when hopeless, tied, and shackled
     and tangled among ourselves by the unseen creatures
     who tower over us omnisciently and laugh;

For my people blundering and groping and floundering in
     the dark of churches and schools and clubs
     and societies, associations and councils and committees and
     conventions, distressed and disturbed and deceived and
     devoured by money-hungry glory-craving leeches,
     preyed on by facile force of state and fad and novelty, by
     false prophet and holy believer;

For my people standing staring trying to fashion a better way
    from confusion, from hypocrisy and misunderstanding,
    trying to fashion a world that will hold all the people,
    all the faces, all the adams and eves and their countless generations;

Let a new earth rise. Let another world be born. Let a
    bloody peace be written in the sky. Let a second
    generation full of courage issue forth; let a people
    loving freedom come to growth. Let a beauty full of
    healing and a strength of final clenching be the pulsing
    in our spirits and our blood. Let the martial songs
    be written, let the dirges disappear. Let a race of men now
    rise and take control.

Margaret Walker, “For My People” from This is My Century: New and Collected Poems. Copyright © 1989 by Margaret Walker.  Reprinted by permission of  University of Georgia Press.


By Francisco Aragón

A disease

of the peach tree

—a fungus

distorts leaves.

The first time

I was taken
to see him
I was five
or six. A vesicle
on the skin
serum, caused
by friction,
a burn, or other
injury. He lived
on Alabama Street
next to Saint
Peter’s and wore
a white t-shirt,
starched and snug.
A similar swelling
with fluid
or air
on the surface
of a plant,
or metal
after cooling
or the sunless
area between
one’s toes
after a very
long walk.
Don’t ask me

how it is I
ended up
holding it.
An outer
fitted to a
vessel to protect
against torpedoes,
mines, or to improve
stability. My guess
is that he
brought it out
to show me
thinking, perhaps,
I had never
seen one
up close,
let alone felt
the blunt weight
of one
in my hands.
A rounded
from the body
of a plane.
What came
next: no
image but
sensation of
its hammer
(my inexpert

into but not
skin—the spot
at the base
of my thumb
slowly filling
with fluid…
In Spanish:
—an Ampul
of chrystal
in the Middle
Ages could be
a relic containing
the blood
of someone
holy. I’m fairly
certain it wasn’t

Francisco Aragon, "Blister" from Mariposas: A Modern Anthology of Queer Latino Poetry. Copyright © 2008 by Francisco Aragon.  Reprinted by permission of Francisco Aragon.


By Walt Whitman

Out of the cradle endlessly rocking,
Out of the mocking-bird’s throat, the musical shuttle,
Out of the Ninth-month midnight,
Over the sterile sands and the fields beyond, where the child leaving his bed wander’d alone, bareheaded, barefoot,
Down from the shower’d halo,
Up from the mystic play of shadows twining and twisting as if they were alive,
Out from the patches of briers and blackberries,
From the memories of the bird that chanted to me,
From your memories sad brother, from the fitful risings and fallings I heard,
From under that yellow half-moon late-risen and swollen as if with tears,
From those beginning notes of yearning and love there in the mist,
From the thousand responses of my heart never to cease,
From the myriad thence-arous’d words,
From the word stronger and more delicious than any,
From such as now they start the scene revisiting,
As a flock, twittering, rising, or overhead passing,
Borne hither, ere all eludes me, hurriedly,
A man, yet by these tears a little boy again,
Throwing myself on the sand, confronting the waves,
I, chanter of pains and joys, uniter of here and hereafter,
Taking all hints to use them, but swiftly leaping beyond them,
A reminiscence sing.

Once Paumanok,
When the lilac-scent was in the air and Fifth-month grass was growing,
Up this seashore in some briers,
Two feather’d guests from Alabama, two together,
And their nest, and four light-green eggs spotted with brown,
And every day the he-bird to and fro near at hand,
And every day the she-bird crouch’d on her nest, silent, with bright eyes,
And every day I, a curious boy, never too close, never disturbing them,
Cautiously peering, absorbing, translating.

Shine! shine! shine!
Pour down your warmth, great sun!
While we bask, we two together.

Two together!
Winds blow south, or winds blow north,
Day come white, or night come black,
Home, or rivers and mountains from home,
Singing all time, minding no time,
While we two keep together.

Till of a sudden,
May-be kill’d, unknown to her mate,
One forenoon the she-bird crouch’d not on the nest,
Nor return’d that afternoon, nor the next,
Nor ever appear’d again.

And thenceforward all summer in the sound of the sea,
And at night under the full of the moon in calmer weather,
Over the hoarse surging of the sea,
Or flitting from brier to brier by day,
I saw, I heard at intervals the remaining one, the he-bird,
The solitary guest from Alabama.

Blow! blow! blow!
Blow up sea-winds along Paumanok’s shore;
I wait and I wait till you blow my mate to me.

Yes, when the stars glisten’d,
All night long on the prong of a moss-scallop’d stake,
Down almost amid the slapping waves,
Sat the lone singer wonderful causing tears.

He call’d on his mate,
He pour’d forth the meanings which I of all men know.

Yes my brother I know,
The rest might not, but I have treasur’d every note,
For more than once dimly down to the beach gliding,
Silent, avoiding the moonbeams, blending myself with the shadows,
Recalling now the obscure shapes, the echoes, the sounds and sights after their sorts,
The white arms out in the breakers tirelessly tossing,
I, with bare feet, a child, the wind wafting my hair,
Listen’d long and long.

Listen’d to keep, to sing, now translating the notes,
Following you my brother.

Soothe! soothe! soothe!
Close on its wave soothes the wave behind,
And again another behind embracing and lapping, every one close,
But my love soothes not me, not me.

Low hangs the moon, it rose late,
It is lagging—O I think it is heavy with love, with love.

O madly the sea pushes upon the land,
With love, with love.

O night! do I not see my love fluttering out among the breakers?
What is that little black thing I see there in the white?

Loud! loud! loud!
Loud I call to you, my love!

High and clear I shoot my voice over the waves,
Surely you must know who is here, is here,
You must know who I am, my love.

Low-hanging moon!
What is that dusky spot in your brown yellow?
O it is the shape, the shape of my mate!
O moon do not keep her from me any longer.

Land! land! O land!
Whichever way I turn, O I think you could give me my mate back again if you only would,
For I am almost sure I see her dimly whichever way I look.

O rising stars!
Perhaps the one I want so much will rise, will rise with some of you.

O throat! O trembling throat!
Sound clearer through the atmosphere!
Pierce the woods, the earth,
Somewhere listening to catch you must be the one I want.

Shake out carols!
Solitary here, the night’s carols!
Carols of lonesome love! death’s carols!
Carols under that lagging, yellow, waning moon!
O under that moon where she droops almost down into the sea!
O reckless despairing carols.

But soft! sink low!
Soft! let me just murmur,
And do you wait a moment you husky-nois’d sea,
For somewhere I believe I heard my mate responding to me,
So faint, I must be still, be still to listen,
But not altogether still, for then she might not come immediately to me.

Hither my love!
Here I am! here!
With this just-sustain’d note I announce myself to you,
This gentle call is for you my love, for you.

Do not be decoy’d elsewhere,
That is the whistle of the wind, it is not my voice,
That is the fluttering, the fluttering of the spray,
Those are the shadows of leaves.

O darkness! O in vain!
O I am very sick and sorrowful.

O brown halo in the sky near the moon, drooping upon the sea!
O troubled reflection in the sea!
O throat! O throbbing heart!
And I singing uselessly, uselessly all the night.

O past! O happy life! O songs of joy!
In the air, in the woods, over fields,
Loved! loved! loved! loved! loved!
But my mate no more, no more with me!
We two together no more.

The aria sinking,
All else continuing, the stars shining,
The winds blowing, the notes of the bird continuous echoing,
With angry moans the fierce old mother incessantly moaning,
On the sands of Paumanok’s shore gray and rustling,
The yellow half-moon enlarged, sagging down, drooping, the face of the sea almost touching,
The boy ecstatic, with his bare feet the waves, with his hair the atmosphere dallying,
The love in the heart long pent, now loose, now at last tumultuously bursting,
The aria’s meaning, the ears, the soul, swiftly depositing,
The strange tears down the cheeks coursing,
The colloquy there, the trio, each uttering,
The undertone, the savage old mother incessantly crying,
To the boy’s soul’s questions sullenly timing, some drown’d secret hissing,
To the outsetting bard.

Demon or bird! (said the boy’s soul,)
Is it indeed toward your mate you sing? or is it really to me?
For I, that was a child, my tongue’s use sleeping, now I have heard you,
Now in a moment I know what I am for, I awake,
And already a thousand singers, a thousand songs, clearer, louder and more sorrowful than yours,
A thousand warbling echoes have started to life within me, never to die.

O you singer solitary, singing by yourself, projecting me,
O solitary me listening, never more shall I cease perpetuating you,
Never more shall I escape, never more the reverberations,
Never more the cries of unsatisfied love be absent from me,
Never again leave me to be the peaceful child I was before what there in the night,
By the sea under the yellow and sagging moon,
The messenger there arous’d, the fire, the sweet hell within,
The unknown want, the destiny of me.

O give me the clew! (it lurks in the night here somewhere,)
O if I am to have so much, let me have more!

A word then, (for I will conquer it,)
The word final, superior to all,
Subtle, sent up—what is it?—I listen;
Are you whispering it, and have been all the time, you sea-waves?
Is that it from your liquid rims and wet sands?

Whereto answering, the sea,
Delaying not, hurrying not,
Whisper’d me through the night, and very plainly before day-break,

Lisp’d to me the low and delicious word death,
And again death, death, death, death,
Hissing melodious, neither like the bird nor like my arous’d child’s heart,
But edging near as privately for me rustling at my feet,
Creeping thence steadily up to my ears and laving me softly all over,
Death, death, death, death, death.

Which I do not forget,
But fuse the song of my dusky demon and brother,
That he sang to me in the moonlight on Paumanok’s gray beach,
With the thousand responsive songs at random,
My own songs awaked from that hour,
And with them the key, the word up from the waves,
The word of the sweetest song and all songs,
That strong and delicious word which, creeping to my feet,
(Or like some old crone rocking the cradle, swathed in sweet garments, bending aside,)
The sea whisper’d me.