Summersell Center Presses Forward on Multiple Fronts

Summersell Center students outside the Bama theater.

The Frances S. Summersell Center for the Study of the South launched a series of new initiatives during the 2023-2024 academic year that continue to build on student ideas and leadership.

Dr. John Giggie was awarded a CARSCA grant to fund efforts in the digital humanities for the Alabama Memory Project. Last summer, Dr. Giggie and Vivian Malone Fellow and doctoral student Isabella Garrison led a team of nine students in the creation of a new digital archive to hold the entirety of the research from the Alabama Memory lynching courses. The students used Omeka S to build a new platform to house the over 2,500 primary sources identified by previous students. Their work is ongoing.

This past summer, the Center was also awarded a Cauthen Fellowship from the Alabama Folklife Association to expand its partnership with the Elmore County Black History Museum. Dr. Giggie, Mx. Garrison, and six students digitized more than 1,200 Black funeral pamphlets housed at the museum and created a metadata organization for them. The Museum’s collection, curated by Ms. Billie Rawls, is the largest of its kind in the Southeast.

In the fall of 2023, Dr. Giggie and Mx. Garrison co-instructed the Southern Queer History course, the only course of its kind in the SEC dedicated to southern queer history research. Thirty undergraduates in the course worked with two Summersell Scholars, Makayla Brewer and Brooklynn Coleman, both returning undergraduate students, to meet with community leaders to prepare for the oral history collection process. The course also hosted a community mapping tent at this fall’s Druid City Pride Festival, working with community members to create a new map of queer West Alabama.

In the spring, the Southern Queer History project continued through the work of Summersell Scholars Ainsley Lewis, Lucian Sims, Bryce Schottelkotte, Madeline Graves, and Carson Silas. They developed a digital walking tour of historic queer Tuscaloosa, which will be published this fall. This project is funded in part through a grant awarded to Dr. Giggie and Mx. Garrison through the American Historical Association’s Committee on LGBTQ+ History. Students will share the digital tour and lead walking tours at the 2024 Druid City Pride Festival.

This spring, Dr. Giggie also organized a Black history symposium at Northridge High School as part of its History of Us curriculum, the course in local Black history begun several years ago by the Center. The Center offered its long running research course, Alabama Memory, which seeks to memorialize the state’s lynching victims. It focused on the eighteen documented cases of Black women who were lynched. It was designed in part by Brooklynn Coleman and Makayla Brewer. The class shared their work with the Equal Justice Initiative’s Legacy Museum and National Memorial for Peace and Justice; the Mothers of Gynecology Memorial; and the Elmore County Black History Museum.

This summer, the Center will assist in commemorating the sixtieth anniversary of Bloody Tuesday, the defining event in West Alabama’s Civil Rights Movement. The Commemoration event will be hosted at First African Baptist Church on Sunday, June 9.

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