Wednesday, September 18, 2013
Martin T. (Marty) Olliff“The Great War in the Heart of Dixie: Alabama During World War I”

The United States participated militarily in World War I (1914-1918) for only nineteen months—hardly enough time to effect the long lasting changes that war can make on a society. Much has been written about how the United States responded to the war, but few have explored how Alabama responded. Did the state follow the federal government’s lead in organizing its resources or did Alabamians devise their own solutions to the problems they faced? How did the state’s cultural institutions and government react and what changes occurred in its economy and way of life? What, if any, were the long-term consequences in Alabama? Guest speaker, Dr. Martin T. (Marty) Olliff, will address these questions and more as he relays information about how the state and Alabamians on the home front responded to the Great War.

Dr. Olliff received his Ph.D. in American History from Auburn University, and he is currently the Director of the Archives of Wiregrass History and Culture and Assistant Professor of History at Troy University, Dothan. He serves on the governing board of the major historical journals. In 2008, the University of Alabama Press published his edited volume, The Great War in the Heart of Dixie: Alabama in World War I.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013 
Karen Utz Sloss Furnaces: The Industrial Evolution of Birmingham’s Iron Plantation”

The Sloss Furnaces National Historic Landmark is currently the only 20th century blast furnace in the nation being preserved and interpreted as an industrial museum—a remarkable perspective on the era when America grew to world industrial dominance. Sloss is an important reminder of the dreams and struggles of the people who worked in the industries that made Birmingham the ‘Magic City.’ Karen Utz—a knowledgeable and spirited presenter who is passionate about Sloss and Birmingham industrial history—will focus on the formative years of Birmingham’s Industrial District and the early developmental years of Sloss. She will also address labor issues, the role that the industry played during WWI and WWII, deindustrialization and finally—the present role of Sloss in the preservation of southern industrial history.

Utz is the Curator and Historian of Sloss furnaces National Historic Landmark in Birmingham, Alabama, as well as an adjunct history instructor at the University of Alabama at Birmingham where she teaches courses pertaining to Southern industry and American history. Karen’s many publications include Iron & Steel: A Guide to Birmingham Area Industrial Heritage Sites; she serves on various state historical committees.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013
Tom Hallock Self-Portraits in Nature: William Bartram and the Art of Flowers”

William Bartram traveled the American South from 1773 to 1776 exploring and discovering native American plants. His book Travels (1791)—a memorable account of the nature and native inhabitants of the American South—contained drawings and meticulous observations about the plants and people that he met; the book was an instant classic in naturalist literature. Presenter, Tom Hallock’s lively, illustrated talk will explore questions of self-investigation through the work of Bartram, an accomplished scientific illustrator, one whose paintings crossed from technical explanation into biography.

Dr. Hallock—a graduate of Dickinson College with a Ph.D. in English and American Literature from New York University—is the author of several publications and the co-editor of William Bartram, the Search for Nature’s Design. The College of Liberal Arts at Auburn University has selected Hallock as the distinguished Daniel F. Breeden Eminent Scholar Chair for the fall of 2013. He is an associate professor of English at the University of South Florida State, Petersburg.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013 

Ove Jensen “The Battle of Horseshoe Bend”

On the morning of 27 March 1814, General Andrew Jackson and an army of 3,300 men consisting of Tennessee militia, United States regulars, and both Cherokee and Lower Creek allies attacked Chief Menawa and 1,000 Upper Creek or Red Stick warriors fortified in the “horseshoe“ bend of the Tallapoosa River. Facing overwhelming odds, the Red Sticks fought bravely yet ultimately lost the battle. This was the final battle of the Creek War of 1813-1814 which is considered part of the War of 1812. Presenter, Ove Jensen, will describe the Battle of Horseshoe Bend, the peace treaty which was signed after the battle, and the impact of the victory that forced the Upper and Lower Creeks to give the United States over 23 million acres of land in what is now Alabama and Georgia.

Ove Jensen is a Park ranger at Horseshoe Bend National Military Park. He studied U.S. colonial and revolutionary history in graduate school at Auburn University. His military service includes the U. S. Army as a field officer and then participation in the Gulf War and the liberation of Kuwait where he earned the Bronze Star medal for combat service. Jensen continues his Interest in Alabama and military history at the Horseshoe Bend National Military Park which preserves and interprets an important piece of American history.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Skip Tucker “Stonewall Jackson: That Strange Night in Chancellorsville”

Skip Tucker has written an exciting novel about the legendary Stonewall Jackson—the Confederate leader who “stood like a stone wall” and saved the day for southern troops at first Manassas. Tucker’s setting is Chancellorsville—one of the few night battles of the war called by the author “the third deadliest and by far the weirdest.” Tucker makes it clear that his book, The Pale Blue Light, is not a work of history, but historical fiction intended to bring to people a living, breathing Jackson. The spy thriller questions whether Jackson was wounded by friendly fire or whether something more sinister was at play. The protagonist, Rabe Canon, suspects foul play and undertakes a cross-country journey to secure a fortune for the Con- federacy and to discover the truth behind Jackson’s death. Tucker, a lively presenter with a keen interest in Civil War history—will combine historical accuracy with an intriguing story to bring to life the tragic events of 150 years ago and to raise provocative questions about the nature of warfare.

Tucker served the Jasper, Alabama Daily Mountain Eagle for ten years as a reporter and editor and he was media director for Judge Charlie Graddick’s 2012 campaign for the chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013 
Rheta Grimsley Johnson   “Mining For Meaning in the Deep South”

Rheta Grimsley Johnson, the award-winning reporter and columnist for the Atlanta Journal and Constitution, has traveled the country in search of stories—the voices and the spirit of ordinary Americans— for over three decades. Johnson now writes her wise, witty and often poignant column once a week for the King Features Syndicate; Her column appears in about 50 papers nationwide. Her human interest reporting has won numerous awards, and in 1991 she was one of three finalists for the Pulitzer Prize for commentary. She is the author of Good Grief, a biography of Charles Schulz;Poor Man’s ProvenceEnchanted Evening Barbie and the Second Coming; and Hank Hung the Moon…and Warmed Our Cold, Cold Hearts. The author promised to talk about her misadventures along the column trail, travel, interesting people and all the books that she has written with a little more emphasis on Hank saying, “I think the best writing is musical, or rhythmic; Hank always instinctively knew the right word. He taught me how to write.”

A native of Colquitt, Georgia, Johnson grew up in Montgomery, Alabama, studied journalism at Auburn University and has lived and worked in the South all of her career.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013 
Adam Jortner “What Happened at the Salem Witch Trials?”

The Salem witch trials still beguile the popular imagination more than three hundred years after the horrific incident. Adam Jortner will share his thought about the mass hysteria that gripped Salem, Massachusetts, in 1692 when more than two hundred people were accused of practicing witchcraft. Twenty people were executed before the persecution ended. Eventually, the colony admitted that the trials were a mistake and compensated the families of those convicted. Since then, the story of the trials has become synonymous with paranoia and injustice with books and movies keeping the interest in the incident alive. 

Adam Jortner has spent the last several years studying the ways in which claims of supernatural power transformed American politics and Christianity.   Jortner has a B.A. from the College of William and Mary, an M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of Virginia where he won the Zora Neale Hurston Prize for the best paper on gender studies for his work on Ann Lee, founder of American Shakerism.   He currently teaches American History at Auburn University, and has spoken on American religion and history of the supernatural to groups in the United States, Canada, and Europe.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013 
Dolores Hydock“Reunions and Rituals: Greetings from the Past”

Dolores Hydock, a familiar and much loved face at the Comer Library, will have stories that have to do with the theme of “old times not forgotten!” She will reflect on a high school reunion and talk about how the ritual of holiday baking brings back memories of people from the past. Hydock’s masterful storytelling and her understanding of how shared memories create fellowship and fun will be a delightful finale for the series. 

Hydock, originally from Pennsylvania, is an actress and story performer whose work has been featured in a variety of concerts, festivals, and special events throughout the United States. She is a touring artist for the Alabama State Council on the Arts, a speaker with the Alabama Humanities Foundation, and a member of the Southern Order of Storytellers. Dolores lives in Birmingham, Alabama, and in her spare time, teaches Cajun and zydeco dancing. She is a great favorite with the brown bag lecture audience and her entertaining and thought-provoking stories always leave them wanting more of the same!