Alabama: The History of a Deep South State, Bicentennial Edition

Alabama: The History of a Deep South State, Bicentennial Edition

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A new and up-to-date edition of Alabama’s history to celebrate the state’s bicentennial.

Alabama: The History of a Deep South State, Bicentennial Edition is a comprehensive narrative account of the state from its earliest days to the present. This edition, updated to celebrate the state’s bicentennial year, offers a detailed survey of the colorful, dramatic, and often controversial turns in Alabama’s evolution. Organized chronologically and divided into three main sections—the first concluding in 1865, the second in 1920, and the third bringing the story to the present—makes clear and interprets the major events that occurred during Alabama’s history within the larger context of the South and the nation.
Once the home of aboriginal inhabitants, Alabama was claimed and occupied by a number of European nations prior to becoming a permanent part of the United States in 1819. A cotton and slave state for more than half of the nineteenth century, Alabama seceded in 1861 to join the Confederate States of America, and occupied an uneasy and uncertain place in America’s post-Civil War landscape. Alabama’s role in the twentieth century has been equally tumultuous and dramatic.
General readers as well as scholars will welcome this up-to-date and scrupulously researched history of Alabama, which examines such traditional subjects as politics, military history, economics, race, and class. It contains essential accounts devoted to Native Americans, women, and the environment, as well as detailed coverage of health, education, organized labor, civil rights, and the many cultural developments, from literature to sport, that have enriched Alabama’s history. The stories of individual leaders, from politicians to creative artists, are also highlighted. A key facet of this landmark historical narrative is the strong emphasis placed on the common everyday people of Alabama, those who have been rightly described as the “bone and sinew” of the state.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780817319748
Publisher: University of Alabama Press
Publication date: 09/18/2018
Edition description: Third Edition
Pages: 816
Sales rank: 537,927
Product dimensions: 6.20(w) x 9.30(h) x 2.40(d)

About the Author

Leah Rawls Atkins served as the founding director of the Caroline Marshall Draughon Center for the Arts & Humanities at Auburn University from 1985 to 1995. Her publications include Developed for the Service of Alabama: The Centennial History of the Alabama Power Company, 1906-2006 and The Building of Brasfield & Gorrie.
Wayne Flynt is a distinguished university professor emeritus, Auburn University. He has published fourteen books, including, Poor but Proud: Alabama’s Poor Whites; Alabama Baptists; Alabama in the Twentieth Century; Southern Religion and Christian Diversity in the Twentieth Century; Mockingbird Songs: My Friendship with Harper Lee; and a memoir, Keeping the Faith: Ordinary People and Extraordinary Lives.
William Warren Rogers (1929-2017) spent nearly four decades as professor of history at Florida State University, where his first doctoral student was Wayne Flynt. Rogers authored more than two dozen books about Alabama, Georgia, and Florida, among them The One-Gallused Rebellion Agrarianism in Alabama, 1865-1896, and coauthored, with Robert David Ward, Labor Revolt in Alabama: The Great Strike of 1894; August Reckoning: Jack Turner and Racism in Post-Civil War Alabama; and Convicts, Coal, and the Banner Mine Tragedy.
Robert David Ward (1929 —2006) spent his teaching career at Georgia Southern University where he served as department chair, founding tennis coach, and a renowned teacher and director of theses.

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Native Peoples of Alabama

THE most violent confrontation between Europeans and native Americans occurred on a fall day in 1540 in what was to become Alabama. Hernando de Soto landed on the coast of Florida and moved inland. His wanderings eventually led him into northeast Alabama. During his journey down the Coosa River he visited Mabila (Mauvilla), where the Indians enticed the Spaniards into a well-planned trap, an ambush that almost destroyed the expedition. De Soto's commissary wrote in his report, "We fought that day until nightfall, without a single Indian having surrendered to us." Although three Spaniards made brief contact with Indians before de Soto's entrada, their accounts of these meetings are scanty. For de Soto's expedition four narratives exist, and all include descriptions and information about native Americans in Alabama. Thus, through their reports and diaries, the Spaniards traveling with de Soto ushered in the age of recorded Alabama history.

For information about the period before de Soto's arrival in Alabama, the historian must rely upon archaeology. Although archaeology reveals much, its dependence on a fragile physical record leaves many unanswered questions about the Indians. Generally, it is believed that the earliest inhabitants of North America crossed the Bering Strait from Siberia on a land bridge created when sea levels fell, perhaps around 50,000 B.C., although some postulate a more recent crossing. Probably hunting and gathering bands seeking the large mammals of the Ice Age, they were of a Mongoloid stock and likely bore a resemblance to the peoples of modern-day eastern Siberia. Gradually they moved south, reaching the tip of South America 10,000 years ago. In their migration they spread across North America. The warm climate, fertile soil, adequate rainfall, and abundant game in the forests and streams of the eastern woodlands particularly attracted them. From the Old World they brought fire and the ability to use it, and with them came their dogs, so important in Indian life.

In the Paleo-Indian stage, people traveled in groups of related kinsmen, hunting and foraging for food. Living a seminomadic life, they ate the meat of large animals and gathered nuts, fruits, berries, and a wide range of plant foods in season. They chose shelters for living places that were close to water and food supplies, and they divided labor by gender and age, with the women caring for children and the shelter, making clothes, and gathering and cooking foods. Clothes were made from skins, and tools were fashioned from rocks, bones, teeth, shells, and wood. The men hunted and killed animals with spears tipped with stone points and probably caught fish with bone hooks or wicker traps. Meat may have been cooked over open fires and fish and river mussels baked in pits dug in the earth, lined and topped with hot coals. In order to carry or hold items, the people learned to weave baskets of reeds and vines. Paleo-Indians interred their dead with ritual and added worldly possessions to the grave, a practice that indicates belief in an afterlife.

Gradually the groups became seasonally sedentary and congregated in small independent communities. For thousands of years humans occasionally inhabited the Stanfield-Worley bluff shelter in Colbert County near Tuscumbia, the Flint Creek rock shelter in Morgan County, the Quad site near Decatur, and Russell Cave in Doran Cove near Bridgeport in Jackson County. At Russell Cave archaeologists have discovered many layers of cultural material. The occupants may have cleaned the living space by dumping fresh dirt and burying trash, or perhaps the stratum was created by a sedimentary process. The Stanfield-Worley shelter and the Flint Creek site are significant because they contain evidence of Paleo-Indians in their earliest cultural layers.

The Archaic tradition developed approximately 8000 to 6000 B.C. as the earth warmed and as the large animals disappeared. The Indians became more dependent upon deer and smaller game and upon gathering nuts, berries, and plants. The use of an atlatl (a spear thrower) improved range and velocity, especially needed when hunting small game. Shellfish, although low in nutrients, was an easily obtained source of food, and various species of mussels and freshwater snails were steamed or eaten raw. Large shell middens dot the banks of Alabama rivers near shallow shoal areas where shellfish could be gathered effortlessly. As life became settled, such plants as squash, gourds, pumpkins, and sunflowers were domesticated and cultivated. The Indians built temporary dwellings of small trees and brush, and they fashioned ornaments of different designs. Copper was introduced, and some tools showed a fine workmanship.

The Gulf Formational stage is a recent division recommended by archaeologists to recognize significant ceramic developments in Indian culture. Three eras are suggested: early (2500–1200 B.C.), marked by the appearance of fiber-tempered pottery; middle (1200–500B.C.), when sand or grit was used to temper the clay; and late (500–100 B.C.), when pottery vessels had podal supports and surfaces decorated with designs made by pressing wooden paddles marked with a pattern into wet clay. Gulf Formational cultures were located in river valleys and along the gulf coast, and trade between areas was evident. Artifacts from Gulf Formational cultures have been found in the Tennessee and Tombigbee valleys.

By 300 B.C. a new cultural stage developed in the east and spread to the south. Called the Woodland period, it lasted in Alabama until about A.D. 1000, but there was great regional variation in cultural changes throughout prehistory both in Alabama and in the Southeast in general. During this time the Indians constructed permanent houses, often square-shaped, of logs with mud walls and thatch roofs. The bow and arrow appeared, and maize and squash were important cultivated foods. Family groups were identified with towns, and elaborate ceremonies became an important part of culture. Simple earthen mounds were raised over graves, and in time large earthworks were constructed as burial mounds.

In the Woodland era people learned to embellish their pottery with elaborate decorations, and designs became locally stylized. Motifs were usually symmetrical, marked with cords or fabric, stamped with a pattern, or etched with a sharp implement. Weaving was sophisticated both in the selection of fibers and in patterns and designs. Woven mats were used for shoes, sleeping pallets, and vestments, and small shells were added as ornaments. Deer skins remained the primary material for clothing and blankets, but tanning methods improved. Although these people smoked tobacco, they did so usually only as part of a ceremony or ritual. The most intricate pipes were made from carved stone with a platform or were tubular pipes with human or animal images. Birds, turtles, frogs, and serpents were popular motifs, and freshwater pearls were often added to clothing.

Between A.D. 700 and 900 a new tradition dawned, perhaps with influences from Mesoamerica through trade or from migrations of tribes into Alabama. Called the Mississippian, this culture reached its height about A.D. 1300, some 200 years before Columbus's voyage of discovery. Agriculture was important, and settlements were located in river valleys where the soil was fertile and easily worked. Corn was the staple food of the Mississippian society. Ground into meal, baked into bread, boiled in water, and fried in oil, maize provided the sustenance of life for the Indians. The most important festival of the year was held in late summer and celebrated the ripening of the green corn.

Mound building was a significant part of Mississippian culture. Examples of Indian mounds abound in Alabama, especially in Mobile, Baldwin, Marengo, Clarke, and Washington counties, as well as other places. But Moundville, located on the banks of the Black Warrior River in Hale and Tuscaloosa counties, is Alabama's most significant mound complex. A bustling city of 3,000 people, one of the largest prehistoric communities discovered north of Mexico, surrounded the elaborate temple mound built on a plain high above the Black Warrior River (also called the Warrior River). Hundreds of people constructed the twenty rectangular- and round-shaped truncated pyramids by walking up a sloped ramp on one side to empty baskets filled with dirt on the top. After dumping the dirt, builders stomped and packed the earth with their feet, then returned to the bottom to gather more dirt. Arranged in a circle around a plaza, the mounds vary in size and height, with the tallest almost fifty-nine feet high and covering almost two acres. Such construction indicates a thriving culture directed by some central authority, a chiefdom with social integration, and a complex and organized society with a dense population and extensive productivity. The society produced adequate food and traded products great distances.

Designs on pottery, shell, stone, and copper indicate that priests or medicine men wore special clothing and shawls of colorful feathers. They adorned themselves with gorgets (collars), bracelets, and earplugs, which have been found in burial sites. No doubt they were highly regarded in Mississippian society. Ritual was probably related to a fire-sun deity, the sun being the source of life and light, and fire being the earthly sacred representation of the sun. The Moundville Indians buried their dead with ceremony, often interring bodies under houses and including in the grave personal possessions for use in an afterlife. There are also examples of urn burials, especially of babies and small children. The graves in the temple mounds have produced a rich collection of artifacts, including embossed copper pendants, shell gorgets, engraved stone discs with notched edges, exquisite urns, and various types of pottery. Significantly, no European trade objects have been recovered from the mounds.

The finely made artifacts attest to the sophistication and complexity of the Mississippian culture. Favorite designs were the Greek cross, usually enclosed by a circle, the swastika with concentric circles around it, an open hand with an eye in the palm, the rattlesnake, a winged sun pierced with an arrow, and circles with scalloped or rayed edges. Human figures are depicted wearing elaborate hair crests, earplugs, bracelets, and necklaces. Faces are painted, usually with a nose-to-ear-mark, and feathers and beads are plaited into the hairpiece.

Although the accounts of de Soto's journey describe Indian mounds at several villages, none describes Moundville, and it is generally conceded that the town at Moundville was abandoned by the time the Spanish arrived in the area. De Soto must have missed the site, probably unaware of its existence. In fact, despite careful evaluation of the four de Soto expedition accounts and extensive archaeological excavations in Alabama, no place in the state has been positively identified as a de Soto camping site. The route of de Soto, the location of the villages of Coosa and Atahachi, and the site of the battle of Mabila remain subject to speculation and disagreement among archaeologists, historians, and local chambers of commerce. Stories and legends abound, and although dozens of Alabamians through the years have whispered they know the secret, no one has ever come forward with conclusive evidence.

Twenty years after de Soto's expedition, men from the expedition of Tristán de Luna tried unsuccessfully to find the lands of Tascaluza and the province of Coosa that the de Soto narratives described. Jorge Cerón visited the area and wrote that the de Soto accounts of Coosa must be false for it was "of such an undesirable nature" that there was "no place where one may remain or erect a town." The proof of de Soto's journey remains buried deep in the soils of Alabama.

Extensive migration of tribes occurred after de Soto visited, perhaps because of the epidemics that followed his entrada. This migration made it difficult when the European traders entered the Indian country in the next century to determine the location of tribes at the time of de Soto's expedition. By the seventeenth century the majority of native Americans living in what was to become Alabama were associated with four major Indian nations — Cherokee, Creek, Chickasaw, and Choctaw. Within these nations town names often provide a clue to the tribal composition of the larger "nations." Linguistic grouping would place the Cherokees in the Iroquoian language and the three other tribes in the Muskogean tongue, although within this group many languages were spoken.

The Cherokees occupied a vast domain covering the mountains of east Tennessee and north Georgia and extending into the northeastern corner of Alabama. The tribe probably originated in the Great Lakes region and migrated south but shared many customs and beliefs with its Muskogean neighbors. According to tribal legend the land of the Cherokees was given them by "the Great Spirit who is the father of the human family, and to whom the whole earth belongs." They had lived in the mountains for hundreds of years when de Soto's army invaded their country.

When Scottish trader James Adair visited the area in 1735, he noted that the Cherokees cultivated hemp and grapes on the small patches of land suitable for planting in the mountains. He wrote that the swift and shallow rivers so close to villages were important as places for "purifying themselves" and for "fishing, fowling and killing of deer which come in the warm season" to eat the moss and tender grass on the banks of streams. The region, high in the mountains, was a healthy area where "the natives live commonly to a great age." Adair reported that war was important to Cherokee society, and the taking of scalps was considered a brave deed. Cherokee mothers taught their small boys to avenge insults and to endure hunger and pain without complaint. Those young warriors who did well in battle had titles bestowed upon them. William Fyffe described the Cherokee practice of older warriors "boasting of their exploits" with "such enthusiasm that the young are catch'd with it & eager to emulate them," an "excellent way to whet the courage of their youth." When death was imminent, one observer noted that the Cherokee when tortured showed "an uncommon fortitude and resolution, and in the height of their misery will sing, dance, revile, and despise their tormentors till their strength and spirits fall." Indians did not routinely torture prisoners but more often adopted them into the tribe or, by the eighteenth century, enslaved or sold them.

The major tribe of Mississippi, the Choctaw, extended into Alabama north of Mobile. A Choctaw tribal legend tells of a migration from the west when a sacred pole was placed upright in the ground at night. Each morning the people noted how the pole leaned and went in that direction, continuing to move eastward. One morning the pole remained straight, and there they stayed. The tall chief Tascaluza and the Indians de Soto met at Mabila were Choctaws. The Alabamas tribe, which gave its name to a river and a state, also migrated from the west and first lived with the Choctaws, then with the Creeks. The word Alabama comes from the Choctaw word that means "clearers of the thicket."

The Choctaws hunted and fished but were also known as a farming people, raising beans, squash, melons, and pumpkins as well as corn. Houses were widely located and separated by cultivated fields. Choctaws were especially fond of playing stickball, a game in which the combatants wore a loincloth, a mane of horsehair dyed various colors, and a tail of white horsehair. In each hand the players carried a stick with a hoop racket on the end. The object was to scoop a hard deerskin ball into the hoop and to toss the ball through a goal at the end of the field without touching the ball. The games were rough and violent, and James Adair reported he saw players' arms and legs broken during a contest. The games were associated with Green Corn ceremonies and were played and attended with great enthusiasm, often with large wagers on the outcome.

The Choctaws were small of stature. They wore their hair long and were called "Long Hairs" by other Indians or sometimes "Flatheads," after their custom of flattening their foreheads. To achieve this look, an infant's head was bound to a cradleboard and a slanted plank was pressed upon the soft cranium. The sloped frontal bone that resulted is evident on some of the skulls found interred at Moundville.

In addition to their appearance, Choctaws were known for their burial customs. William Bartram described the practice of placing the body on a high scaffold where the corpse, "lightly covered with a mantle," was to remain, "visited and protected by the friends and relations, until the flesh becomes putrid." Then "undertakers, who make it their business, carefully strip the flesh from the bones, wash and cleanse them," and pack them in an urn. They were stored in a community bonehouse until the house was full, and then a solemn funeral for all departed souls was held and the bones were interred in a common burial.


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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations ix

Preface to the Bicentennial Edition xiii

Alabama: A Prospect xv

Part 1 From Early Times to the End of the Civil War Leah Rawls Atkins

1 Native Peoples of Alabama 3

2 European Exploration and Colonization in Alabama 18

3 Creeks and Americans at War 36

4 Land in the Alabama Wilderness Beckons 54

5 The Early Years: Defining the Issues 67

6 The Early Years: Confronting the Issues 78

7 The Cotton Kingdom 93

8 Antebellum Society 113

9 Party Polities and States' Rights 136

10 Yancey and the Alabama Platform 151

11 The Secession Crisis 170

12 At War with the Union 186

13 The Home Front 203

Part 2 From 1865 through 1920 William Warren Rogers Robert David Ward

14 Reconstruction: The Second Beginning 225

15 Radical Reconstruction 241

16 The Bourbon Oligarchy and the New Old South 259

17 The Agricultural Alternative and the Rise of Industry 277

18 New Winds and Old Voices 288

19 The Defeat of Reform 305

20 Politics, Education, and the "Splendid Little War" 320

21 The Constitution of 1901 343

22 The Chimerical Impulse of Progressivism 355

23 Women in Alabama from 1865 to 1920 376

24 Domestic Issues, the Creative State, and the Great War 392

Part 3 From the 1920s to 2018 Wayne Flynt

25 The Politics of Reform and Stability during the 1920s 411

26 Change and Stability during the Roaring Twenties 443

27 Hard Times, 1930-1940 465

28 How New a Deal in Alabama? 494

29 A State Forged by War, 1940-1954 510

30 The Flowering of Alabama Liberalism: Politics and Society during the 1940s and 1950s 524

31 A Time to Hate: Racial Confrontation, 1955-1970 545

32 Racial Politics and Economic Stagnation 566

33 A Time to Heal: Struggling to Find a New Vision, 1970-2018 589

34 Gender, "Jocks," and Shakespeare: Alabama Society and Culture, 1970-2018 621

Alabama: Past and Future 645

Appendix A Governors of Alabama 655

Appendix B Counties of Alabama 659

Notes 663

Bibliography 691

Index 737

About the Authors 790

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