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UA Press Releases Alabama's Civil RIghts Trail: An Illustrated Guide

This  amazing 350 page volume, Alabama's Civil Rights Trail: An Illustrated Guide to the Cradle of Freedom, is every person's guide to the last 150 years of the civil rights history of Alabama as told through photos and careful reporting. Co-authored by renowned journalist and writer-in-residence at the University of South Alabama Frye Gaillard, history instructor at Faulkner State Community College Jennifer Lindsay, and Huntsville free lance writer and historian Jane DeNeefe, Alabama's Civil Rights Trail vividly documents the story from slavery to freedom in Alabama and includes a time-line that begins in 1864 and concludes with "The Struggled Continues" in 1970.

I quote from the opening paragraph of the book. "No other state has embraced and preserved its civil rights history more thoroughly than Alabama, and no state has more history to preserve." These two claims are beautifully addressed in Alabama 's Civil Rights Trail: An Illustrated Guide to the Cradle of Freedom. recently released by the University of Alabama Press.

Jane DeNeefe who resides in Huntsville, Frye Gaillard author of numerous books including Prophet from Plains, and Jennifer Lindsay will all be featured at several upcoming events in Alabama. On Tuesday night, March 16, One Huntsville, an interfaith organization that celebrates unity in diversity, featured Jane DeNeefe as its keynote speaker. The program addressed the different ways communities across the state remember and preserve their civil rights history, and what Huntsville might learn from those efforts. DeNeefe read sections about Marengo County and Huntsville. Then the group brainstormed in an effort to discover ways to preserve Huntsville's civil rights history and to identify action strategies fitting for a city undergoing transformation.

The "big event" for the book signing will take place Saturday, March 20, at 2 PM at the Flying Monkey Arts Center in Lowes Mill on Seminole in Huntsville, Alabama  There will be a rock and roll show and reading. Co-authors Frye Gaillard and Jane DeNeefe will read selections from Alabama's Civil Rights Trail: An Illustrated Guide to the Cradle of Freedom, emphasizing the role of music in promoting racial harmony in North Alabama.Ivy Joe and the Snowballs, Huntsville's beloved garage band from the 1960s, along with musical guests they invite, will play popular music of the civil rights era inspired by the Muscle Shoals sound.

Prior to the 2 PM reading and discussion on Saturday, Frye Gaillard and musician Kathryn Scheldt will present a short program at 1 pm on "the literature of southern music." Gaillard has co-written ten country songs with Scheldt for one of the albums she has recorded.

The activities at the Flying Monkey on Saturday are free, but donations will be accepted to help defray expenses. Copies of the book will be offered for sale. Come early and browse the wonderful artists' market that the Flying Monkey Center houses.

Gaillard and DeNeefe will also be presenting at a gathering near the Alabama A&M University campus on Friday, March 19, at 5:30. There will be a casual book talk at Expansion Books (on Meridian St. near A&M) and then at 6:30 everyone is invited to gather next door at Mama Annie's diner for more conversation over supper. The cost of the meal is $7.

I asked Jane DeNeefe how this project came about and about her interest in the connection between music and the civil rights movement. Here is what she said.

"I have been working on a project with some other people about rock & roll in Huntsville in the 60s and 70s, 'The Rockophiles.' Although the going has been slow, we have amassed hours and hours of musician interviews as well as some pictures and music. Interviews with Ivy Joe and the Snowballs, a racially integrated rock & roll band in 1960s Huntsville, revealed their connection to the theme of music as a common language between races during the civil rights era. Rockophiles Jim Cavender and David Lilly put together an event at the library last year, 'Bookaroo,' where Jim recorded a CD of live rhythm blues standards performed by 'The Soul Review of Ivy Joe and the Snowballs' which is for sale at the library as a fundraiser. It gives a taste of the band that will be playing at the book signing this coming Saturday.

"I am an Alabama native who returned in 2005 after living in Vermont for 7 years, where I feel I rediscovered my writer's voice through Vermont's reverence for the reflective personal essay. Just before I left Vermont, I published a long essay in the Brattleboro Reformer called 'A State of Racial Harmony' challenging northern white liberals to think more critically about race relations. It was really written just to educate the editors, but they ran it as a 1200 word column.

"When I returned to Alabama I entered a competition for a Community Columnist slot with the Huntsville Times. When I landed the column, I focused my pieces around misunderstood or hidden aspects of Alabama history and culture. Some of those Alabama columns are available at Jane DeNeefe.  I got encouraging feedback, including a phone call from poet laureate emeritus Ralph Hammond, which was a delight! Frye Gaillard read some of my pieces and asked if I would be his tour guide for Huntsville/ North Alabama for his next book. During that process, he invited me to write some 'sections' of Alabama's Civil Rights Trail. I wrote 5 sections: Gee's Bend, Gadsden, Marengo county, James Haskins and an expurgated Boogie McCain (about whom I also wrote an entry for Encyclopedia of Alabama.)"

All three authors will also be appearing to read and sign copies of the new book at the Page and Palette in Fairhope, Alabama, on April 29.

For further reading about the Civil Rights Movement in Alabama, see my tribute to photo-journalistCharles Moore who died this past week on March 11.

---Penne J. Laubenthal

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