Historian to speak at Bradshaw Library

Published 7:50 pm Monday, August 27, 2018

VALLEY — Dr. Wayne Flynt has spent a lifetime studying, researching and chronicling the history and culture of Alabama. The Auburn University Professor Emeritus has written several books about the state and, next Wednesday Sept. 5, will be discussing some of his findings as “The Richness of Alabama Culture” at Bradshaw Library in Valley.

“What I’m going to do is contrast the shameful politics of the state with the incredibly rich cultural history of the state,” Flynt said. “It’s not like Alabama is unique, in that, no state in America that I know of takes pride in everything that goes on there. There are things you’re embarrassed by.”

Flynt explained that Alabama was frequently in the top spots for political corruption. According to the Illinois State University Institute for Corruption, Alabama was the legally most corrupt state in America last year.

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“If you go back through the years, all the way back before Roy Moore, before Mike Hubbard, before Robert Bentley, Alabama was regularly in the top six for public officials who were indicted, convicted or removed from office,” Flynt said.

While pointing out the negatives of the state, Flynt will also highlight what he considers to be some of the best parts of our shared southern culture. The contrast in his presentation will come when he discusses Pulitzer Prize winning authors who were a part of what he calls the “African American Renaissance of the 20th century.” He will talk about the cultural contributions of Ralph Ellison, Margaret Walker and Albert Murray, to name a few.

“Between 1933 and 1977, the South had one fourth of the nation’s people, one third of the nation’s poverty and produced 40 percent of its Pulitzer Prize winners in fiction,” he said. “It just takes your breath away when you think about that.”

Flynt said that the presentation will look at the state from these angles in order to paint the full picture of how Alabama grew to what it was today.

“It begs the question: What is the relation between political corruption, political ineptitude, a wonderfully vibrant folk culture of storytelling and the literary dominance of American life by southerners in the middle decades of the 20th century,” he asked.

His suggested answer: the common interaction of orally telling stories on one’s front porch, intermixing the positives and negatives of life within one conversation. That is how he feels both “political corruption and cultural brilliance” have shaped the core of the state’s literary tradition.

“I talk about Alabama, warts and all,” Flynt said. “I think that everyone who loves another place is going to be pushing it a little bit to try and be better than it is. That is always going to be the bottom line of everything I say.”

The event will be at Bradshaw Library on Sept. 5, at 12 p.m. eastern. To attend the event and make a lunch reservation, those interested can call Bradshaw Library at (334) 768-2161 or email programs@chamberscountylibrary.org by Sept. 3.