Alabama bicentennial exhibit opens at library

Published 6:41 pm Wednesday, February 13, 2019

VALLEY — Bradshaw-Chambers County Library was a crowded place during the noon hour on Wednesday. About 100 signed the registry as the library staff opened “Making Alabama,” the Alabama Humanities Foundation’s traveling exhibit, along with “Exploring Alabama: 200 Years of Our History,” which tells the unique stories of Chambers County’s history. The traveling exhibit will be at the library through Feb. 26. It’s currently on a journey that will take in all 67 counties before the state celebrates its bicentennial on Dec. 14.

The Chambers County exhibit will be on display throughout the year.

Librarian Mary Hamilton said she wanted to get the word out that something really special was currently on display and that she wanted as many local people as possible to come by over the next couple of weeks to see it.

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“The local exhibit was exceptionally curated by (archivist) Robin Brown,” Hamilton said. “I want to thank our staff for stepping up to the challenge to bring this exhibit to the local public.”

Laura Anderson, director of operations, and Marcy Miller, development director with the Alabama Humanities Foundation. They thanked the library staff on good work in the current exhibit and in hosting previous presentations by the AHF.

The traveling exhibit was put together by the Alabama Humanities Foundation in partnership with the Alabama Archives and History and the Alabama Bicentennial Commission.

“This year, on Dec. 14, Alabama will have been a state for 200 years,” Brown told the big crowd assembled inside the library. “Its history, however, reaches much farther back than that. For thousands of years, Native Americans called this land home. Since then, Alabama and especially Chambers County, has drawn all manner of people to itself — from a young German-Jewish immigrant named Louis Merz, to John Parnell, the Irishman who became a famous peach grower while forging friendships in a new country.”

Brown noted that Chambers County became part of Alabama on Dec. 18, 1832.

“The next year, the stars fell on Alabama, in one of the grandest meteor showers on record. It must have seemed like the world was ending, but in fact, for many in this new county, things were just beginning,” Brown said.

Brown said that vivid accounts of Chambers County’s first years still exist thanks to the writing of Johnson Jones Hooper, editor of one of Chambers County’s first newspapers, The East Alabamian.

“Hooper’s wit and keen observations of human nature brought forth memorable characters, especially Simon Suggs,” Brown said. “From this famous frontier rascal, we learn that ‘it is good to be shifty in a new country’ and that the county seat is pronounced la-FATE.”

Long-time oral tradition holds that Alabama has been a land with a spell on it and that it’s not always been a good spell.

“For many African Americans, that bad spell of prejudice began to lift in the 1960s,” Brown added. “But, even living under harsh conditions, a better life through education existed. This year marks the centennial year of the New Hope Rosenwald School in Fredonia. Tireless efforts to preserve and restore that historical gem are currently under way. Its name, New Hope, mirrors it purpose and promise, and today it offers new possibilities for the future.”

Brown invites everyone to see the Chambers County exhibit.

“From the treasures buried beneath the soil, to the fabrics created by WestPoint Pepperell – some of which left the looms of Fairfax and ventured to the Moon and back in 1969 — there is a rich history right here. We invite you to begin your exploration of Alabama today.”