New Gaillard Book is a must

Published 1:26 am Sunday, February 7, 2010

The University of Alabama Press has released a book “Alabama’s Civil Rights Trail: An Illustrated Guide to the Cradle of Freedom.” This is a must-read for anyone who is slightly interested in the state’s history.

The book is written by Frye Gaillard, a native of Mobile, who is no stranger to history. Gaillard is writer-in-residence in the history and English departments at the University of South Alabama. He received his bachelor’s degree in history from Vanderbilt University in 1968.

But his career precedes his degree-getting days. He began his career as a journalist in the late 1960s and wrote about the civil rights movement in North Carolina for The Charlotte Observer.

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He is intimately in touch with the civil rights history of Alabama. This latest guide to history is the second time Gaillard has taken on the subject. In 2000 he began a three-year project resulting in his book “Cradle of Freedom: Alabama and the Movement that Changed America.” That particular tome won the Lillian Smith Award given by the Southern Regional Council in 2005.

Anybody who teaches Alabama history should use this latest book, especially for junior high and high school students. It’s an easy read, broken down into cities and sections within those chapters.

Gaillard takes each place as a chapter, gives his readers the places to go and tells the stories behind the places. It’s almost like having your own travel guide.

Here’s an example. Selma and the Right to Vote is chapter 3. Gaillard introduces the reader to a thumbnail of history of the city. Then he gets to the meet under a subheading, “The Quiet Beginning”:

“In a residential neighborhood west of downtown, the struggle for the right to vote in Selma can be traced to a yellow wood-frame house, now in the process of being restored.”

That house once belonged to Sam and Amelia Boynton. That house once saw George Washington Carver, Ralph Bunche and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The story only gets better from there.

The book is also laced with maps to show areas mentioned in the book — a great guide for those who want to stay in their cars and drive by or for teachers who want to mix in a geography lesson with their students.

Photographs from the era — many of them seen before — also play a predominant role in this book. Those photographs bring back memories. They also assist those who were not alive during those tumultuous years to see how the struggle for the vote and for basic human rights were played out on the very streets we drive and walk.

If you want the opportunity to purchase the book and visit with the author, that time’s coming. On Tuesday, Feb. 9, The Freedom Bus Tour in celebration of the publication of “Alabama’s Civil Right’s Trail” is coming to Selma as the second stop on the trail. (The first stop, of course, is Montgomery for two days, today and Monday).

A program and reception are planned for 4 p.m. at the National Voting Rights Museum, which is on U.S. 80 across the Edmund Pettus Bridge.

Leesha Faulkner is editor of The Selma Times-Journal. You may reach her at 410-1730 or e-mail her at