They Too Call Alabama Home: African-American Profiles 1800-1999
African American History Month is a busy time in the library and this resource gets a workout. Leafing through They Too Call Alabama Home was a re-discovery of this resource for me; I’ve used it on a regular basis to look up answers to questions, but after taking some time to explore it I found plenty of new information (and realized how much I’d forgotten). If someone asks about African Americans with Alabama connections, there are names that instantly come to mind: Henry “Hammerin’ Hank” Aaron, W.C. Handy, Carrie Tuggle, Willie Mays, Coretta Scott King.
But I had never heard of James Reese Europe, AKA The King of Jazz, who was born in Mobile, fought in World War I, and formed his band after he recovered from being gassed in the trenches. I had heard of poet Sonia Sanchez, but never knew that she was born in Birmingham. Or there’s Louphenia Thomas, who was the first African-American woman to have a seat in the Alabama legislature.
This source has entries for institutions as well as people. There’s the Ben Moore hotel of Montgomery, Alabama, which was named after a former slave who was born in Alabama. There’s also a brief but interesting history of the WRMA radio station in Montgomery:
WPKN was Montgomery’s first black radio station . . . Southland Broadcasting Company, which owned the station, was a partnership of Ralph M. Allgood of Montgomery and Grover Wise of Birmingham. Wise was also the owner of the West End Theater in Birmingham . . . In 1952 one black radio station was located in Birmingham, two in Atlanta, and one in Memphis. The station went on the air on 8 May 1953, having changed its call letters to WRMA, the initials of Ralph M. Allgood.There’s also a wealth of information in the Appendices. These include lists such as Alabama’s Black Officeholders from 1868-1999, Documented Black Resources in Alabama (arranged by county), and an Occupational Distribution, so if you need to find how many were musicians or politicians or physicians or librarians, consult this section.
There are numerous copies of They Too Call Alabama Home throughout the county library system. Some are listed as reference books for others are in the circulating collections, so if you have an interest in African American history and its Alabama connections, seek out this book at a library near you. It’s one of our most helpful resources.
For further information:
African American History Month
“Alabama sites play part in African-American history”
James Reese Europe
Ben Moore Hotel
WRMA Radio Montgomery, AL
Alabama African-American Genealogy Research