Friday, January 25, 2008

Inscribed items by Alabama native Helen Keller: A Gift of Betsy Plank, 2007

A small exhibit is now on display in the lobby of the W.S. Hoole Special Collections Library. The items were part of a gift to The University of Alabama Libraries by Betsy Plank, UA alumna and pioneer in the field of Public Relations. These items are all inscribed by Alabama native, Helen Keller (1880 -1968), a longtime friend of Ms. Plank’s family.

The photograph and the book Midstream are inscribed to her aunt Adeline by Ms. Keller, her teacher Anne Sullivan, and Ms. Keller’s companion, Polly Thompson. The book, Helen Keller’s Journal is inscribed to Bettye Hood Plank, Ms. Plank’s mother.

Helen Adams Keller was an author, activist and lecturer and is known internationally for her courage and triumph over adversity. Her story was made famous through dramatic productions of the Miracle Worker, both on the stage and screen.

At the age of 24, Keller graduated magna cum laude from Radcliffe College, making her the first deaf-blind person to earn a Bachelor’s Degree. She went on to author numerous works, and to speak and advocate for numerous causes the world over. A prolific author, she was well traveled, and was outspoken in her opposition to war. She campaigned for women's suffrage, workers' rights and socialism, as well as many other progressive causes.

Fellow Alabamian Betsy Plank graduated from The University of Alabama in 1944 and went on to a stellar career in public relations, eventually becoming known as “public relations’ first lady” and garnering numerous awards. In 2004, the UA Board of Trustees adopted a resolution establishing the Betsy Plank Center for Public Relations Studies to promote “effective and ethical representation of institutions, organizations, ideas and individuals.” As donor for the Center and to University Libraries, Ms. Plank has demonstrated her continued dedication to the University, its students and society.

Photograph of these materials by Zach Riggins, UA Photography.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Remembering Dr. Martin Luther King and his Dream

Dr. Martin Luther King would have been 79 years old on January 15th. In April of 1968 when he was just 39 years old, he was taken from us. And his legacy of a quest for justice, peace, and equality lives on in so many ways.

Seen below is the first page and mailing envelope fom an early copy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s Letter from a Birmingham Jail. This letter was sent to Reverend Joe C. Higginbotham, a Birmingham minister, in April of 1963 and was given to the W.S. Hoole Special Collections Library by the Higginbotham family in memory of Reverend Higginbotham and in honor of UA's Black Faculty and Staff Association.

We celebrate the birthday of Dr. King as an opportunity to remember his message and dream of justice, equality and peace, and not as a "day off" but a "day on". In 1994 the US Congress passed the King Holiday and Service Act, designating the MLK Holiday as a national day of volunteer service. Instead of a day off from work or school, Congress asked Americans of all backgrounds and ages to celebrate Dr. King's legacy by turning community concerns into citizen action. The King Day of Service brings together people who might not ordinarily meet, breaks down barriers that have divided us in the past, leads to better understanding and ongoing relationships, and is an opportunity to recruit new volunteers for your ongoing work. To learn more about MLK Day, visit
The image of Dr. King above is from the King Center website.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Happy Birthday to Alabama's own Clarence Carter!

Patches [sound recording] / Clarence Carter. (Detail)
New York : Atlantic, c1970. Sound disc : 33 1/3 rpm, stereo. ; 12 in. From the W.S. Hoole Special Collections Library Wade Hall Sound Recording Collection, LP 14010

January 14 is the birthday of Clarence Carter, a native of Montgomery, Alabama. Carter was educated at the Alabama School for the Blind in Talladega and Alabama State College in Montgomery with a Bachelor's Degree in music. He released his first album, This is Clarence Carter, forty years ago in 1968.

Carter's career spans four decades, with his most known hit being th 1970 song, Patches, which reached #2 on the UK charts and #4 on the US pop charts and was nominated for a Grammy in 1972. Carter was inducted in the Alabama Music Hall of fame in 2002.

Carter recorded Patches, and several other songs in Muscle Shoals -- where recording artists of all stripes - pop, jazz, rock, soul, and country, made hits using that famous Muscle Shoals sound. Carter reinvented himself for a whole new audience in the 1980s and 1990s with songs like Strokin'. His most recent album was released in 2007 entitled, The Final Stroke.

The W.S. Hoole Special Collections Library's holdings include excellent resources for those interested in learning more about Alabama's rich and diverse musical history. Materials from the Wade Hall Collection of Southern History and Culture, as well as our sound recording and sheet music collections and manuscript collections and of course materials from the Alabama Collection, provide a wealth of information on Alabama music.

Speaking of Sound Recordings, be sure to stop by and see Hear Hair Here: Hair Do's and Hair Don'ts from the Hoole Special Collections Library.