Professors receive grant to preserve African-American history

Three UNA professors are set to receive a National Park Service grant aimed at helping historic locations connect with their history.

UNA will receive a portion of $12.6 million in grants allocated to 51 projects in 24 states that preserve the history of the African-American struggle for equality.

History professors Brian Dempsey, Carrie Barske and Ansley Quiros will receive over $45,000 from the U.S. Department of the Interior and the National Park Service for their project “Civil Rights Struggle in the Shoals.”

Quiros said the “Civil Rights Struggle in the Shoals Project” seeks to research and document the complex struggle for freedom in Colbert and Lauderdale Counties in a way that enhances the community by telling a story that has largely been ignored in the narrative of Shoals history.

Quiros said the project will incorporate the use of many different mediums.

“The plan is threefold,” she said. “We’ll start off by creating a clean, informative website featuring history, imagery and video content from the civil rights struggle in the Shoals, which will provide a brief synopsis, documents, photos and clips of oral history interviews.”

Quiros said the second phase of the project will be to continue research on civil rights events, actors, documents and key moments with the help of graduate and undergraduate students. These students, with guidance from history professors and the support of local community groups, will follow up and develop web inquiries, scan materials, conduct interviews and identify relevant archival materials.

Quiros said education is an important aspect of the project.

“The final phase will involve educating elementary, middle and high school teachers on the civil rights struggle in the Shoals so that they can incorporate it into the curriculum and give every schoolchild a sense of the movement in their hometown,” she said. “We feel the story of civil rights in the Shoals has been under-told and this project’s goal to research and tell this story, and preserve it in an intergenerational, communal way that increases knowledge of the past and furthers justice in the present.”

U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke said in a press release the grants are designed to preserve vital moments in American history.

“An integral part of the Interior and National Park Service mission is to help preserve and tell America’s story,” he said. “These grants will benefit places across the nation that help tell an essential piece of that story through the struggle for civil rights and equality.”

Senior Joseph Isom said the grant is a good thing for the department.

“We need to keep records of our own stories and past to learn from,” he said. “That goes across any topic in history. I think all history should be preserved, taught and learned.”