Episode 118: Ordinary People, Extraordinary Lives, an Interview with Award Winning Historian Dr. Wayne Flynt
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Hey everybody! Welcome to the final episode of this season of All In! I have a question for you: what do these people have in common?
- Tim Cook (Apple CEO)
- Fannie Flagg
- Harper Lee
- Booker T. Washington
- George Washington Carver
- Hugo Black (Supreme Court Justice)
- Rick Bragg (Pulitzer Prize)
- Helen Keller
- Truman Capote
- Hank Aaron
- Martin Luther King Jr.
- Joe Namath
- Jesse Ownes
- Rosa Parks
- Condoleeze Rice
- Lionel Richie
- Hank Williams Sr. and Jr.
They are all from Alabama.
I grew up in a very town of about 200 people in Alabama. I fled the state when I was 19 years old. I moved to the Pacific Northwest, about as far as I could go while remaining in the lower 48 states. I had a very thick southern accent I worked diligently to overcome. When someone finds out you are from Alabama, they generally ask backwardness, bigotry, and incest. To be honest with you. It was challenging.
While on a rare visit to see family, I was in a large bookstore, when I found a book that caught my eye, “Alabama in the Twentieth Century.” I bought the book and started reading it.
When I finished the book, I had two main thoughts:
- This is how history is supposed to be written. This was a great book.
- This guy helped me find the beautiful I knew existed in Alabama that is too often hidden by the stereotypes, the rednecks, fundamentalist religion, narrow-minded intolerance, and gratuitous meanness.
Dr. Wayne Flynt is the author the book I read. He was born in Mississippi but grew up primarily in Alabama and graduated from Anniston High School. He attended Samford University as a ministerial student; double majored in History and Speech. He also attended graduate school at Florida State University, receiving his Ph.D. in American History.
He is a prolific author. Of his fourteen books (three of which are co-authored):
- two deal with Florida politics,
- three deal with evangelical religion,
- three deal with poverty, and
- three are broad surveys of Alabama history, including his two most acclaimed, POOR BUT PROUD: ALABAMA’S POOR WHITES, and ALABAMA IN THE TWENTIETH CENTURY.
- His memoir entitled, KEEPING THE FAITH, was published in 2011, and
- his history, SOUTHERN RELIGION AND CHRISTIAN DIVERSITY IN THE TWENTIETH CENTURY was published in July 2016.
- His most recent book (2017) is MOCKINGBIRD SONGS: MY FRIENDSHIP WITH HARPER LEE, which won the F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald Museum Literary Prize for Excellence in Writing.
- Two of his books have been nominated for the Pulitzer Prize and one won the Lillian Smith Award for non-fiction (the oldest and most highly regarded book prize in the South, given by the Southern Regional Council).
- Two of his books have won the Alabama Library Association prize for best works of non-fiction,
- three times he has won the James Sulzby book award for best work on Alabama history (awarded by the Alabama Historical Association), and
- three times the University of Alabama Press has bestowed the McMillan prize on his manuscripts as the best received in history.
Dr. Wayne Flynt is a community activist, serving American Cancer Society’s Committee for the Socio-economically Disadvantaged, was a co-founder of both the Alabama Poverty Project (now called ALABAMA POSSIBLE) and Sowing Seeds of Hope. Dr. Flynt has been awarded more than can be covered. He has taught and spoke across America and the world.
Dr. Flynt is active in a number of professional organizations, six of which have honored him with their highest awards for service. In 2003-04 he served as president of the Southern Historical Association, the largest professional organization devoted to the study of southern history and culture, with some 5,000 members worldwide. He was founding general editor of the online Encyclopedia of Alabama from which he retired in September 2008. I hope you enjoy our conversation today!
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