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Road Scholar to speak on ‘The Great War’

Marty Olliff, a member of the Alabama Humanities Foundation’s Road Scholars Speakers Bureau, will present “The Great War in the Heart of Dixie: Alabama in World War I” on Nov. 16, at 6 p.m., a Bicentennial event, at the Marengo County History and Archives Museum in Demopolis, Alabama.  This event is sponsored by the Marengo County History & Archives Museum and the Demopolis Public Library.

“The Great War in the Heart of Dixie” describes how the Alabama home front responded to mobilization in World War I and how that response changed the state and its people’s institutions. It recounts Alabama’s military contributions to the war effort, then examines the economic and social impact of the federal government’s spending on four military camps, Wilson Dam and the Nitrate Plants at Muscle Shoals, and the shipbuilding industry of Mobile. Next it treats how citizens responded to the war through mobilization agencies and their own institutions.

The presentation pays particular attention to the African-American response to the war, the public face of which was hyper-patriotic that masked deep fears within the white community concerning black patriotism and within the black community concerning white oppression. The presentation covers the war’s impact on furthering Progressive government in the state. Indeed, the experience of mobilization led to the election of Governor Thomas Kilby and the implementation of belated reforms to improve the lives of the people and the economy of the state through governmental actions. Lastly, it examines how commemoration of the war resulted in the erection in 1940 of the current headquarters of the Alabama Department of Archives and History.

(This article originally appeared in the Saturday, October 14th issue of the Demopolis Times.)