history · University of Alabama

visit to Gorgas House went well


The semester has started wonderfully! Students enrolled in my “Antebellum America” class visited the University of Alabama’s Gorgas House. Here, former UA President and Librarian Josiah Gorgas, and his wife, Amelia Gayle Gorgas, successor to the Librarian position following his 1883 death, lived (their children included William Gorgas, best known for battling yellow fever during the building of the Panama Canal).


The students are learning how power is always in flux in America – even during the antebellum period.

They had wonderful opportunities to think deeply about the enslaved people who helped construct UA buildings in relation to figures like the enslaved Horace King, who helped Sen. Robert Jemison Jr. build bridges and Sarah Gayle, Ameila’s mother and frontierswoman whose diary revealed her thoughts about the violence in Tuscaloosa’s early years.



Each week, we will continue learning about local people and structures, often by visiting various sites. They will also learn how to map with the help of UA’s Cartographic Lab!

I appreciated their thoughtful insight yesterday when we debriefed in a campus coffeehouse after the Gorgas House visit. While there, they sketched and reflected on spatial politics in this town and Alabama, which will be celebrating 200th birthdays next year.IMG_2250.JPG

On the way to the coffeeshop, we stumbled, no pun intended, a baby squirrel who had fallen out of the oak tree in front of the Gorgas House. One of the students is looking for a local woman who rescues squirrels. Last I heard, the little fella that we named Josiah – if it’s a boy – was doing well. Hats to our students for being so concerned about its life.

Our Gorgas House visit permitted a moment to think about the power of women across time in Tuscaloosa. The Women of the Tide exhibit, which is on display there through September, is an extra credit opportunity for my “American Civilization Since 1865” students.


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