Alabama State University is well known as a historically black university and for the involvement of its faculty and students in the civil rights movement. Less attention has been paid to the school's remarkable origins, having begun as the Lincoln Normal School in Marion, Alabama, founded by nine former slaves. These men are rightly considered the progenitors of Alabama State University, as they had the drive and perseverance to face the challenges posed by a racial and political culture bent on preventing the establishment of black schools and universities. It is thanks to the actions of the Marion Nine that Alabama's rural Black Belt produces a disproportionate number of African American PhD recipients, a testament to the vision of the Lincoln Normal School's founders. From Marion to Montgomery is the story of the Lincoln Normal School's transformation into the legendary Alabama State University, including the school's move to Montgomery in 1887 and evolution from Normal School to junior college to full-fledged four-year university. It's a story of visionary leadership, endless tenacity, and a true belief in the value of education.
Joseph Caver is an able archivist and historian who has unearthed evidence that Alabama State University in Montgomery is not the patronage of benevolent white legislators, but in fact the manifestation of the Lincoln School of Marion as conceptualized and incorporated by black plain folk. From Marion to Montgomery
gives voice to the oft-ignored history of the true founders of Alabama State University, meticulously colorizing the whitewashed history of African American higher education in Alabama and the South. The most poignant takeaway of the volume is the intentionality with which Caver adds the names of recently freed enslaved men to the story. The book properly places their names—Parrish, Speed, Dale, Childs, Lee, Freeman, Levert, Harris, and Curris—alongside those of the founders of Harvard, Dartmouth, and Yale. These nine men led the black citizens of Marion to serve as the architects of their own destiny and the builders of a historically black research university. From Marion to Montgomery
tells their story and gives them a voice. It is among the most important contributions to the history of black colleges in decades.
—M. Christopher Brown II, coauthor of Ebony Towers in Higher Education: The Evolution, Mission, and Presidency of Historically Black Colleges and Universities
Joe Caver’s long-awaited history of Alabama State University fills a big need in our understanding of the history of black higher education in the South between Reconstruction and the 1920s. Full of rich detail, vivid portraits, and astute analysis, Caver’s study helps us understand the huge obstacles that existed, and were largely overcome, by determined African Americans in Alabama. Every reader will learn much from it.
—Robert J. Norrell, author of Up from History: The Life of Booker T. Washington
From Marion to Montgomery
is a thoroughly compelling and important history of the difficult early development of Alabama State University. Joseph D. Caver eloquently explores the institution’s true origins, the political, social, and economic context, and the competing racial and religious ideologies that led to its creation, movement, and expansion.
—Dionne Danns, Indiana University,, author of Crossing Segregated Boundaries
Joseph Caver completed his master’s thesis in 1982 and dropped a bombshell about ASU. Before this time, we knew nothing of the nine formerly enslaved African American men who enduring monumental challenges incorporated the school that became Alabama State University. We commemorated 1874, not 1867, as the date of the school’s origin. And we celebrated the Scotsman William Burns Paterson as its founder. Neither did we know that our school was the oldest state-supported institution in America for preparing African American teachers and offering a liberal arts curriculum. Now in a fully expanded book, Caver provides a vivid account of the people and events that shaped one of America’s most significant black universities.
—Alma Freeman, former dean of University College, Alabama State University
From Marion to Montgomery
is a valuable resource, which focuses on a crucial yet often overlooked early mission of black colleges: teacher education. The author acknowledges how Alabama’s racial culture limited the institution from offering university-level coursework, but emphasizes the founders’ and presidents’ commitment to fostering a strong black teaching force through the liberal arts. The six decades of teacher preparation described in this volume no doubt planted the seeds for Alabama State University’s role in the civil rights movement.
—Christine A. Ogren, author of The American State Normal School: "An Instrument of Great Good"
Crisply written and attractively illustrated, From Marion to Montgomery
is a sympathetic, even loving overview of the first sixty years of what is now Alabama State University. The determined labors of ASU’s early leaders, in the face of almost constant adversity, well deserve the recognition Joe Caver has given them, as well as our admiration.
—Edwin C. Bridges, director emeritus, Alabama Department of Archives and History
I love this book. It tells the story of the valiant band of missionary school teachers who came South after the Civil War to educate and make teachers of the freed African Americans who had been previously denied an education. The students they taught laid the foundation for the first generation of black scholars and intellectuals in America. I am proud that my brave and persistent great-grandparents, William Burns and Margaret Flack Paterson, were among the black and white advocates of university education for African Americans.
—Judith Paterson, author of Sweet Mystery: A Book of Remembering