Trying to Connect the Dots
Today has been spent ‘trying to connect the dots’ between my old house and Alabama’s history. It is the 50th anniversary of a watershed moment in the Civil Rights movement, Governor George Wallace’s “stand in the schoolhouse door.” The”stand” took place on June 11, 1963, when Gov. Wallace attempted to prevent two African-American students from enrolling in the university. Only the intervention of National Guard troops enabled Vivian Malone and James Hood to enroll in classes. This strange bit of political theater took place on the steps of Foster Auditorium, a landmark on the campus of the University of Alabama.
My old house is the Foster-Murfee-Caples House. I know the connections between the house and the Murfee family and that Mrs. Caples owned it in the 1960’s and 1970’s. However, I have yet to discover the link between 815 17th Avenue, my old house, and any member of the Foster family. Can anyone help me discover a link? Connect the dots?
The Foster family played a prominent role in Tuscaloosa’s history and the University of Alabama. For example, Robert Clarke Foster was the president of the university from 1937-1941. Foster Auditorium, built by the Works Progress Administration in 1939, is named for him. As the scene of the “stand” Foster Auditorium is a lovely building with an indelible stain upon its history. So it goes with buildings. They are associated with the events that took place and the people that dwelt within their walls.
My old house, however it is connected to the Fosters, was certainly in use during the Civil Rights era and would have been a silent witness to all the events that shaped a new South. It’s first fifty years saw the end of slavery and the second hundred the end of legal segregation. What changes may the next hundred years bring? We have come a long way since 1963. My oldest son has lived with two African-American roommates and students of all races and religions are comfortable on our campus and in our town. They all welcome here, in my old house.