Jordan Butler

During my time at the University of Alabama, I’ve taken many classes that have made me view the world differently. None have had quite as personal an impact, however, as Southern Memory. Having grown up in the South, I was used to Confederate monuments on every other street corner, and knew older men who were named after Confederate generals. I had also heard the stories of lynchings. I distinctly remember sitting at a park in my grandfather’s hometown, and him pointing out a tree where, when his grandparents were young, “the bodies of criminals who did heinous acts would hang.” I had forgotten about that, until time and time again in this class we learned how these lynchings were not so much about “frontier justice” as they were about establishing and maintaining a racial power dynamic. Time and again I have been confronted by the knowledge that the monuments, markers, and other symbols I previously took as fact were actually cultivated so that future generations would only remember the history those symbols told. The concept of questioning an unreliable narrator in literature did not elude me, but for some reason it was different with actual physical markers. This class, I believe, became unintentionally topical as the semester went on. A marker to lynching victims was erected in Tuscaloosa, and monuments to the Confederacy were torn down in New Orleans. This war for control of the South’s history is very much an ongoing one, and something I had not truly understood until I took the time to really look at what was happening. It is unfortunate that the very nature of Southern Memory relies upon small groups, because I wholeheartedly believe that it is in the best interest of all Alabamians and Southerners to take this class, and to understand, as I have come to, that the history that surrounds us is more than the narrative set in to stone on monuments across the South.