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Transformative Teaching at the University of Alabama

Students rewrite a more inclusive history of the campus’s oldest structure

Students at the University of Alabama (UA) are making history this semester... literally.

In a course called "Slavery at the University of Alabama," students are doing extensive research on a campus building with the goal of creating a more inclusive narrative of its history. Students are focusing their attention on Gorgas House, the oldest structure on the UA campus, which was the center of domestic production preceding the Civil War. It is also a building that used forced labor in its construction and everyday function.

The Gorgas House on the University of Alabama campus in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.

Dr. John Giggie, Director of The Summersell Center for the Study of the South and Associate Professor of History and African-American Studies at UA, is leading this first-of-its-kind class and said interest in it came directly from students.

"This is very much a student-driven project. It’s their questions, it’s their efforts, it’s their research that is pulling together what we hope to be a new tour of Gorgas House that integrates the current history, which looks at the role of white administrators and their families and their leadership, and integrate that history with also the role of the blacks who worked there and lived there at times or lived right near there."

Dr. Giggie, who is a co-author of The Unfinished Nation: A History of the American People, added that the fruits of their labor are still yet to be determined. "We’re really excited about our work here; we’re not quite sure what will turn up in the end, but part of the process here is research and inquiry where we’re following the sources, seeing where they take us, and taking our time to make sure we get the story right..." Watch the video below to hear Dr. Giggie’s students discuss the impact this course has had on them, and the potential impact they know it can have on their campus.


Image Source: Jeffrey Reed [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons