“We’re dealing with 200 years and hundreds of thousands of people,” Hubbs said. “I thought that there were some key things that happened in Tuscaloosa and I see those changes as the result of certain decisions; they are the consequences of decisions made. So, I wrote about six big decisions that changed Tuscaloosa. That’s how I organized the book.”
Hubbs has written several historical books about Tuscaloosa and this general area, which gave him a solid foundation for building out the contents for the book. Approaching him for the project seemed to be a natural choice.
“Professor Hubbs is a distinguished retired professor of history from Birmingham-Southern,” said Dr. Cathy Randall, co-chair of the Tuscaloosa Bicentennial Commission. “Happily, he is a citizen of Tuscaloosa who loves this city and who demonstrated that he could capture its history authentically and in an easily accessible manner.”
Rather than focusing on larger things that happen, Hubbs’ interest lies within the genre of microhistory.
“If you talk about big things like wars and diplomacy, and what goes on in Congress and all that, you never get to those basic ideas on which people operate on a day-to-day basis,” he said. “What I’m trying to do is look at the most basic values and ideas on which everyday people operate.”
According to Randall, putting together a book of Tuscaloosa’s history was a necessary addition to the year-long celebration for the city.
“One of the goals of Tuscaloosa's Bicentennial Commission is to make 2019 A Year to Remember: a year of such special events that it will be remembered, and a year when we stop as a community to remember our past in order to look forward to a better future for all Tuscaloosans,” Randall said. “Certainly, a book covering the history of this great city over the past 200 years is a crucial component in this remembering.”
Another element of the celebration includes the educational component involving schools in our area and allowing the students to participate in the commemoration. To connect Hubbs’ book with the educational aspect, the Commission asked Hubbs to write a children’s book for the students in local schools.
Under guidance from Kari Frederickson, leader of the Education division of the Commission, Hubbs put together a 400-word story about who these Tuscaloosans were to complement his original piece. Currently, this book is only available to 4th graders in our area, but Hubbs has gotten positive feedback from adults who are familiar with it. “I have adults tell me they prefer that book to the big one.”
“It was a very rewarding project,” said Hubbs, “and every day I found it more rewarding because people have almost universally been so appreciative of what came out. The reception has wildly exceeded anything I could’ve imagined.”
Tuscaloosa 200 will host a Community Book Experience in September to highlight Tuscaloosa: 200 Years in the Making where Hubbs will speak and attendees will have the opportunity to ask him questions about the project. This event will also feature a book signing by Hubbs. Copies will be available for purchase at this event, or can be purchased now at area bookstores, on the University of Alabama press website, and online.
“It is great summer reading,” said Randall, “and having many in the city read the same book at the same time is another way that the Bicentennial Celebration can pull us together as a community.”