Press Release - Detail
For immediate release Friday, March 10, 2017
CONTACT: Roy L. Williams                                
Director of Public Relations             
Birmingham Public Library                          
Phone: (205) 226-3746 cell (205) 568-0067                        
 Birmingham Bound Author Series
What: Author talk and book signing by Sydney Nathans, author of “A Mind to Stay: White Plantation, Black Homeland”
When: Monday, March 13, 2017, 6 p.m. Free and open to the public.
Where: Arrington Auditorium, 4th Floor, Linn-Henley Research Library, 2100 Park Place
For more information: Contact Jim Baggett at 205-226-3631, or visit
Author says Birmingham Public Library Archives helped him research book about Alabama plantation
BIRMINGHAM, Ala.—When historian Sydney Nathans visited Alabama nearly 40 years ago to research a book a plantation owner who gave his property to black slaves who toiled the land for him, his first stop was to the Birmingham Public Library Archives Department in the Linn-Henley Research Library downtown.
Using resources available there, Nathans found out about a black activist (Lewis Black) in Hale County who led him to descendants of the black slaves who previously worked for North Carolina planter Paul Cameron. On Monday, March 13 at 6 p.m. in the fourth floor Arrington Auditorium in the Linn-Henley building, Nathans will share details about his new book, “A Mind To Stay: White Plantation, Black Homeland.” The book was released by Harvard University Press in February 2017.
After his talk, Nathans will sell and sign copies of the book. The author talk and book signing are free and open to the public. Read more about Nathan’s talk at the link below:
In “A Mind to Stay”, Nathans tells the rare story of African-Americans who moved from being enslaved to becoming owners of the very land they had worked on in bondage. The book family, which held onto the land from emancipation through the civil rights era, still owns substantial portions of the 1,600-acre property, Nathans said.
Nathans called the book a “true labor of love.”  Though he originally envisioned the idea during the late 1970s, he didn’t start to work on the book until ending a 40-year career as a history professor at Duke University in 2006.
He got the title, “A Mind To Stay,” from a blues song popular in the Mississippi Delta that talked about how many black sharecroppers across the Deep South  tried to stay but had to move on to other states because of the racial prejudice and unjust Jim Crow laws that took their land and kept them in dire economic straits.
‘In this case, black slaves moved from their homes in North Carolina to Alabama by a slave owner had a mind to stay in Hale County after the owner sold them the land,” Nathans said.
Though many former black slaves had their land taken from them by whites who took advantage of the court system and unjust laws, Nathans said the families on Planter’s plantation were able to keep the plantation because the property wasn’t prime real estate. It also helped that the plantation owner lived in North Carolina, not in Alabama where he could have faced death or injury from Ku Klux Klansmen and other white racists once word got out he had sold it to former black slaves.
Though the entire plantation is no longer in their hands, the black community in much of Hale County continues to reap the benefits of the rare purchase as both a church and school remain open, he said.
Nathan’s author talk/book signing is among two taking place in March as part of BPL’s Birmingham Bound author series.  On Monday, March 20 at 6 p.m. inside Arrington Auditorium, author Michael W. Fitzgerald will discuss his book “Reconstruction in Alabama: From Civil War to Redemption in the Cotton South.”
“Reconstruction in Alabama” is the first new study of this critical period in Alabama’s history to be published in decades, said Jim Baggett, head of BPL’s Archives & Manuscripts Department. Fitzgerald, professor of history at St. Olaf College in Minnesota, explores the impact of Reconstruction and its aftermath from the Civil War to the Civil Rights Movement. Books will be available for purchase.
The Birmingham Bound author series recognizes authors who researched their books in the Birmingham Public Library Archives. Historians, journalists, and other writers from around the world have produced hundreds of books using the Archives’ collections and these books include five recipients of the Pulitzer Prize.
Both programs are free and open to the public. For more information, contact Jim Baggett at 205-226-3631, or visit
For additional information about the programs and services of the Birmingham Public Library, visit our website at and be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter @BPL. The mission of Birmingham Public Library is to provide the highest quality library service to our citizens for life-long learning, cultural enrichment, and enjoyment. This system—with 19 locations and serving the community for 130 years—is one of the largest library systems in the southeast.
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