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J U L Y 2 0 0 8 233 of archaeological research. The Moundville book represents a milestone in Moundville and Mississippian archaeology; the Lower Creek book represents a first step toward building a true synthesis and model of Creek and Historic Period southeastern archaeology. ROBBIE ETHRIDGE University of Mississippi New Lights in the Valley: The Emergence of UAB. By Tennant S. McWilliams. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 2007. xix, 546 pp. $39.95. ISBN 978-0-9173-1546-7. The history of the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) demonstrates the dual nature of American institutions of higher education—distinctive in adaptation to local circumstances and yet typical in determination to move toward larger possibilities. At UAB, these two characteristics encouraged development that relied on the forces of circumstance, personality, and timing that are chronicled in McWilliams’s work. Founded as a site for evening courses to extend the reach of the Tuscaloosa home campus, and expanded as a major medical center and then a multi-purpose university, UAB provides an example of contemporary institution-building and the inevitable political and academic skirmishes along the way. Few histories of American institutions of higher education focus on such relatively young institutions and McWilliams has taken advantage of this rare opportunity to enliven the volume with ample interviews that add multiple case studies to his historical research. The context for the UAB history is the city of Birmingham itself, a town that well into the twentieth century “remained paralyzed by persisting forces of the immediate post-Reconstruction era” (p. 23). One of the earliest signs of coming change for Birmingham was the University of Alabama Extension Center, an effort launched with Works Progress Administration funds in 1936, housed in a converted downtown home with a library of fifty books and evening classes for 139 students. Ten years later, the student body at the center had T H E A L A B A M A R E V I E W 234 grown to eight hundred, and the University of Alabama medical education programs had moved from Tuscaloosa to Birmingham. Reaching back to the 1859 chartering of the Medical College of Alabama at Mobile, the author weaves a rich historical tapestry of medical education in the state—including faltering efforts at Southern University in Greensboro and Montezuma University near Bessemer, as well as Birmingham Medical College. A professor of history , as well as dean of the School of Social and Behavioral Sciences at UAB, McWilliams provides extensive historical context for every significant debate and decision that contributed to the establishment of the Medical College of Alabama as a school of medicine at UAB. For example, the discussion of Roy R. Kracke’s agreement to become the first dean of the college takes readers back to Kracke’s World War I service as a Navy medic. President Joseph Volker’s move in 1969 to the elegant Woodward House offers of a glimpse of the “historic universals of culture and learning” of the 1920s (p. 207), the era in which it was constructed. Typical of many institutional histories, New Lights in the Valley seeks to provide both specific details and the interest of a good story. In his effort to include details, the author sometimes resorts to dry narratives about who was hired, when, and how. But when controversy and struggle is in the air, McWilliams’s skill as a story-teller is apparent. For example, the discussion of desegregating the medical programs, especially difficult in the instance of integrating the hospital itself, is an intriguing tale of the machinations of Joseph Volker, then University of Alabama vice president for health affairs. A liberal thinker and civil rights advocate at heart, Volker strategically delayed and sidestepped through the early 1960s in order to move at a pace acceptable to more racist elements in the community at large. McWilliams ably chronicles these and other events in the context of larger issues and events, such as NAACP activities, federal compliance inspections, and steps taken by other Alabama colleges and universities. Although medical education, with its predictable dramas concerning people and finances, surfaces as the most prevalent theme, the book does not ignore...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2166-9961
Print ISSN
0002-4341
Pages
pp. 233-235
Launched on MUSE
2012-07-11
Open Access
No
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