Aquarius Alabama

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Remember when:    The moon was in the seventh house and Jupiter aligned with Mars? Remember, tie dye and bell bottoms, and long, beautiful hairshining, gleaming, streaming, flaxen, waxen? Remember “Hell No, We Won’t Go?”,“Give Peace a Chance?”,“We Shall Overcome?”,“I am a human being.  Do not fold, spindle, or mutilate?” How about “Tune in, turn on, drop out?’’“Sex, drugs, and Rock n’ Roll?”No?  Wanna? If you do, put this on your calendar.
On August 19-20, the Alabama Department of Archives and History in Montgomery will sponsor a program on “Alabama in the Age of Aquarius.” Now you have plenty of time to plan your trip.  Registration is underway.  Go to www.archives.alabama.gov to get signed up.
I am telling you this now because the Archives wants more than your attendance.  The folks down there have perceived a gap in their collection and want to fill it with documents and do-dads, and oral histories of what you were doing back when hippies and wannabes were hoping that: Peace will guide the planets and love will steer the stars.
So go back into that box of stuff you pull out when your children (or grandchildren) are having a 60s day at school, and give the good folks at the Archives a call to see what might be donated. Become part of history. What history? The history of Alabama from 1965 to 1975. Alabama’s Age of Aquarius.
Organizers at the Archives are going to bring in some big guns.  The keynote speaker is Dan Carter who wrote the best book going on George Wallace (The Politics of Rage – a title that sounds like he might be writing about today).  Earl Tilford will attend.   His new book on the University of Alabama in the 60s (Turning the Tide) is a must read for anyone who wasn’t there and wonders what went on then, as well as for those who were there and want to see if they remember it right.
But it won’t be just a parade of scholars reading provocative papers or engaging in spirited round table discussions about school integration, the changing role of women, student protests, the sexual revolution, and the impact that the Voting Rights Act had on state politics.
No, it won’t be just that. Seeking to keep the program at a level so low that up is the only way it can go, they asked me to comment on what happened back then – say something superficial and glib, which I can do if I wanna. When  they first asked me, I didn’t wanna.
Since retiring I have studiously avoided programs that might cause me to do any significant research, much less travel far from where I am now.  I am content to let the bright, up-and-coming young historians have at it, while I wait for fall and football.
However,  the topic intrigued me, since I lived through it, more or less. Then Debbie at the Archives told me that I could talk about anything I wanted to, just so that it was remotely associated with the subject.  At that point  I realized that I might actually be able to put something together without much thought or effort, without fear or research. So I signed up. 1965 to 1975? Thinking about those years, I was reminded of what came a bit before.
Ah, The Sixties, a decade that began with the election of John Kennedy and ended with the marriage of Tiny Tim.
What could I find about Alabama’s Age of Aquarius that could encapsulate that era so neatly?  What could capture the changes in a few words, words that would allow me to hippity hoppity from ’65 to ’75, for no purpose other than to review events covered by the more scholarly,  more substantial, presentations that were the real meat of the program. Then it struck me.
One year into Alabama’s Age of Aquarius the state elected a surrogate governor to defend the status quo while her excluded-from-consecutive-terms husband ran things.
Then, one year before the “Age” officially ended, on a warm February evening students at Auburn University took off their clothes and ran about campus. Word spread to other campuses and other students did the same. And there it was. My two events. And my title.
“From Segregation to Streaking: Thoughts on Alabama’s Age of Aquarius.” That ought to pack ‘em in. Or turn ‘em off.
So go into the attic and get out your love beads and fringe vest, let your hair grow longer (assuming you  still  have hair), and work on those excuses to use when your children (or grandchildren) ask “did you really get naked and run across campus”?
It is your history these folks will be talking about. If you missed it the first time around, don’t miss it again.
Harvey H. (“Hardy”) Jackson is Professor Emeritus  of History at Jacksonville State University. He can be reached at hjackson@cableone.net.

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