Bicentennial Scholars

Building on Alabama Humanities Foundation’s widely popular Road Scholars Speakers Bureau, we have assembled an group of Bicentennial Scholars for presentations and programs in host communities.

The Bicentennial Scholars are an ideal resource for educational programs in conjunction with Making Alabama. A Bicentennial Traveling Exhibit. Please read the guidelines below thoroughly before booking a scholar.

Organization Guidelines

–Speakers are available for the following groups: libraries, civic groups, historical societies, for-profit organizations, nonprofit organizations, and public or private secondary schools.

–An organization may book one speaker for free in a calendar year. For subsequent requests within the same year the organization is responsible for the full costs of scholar travel (mileage of .545/mile) and honorarium ($175.00).

–If your organization plans a business meeting at the same time, we expect that you schedule the Scholar presentation first and inform the speaker at the time of your request.

–For in-school presentations, please reserve a minimum of one hour for the speaker’s presentation and up to two hours for a teacher in-service.

–With the exception of teacher in-services, all Bicentennial Scholars programs must be open to and free of charge to the general public. School programs aimed primarily at students must be made available to school faculty and administrators, as well as students’ parents or other adult family.

Guidelines for Booking a Speaker

Step #1 Directly contact the speaker as early as possible to determine his/her availability and to make arrangements for time and place. Be sure to confirm audio/visual needs.

Step #2 Within 4 weeks of the program date, complete the online Scholar Request Form.

Step #3 AHF will contact you via e-mail to confirm your request. Please wait until you receive confirmation from AHF before you publicize your requested program! AHF will send promotional materials (via email). Upon receiving your confirmation e-mail, please download and print the Audience and Program Coordinator’s Evaluation Form provided on the website.

Step #4 Promote the program using the materials AHF sends to your organization.

Step #5 At least one week before the program date, contact the speaker again to review event details.

Step #6 At the program, introduce the speaker, acknowledge the AHF, and distribute the audience evaluation forms. Collect audience evaluation forms after the conclusion of the program.

Step #7 Within two weeks after the program, complete the Program Coordinator’s evaluation form and return it along with audience evaluation forms to the AHF.

Request and Evaluation Forms

Speaker Request Form

The additional forms below are for Program Coordinators. Upon receiving your confirmation e-mail, please download and print the forms below.

Audience & Program Coordinator Evaluation Forms

The forms below are for Speakers only. Upon receiving confirmation of your event, please print and complete Travel Reimbursement & Evaluation Forms below.

Scholar Evaluation Form

Scholar Reimbursement Form

The Alabama Humanities Foundation is a partner of the state bicentennial commission and of the National Endowment for the Humanities. AHF funds and conducts programs that encourage dialogue on a variety of humanities topics from diverse points of view. The views and opinions expressed in the Bicentennial Scholars programs below do not necessarily represent those of the AHF, the Alabama Bicentennial Commission, or the National Endowment for the Humanities. AHF grants and AHF-conducted programs do not support direct social, political or religious advocacy. AHF is a private, nonprofit organization that receives funding from the NEH, the State of Alabama, foundations, corporations and individuals.

Browse by Scholar

Richard Bailey

Richard Bailey has earned the BS, MEd, MA, and PhD degrees. A joint fellowship enabled him to travel and study in Europe and Africa.

Since returning to Montgomery, Dr. Bailey has been a consultant for the Center for Public Television at The University of Alabama, where he was a consultant for their productions on the Lincoln School of Marion and Reconstruction black officeholders. For the Division of Telecommunication and Educational Television at Auburn University, Bailey was an advisor for the Gees Bend story and the Horace King documentary. He was a consultant for the award-winning radio documentary, “Remembering Slavery,” produced by the Institute for Language and Culture at the University of Montevallo. In the mid-1980s Gov. George C. Wallace appointed him twice to the DeSoto Commission to reconstruct the path of the Spanish explorer through Alabama. Kiosks along select Alabama highways identify the route of DeSoto.

A lecturer and tour guide, he makes frequent appearances on radio and television to discuss Alabama history, southern history, and contemporary issues.

Dr. Richard Bailey

S. Jonathan Bass

S. Jonathan Bass is a writer and historian from Alabama who specializes in culture, race, religion, and law during the civil rights era. He is a professor of history and chair of the department of history at Samford University where he has won teaching awards, as well as recognition as an authority on racial issues.

Bass is the author of the nationally acclaimed He Calls Me By Lightning: The Life of Caliph Washington and the Forgotten Saga of Jim Crow Southern Justice, and the Death Penalty and the Pulitzer Prize-nominated Blessed Are the Peacemakers: Martin Luther King, Jr., Eight White Religious Leaders and the ‘Letter from Birmingham Jail.’ Reared in the industrial suburb of Fairfield, Alabama, Bass is a frequent speaker on various topics related to Alabama history and was recognized by the National Urban League with an Interracial Friendship Award. He holds a Ph.D. in history from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville and lives in Birmingham with his wife and children.

S. Jonathan Bass

Steven P. Brown

Steven P. Brown received his Ph.D. from the University of Virginia and has taught at Auburn since 1998. He teaches several courses in American Constitutional Law as well as Religion and Politics, Law and Society, and Introduction to American Government. His research interests focus primarily on church and state issues and American legal history. In 2005, his book, Trumping Religion: The New Christian Right, The Free Speech Clause and the Courts received the National Communication Association’s Franklyn S. Haiman Award for Distinguished Scholarship in Freedom of Expression.

His book, John McKinley and the Antebellum Supreme Court: Circuit Riding in the Old Southwest (2012), has been cited as a model for researching the lives of antebellum U.S. Supreme Court justices. He received the Supreme Court Historical Society’s 2017 Hughes-Gossett Senior Prize, which was presented by Chief Justice John Roberts, for his article “The Girard Will and Twin Landmarks of Supreme Court History.”

In 2006, he received the National Faculty of the Year Award from the National Society of Collegiate Scholars. He is currently working on a traveling exhibit about landmark Supreme Court cases from Alabama, which will tour throughout the state during the 2019 bicentennial of Alabama statehood.

In addition to teaching courses for the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, he lectures on political and First Amendment issues throughout the state, and serves as an instructor with the Election Center in providing professional education training to elections officials nationwide. When not teaching, he enjoys working in his yard, camping, and spending time with his wife, Melanie, and their children.

Steven P. Brown, Ph.D.

Mike Bunn

Mike Bunn is a public historian who has spent the entirety of his career researching, writing, and speaking about the Deep South’s history and culture. He is author of several books on Alabama, Georgia, and Mississippi history, and a frequent contributor to publications such as Alabama Heritage magazine.

His forthcoming book on Alabama’s formative years, tentatively titled Early Alabama: A History and Guide to the Formative Years, is set to be published in 2019 by the University of Alabama Press. Mike has spoken to dozens of groups, ranging from civic groups and historical societies to a variety of continuing education programs, across the state and beyond on a variety of historical topics. His Bicentennial-focused presentation, “Alabama: From Territory to State” is a fast-moving and richly illustrated presentation which introduces audiences to Alabama’s tumultuous founding era.

Mike is currently Director of Operations at Historic Blakeley State Park in Spanish Fort, Alabama, a 2,000 acre site within the scenic Mobile-Tensaw Delta preserving the sites of the territorial-era town of Blakeley, the Civil War Battle of Fort Blakeley, and colonial era and Native American occupations.

Previously, he directed the Historic Chattahoochee Commission, and worked with the Columbus (Georgia) Museum and the Mississippi Department of Archives and History. Mike obtained his undergraduate degree from Faulkner University, and earned master’s degrees in history and higher education administration from the University of Alabama. He also completed a graduate certificate in public history at the University of West Georgia. Mike serves in leadership roles with several cultural heritage organizations including as a board member of the Alabama Historical Association and as a member of the Baldwin County Bicentennial Steering Committee. Mike and his wife Tonya live in Daphne, Alabama with their daughter Zoey.

Mike Bunn

Valerie Pope Burnes

A native of Talladega, Valerie Pope Burnes moved to the Black Belt in 1995 as a freshman at Judson College in Marion, AL, majoring in history and literature. While earning a Ph.D. in history at Auburn University, Burnes became interested in the Civil Rights Movement in Marion/Perry County, and its impact on the Selma to Montgomery March and thus the national movement.

Burnes has presented the findings from her dissertation on the history of African Americans in Perry County from slavery through 2010 at multiple conferences throughout Alabama, including a 2015 conference at Alabama State commemorating the passage of the 1965 National Voting Rights Act.

Recognizing the prominent role played by African Americans in forming the culture of Black Belt, Burnes incorporated her research and her observations of the region into her book, “Visions of the Black Belt: A Cultural Survey of the Heart of Alabama,” produced in conjunction with photographer Robin McDonald.

An Associate Professor of History at the University of West Alabama, and former Director of the Center for the Study of the Black Belt, Burnes teaches courses in Civil Rights History, Women’s History, Public History including Archival Studies and Historic Preservation, Alabama History, and the History of the New South.

Though her role in the Bicentennial Scholars series is to focus on Civil Rights, she is glad to talk on subjects related to Alabama history in her other areas of interest, including both the Black Belt and topics from the courses listed above. 

Burnes has served as treasurer and vice president of the Alabama Historical Association and is president-elect of the Association for 2018-2019.

Valerie Pope Burnes

Bertis English

Bertis English, a native of Talladega, Alabama, earned a Ph.D. degree in history from Auburn University. He has served as associate dean and acting dean of the ASU College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences and presently edits the International Journal of Africana Studies.

English has been president of the Southern Conference of African American Studies, Incorporated; has chaired the minorities committee of the Southern Historical Association; and has sat on editorial boards including the Journal of African American Studies, the Alabama Review, and the Journal of Race and Policy, and the Griot: The Journal of African American Studies. Presently, he is a board member of the National Council for Black Studies and is the recipient of awards that include a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Bertis English, Ph.D.
(334) 229-4368

Frances Osborn Robb

I am a historian of photography, especially of Alabama and the Deep South. I have worked in this area with individuals and organizations for many years. Simply put, I am passionate about old photographs! The University of Alabama Press published my book, Shot in Alabama: A History of Photography 1839-1941 and a List of Photographers, in 2017, and it was selected for the Alabama Bicentennial Bookshelf, for those who want to learn more about Alabama during our bicentennial. I have written extensively on Alabama’s photographic, cultural, and social history, been a Roads Scholar for many years, and taught in universities for 17 years. I enjoy meeting people of every age and ethnicity, and I appreciate the opportunity to look at their old photographs and share my interest and expertise with them. I enjoy the give-and-take as program participants show me their treasured images and tell me about the sitters, their families, and their lives, and I help them date the images and figure out who might be represented in them.

Since Alabama became a territory and then a state, we have become more and more visually oriented, turning to images for information and enjoyment. And photography was invented while we were still a new frontier state. Many Alabamians who were alive at statehood in 1819 lived to see their likenesses made by the new technology of photography, And photographs have been increasingly significant in our lives ever since. I welcome the opportunity, whatever the topic, to help program participants date their old photographs and identify the people in them, using reliable humanities-based skills and experience. In turn, program participants learn the rudiments of dating images and figuring out the identities of sitters and locales. As they say here in Huntsville, “It don’t take a rocket scientist” to do this; it only takes a bit of instruction and a chance to compare your photographs to those that will be on display. And that’s what I enjoy!

Frances Osborn Robb
256 536-5663