Lazy Afternoon Reruns: “Alabamiana: Jim, d. 1854”

Every year, I take my creative writing students to Montgomery’s historic Oakwood Cemetery, where they each choose a person whose tombstone stands out to them for some reason, then we go to the Alabama Department of Archives & History for most of two weeks where they do the research to write a short narrative autobiography of the person. The assignment, which asks them to create a literary character with a distinctive voice out of a real person, walks the line between creative nonfiction and historical fiction, as the students sift through census records and microfilm, record books and news articles to piece together a life-long past.

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