Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Out of the shadows at last

For years, history has sat -- untouched and deteriorating -- at the heart of the University of Alabama campus.

Decades ago, Foster Auditorium was the place to be for concerts and graduations. It was the home court for some of the Crimson Tide's best basketball teams, including the Rocket 8 that swept through the SEC undefeated in 1956. Most significantly, it was the site of former Gov. George Wallace's notorious Stand in the Schoolhouse Door, a stunt that brought the world's attention to segregation and added further fuel to a civil rights movement that culminated two years later in the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

But UA officials have done little for Foster as it aged in recent years, winding down its usage to the point of vacancy as it slid into a mess of broken windows and falling ceiling tiles. A building that should be protected and promoted as a civil rights landmark instead was subjected at best to benign neglect and at worst to suggestions that it be bulldozed.

At long last, though, the Capstone is taking baby steps toward reviving a moribund Foster. Fundraising is set to begin in earnest around 2009, if the promises are to be believed. More tangibly, UA officials last month ponied up nearly $500,000 for a badly needed roof replacement that should be finished later this month.

It's small progress, but it still offers hope that leaders of Alabama's flagship university won't try to push the history that occurred in the shadows of their offices into the forgotten shadows of time.


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