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Faculty member writes book about poet, educator, journalist

Photo of book cover

Angela Smith, associate professor and public history director, has written a new book, titled “Here I Stand: The Life and Legacy of John Beecher,” published by University of Alabama Press.

The 248-page book is a biography of John Beecher, a 20th century poet, sociologist, journalist, and professor and the great-great nephew of Harriet Beecher Stowe and Henry Ward Beecher.

John Beecher, who lived from 1904 to 1980, grew up in Birmingham, Alabama. He worked in the Alabama steel mills and later taught at Dartmouth College, University of Wisconsin, Arizona State University, Miles College and San Francisco State University. In addition, he was a New Deal administrator in North Carolina and Alabama, served in the Merchant Marines in World War II and worked for the San Francisco Chronicle covering the Civil Rights movement in the South during the 1960s.

“In the book, I argue that he draws a moral compass from his ancestral roots that is unwavering when it comes to doing what he believed was just,” Smith said. “I began working on this book in 2005 when I met his widow, Barbara Beecher. She generously shared her memories and papers with me as I researched the book. She also made sure all of his papers were safely deposited at the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas, Austin, so his legacy could live on.”

According to Smith, Beecher left a detailed record of his experiences – the Great Depression, World War II, the Cold War and the civil rights movement – in his dozen books and extensive letters, articles, unpublished poetry and prose, and audio interviews.

“I argue that John Beecher is a 20th century abolitionist who carries his forbearers’ moral sensibilities into a new era. While he had many vocations in his lifetime, he always considered himself foremost a poet and a teacher,” Smith said.

The book is expected to be released on Oct. 3, and can be ordered through University of Alabama Press.

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