When I tell people that I’m from Jasper, Alabama, I tend to get looks of surprise. I don’t have an accent, I don’t know anything about college football, and I don’t even like sweet tea. More than once, when I’ve shortened my answer to just “Jasper,” I’ve gotten a quizzical look. “Jasper, Wyoming, you mean?”
I suppose I had been feeling a little distant from my roots when I decided to do an independent study last semester. The project would involve a lot of research on a place I should know like the back of my hand: Jasper.
For four months, I refined searches on LexusNexus, combed through historical society web pages, and drove the 45 minutes west on Highway 78 on weekends. Poking through the history of the place gave me a different sense of what it meant to be from Jasper.
From the early settlers who burned down their courthouse more than once to the coal miners who disappeared underneath its hills for generations in search of a living, Jasper’s history is full of defiance, independence and hard work.
I may still sound like I was born somewhere else, but by learning more about the history of the place and my own history there, I got a sense of how it’s informed who I am. Now when I get the inevitable question, I follow up my answer with a few interesting facts. I point west, in the vague direction of winding Highway 78, just so there’s no mistake. I may never get a taste for sweet tea, but I’ve become a connoisseur of my hometown.
Written by: Amethyst V.