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Russellville Public Library director Ashley Cummins (left) is organizing several library events in conjunction with the Alabama bicentennial, like the “Northwest Alabama and Tennessee River” book exhibit hosted by author Carolyn Barske (right).

Historical book highlights Tennessee Valley area

For folks who know the history of Franklin County and its borders, its connection to the Tennessee River and the Tennessee Valley Authority is no surprise. For those who are unaware, the program held at the Russellville Public Library Feb. 7 was an educational opportunity.

Director of the Muscle Shoals National Heritage Area Carolyn Barkse visited RPL and presented the book exhibit for the book she co-authored, “Tennessee River and Northwest Alabama,” co-written with Brian Murphy. The exhibit is funded by the Alabama Humanities Foundation.

“One of the most fun things about all of this is getting to travel across the area and meet people and talk about this,” Barske said.

She explained how she got started with MSNHA and its goal. Heritage areas are funded by the National Park Service and serve as a way to expand its mission by telling the stories of the area and preserving the sites.

“This area has a nationally significant story through the river, the music and the Native American history,” Barske said.

Franklin County was a part of the heritage area before 1867, when it split with Colbert County. This stretch of the Tennessee River, Barske explained, shaped life in the area through the canals, dams and railroads that connected the area to a global market. The government’s effort to harness the power of the river led to TVA’s involvement and the creation of the hydroelectric dam.

The book shows all of this rich history through photographs and accompanying information. Many resources were used to gather these pictures, including the University of North Alabama Archives, the Alabama Department of History and Archives, University of Alabama, Florence-Lauderdale Public Library, Lawrence County Archives, Morgan County Archives and the Library of Congress.