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Anniston, Alabama’s pitfalls, triumphs, told in books

Baptized in PCBs by Ellen SpearsAnniston, Alabama has a storied, sometimes infamous history, including the burning of a Freedom Riders bus in the 1960s and more recently, legal battles over environmental pollution caused by chemical plants in the city. A new book by University of Alabama professor Ellen Spears, Baptized in PCBs: Race, Pollution, and Justice in an All-American Town, tackles those latter environmental issues — not to denigrate Anniston, Spears suggests in her book, but so as to face Anniston’s past and help it move forward.

Both Spears’s book, and a recent Anniston Star column about books on Anniston, cite NewSouth’s Beyond the Burning Bus by J. Phillips Noble, about the Freedom Rider attacks. Spears’s book makes powerful linkages between Anniston’s civil rights history and the polychlorinated biphenyls environmental crisis. Spears points to Noble’s memoir in her account of how both crises were handled by local leaders; she also discusses the lingering effects of both events on Anniston, its reputation, and the lives of local people.

Another recent memoir on Anniston published by NewSouth is In Love with Defeat: The Making of a Southern Liberal, by Anniston Star publisher H. Brandt Ayers.

Read more about these titles from the Anniston Star.

Ellen Spears’s Baptized in PCBs: Race, Pollution, and Justice in an All-American Town is available now. Beyond the Burning Bus by J. Phillips Noble and In Love with Defeat by H. Brandt Ayers are both available from NewSouth Books or your favorite bookstore.