Books-A-Million/T. S. Stribling Endowed Scholarship
This endowed scholarship was established by Books-A-Million to honor T.S. Stribling. The name T. S. Stribling stirs mixed emotions for some natives of the Tennessee Valley area. This native son of the South was a true literary maverick. He was a Pulitzer Prize winning author who helped lead the way for other Southern authors to write critically about their homeland. He is arguably one of the most important residents to ever live in Florence, Alabama, and the most esteemed graduate of the University of North Alabama.In 1902, T. S. Stribling continued his formal education by enrolling in the Florence Normal School. This was the forerunner of the present University of North Alabama. After two years of study, Stribling graduated from the Normal School in 1903. In 1917, Stribling became a reporter for the Chattanooga News. In that same year, he converted one of his short stories into a novel entitled, Cruise of the Dry Dock. It was published by Reilly and Britton of Chicago, Illinois. By 1920, he had returned home to Clifton and continued writing short stories which were published in “pulp” magazines like American Boy, Argosy, and Adventure.
This same year, Stribling began work on the novel Birthright. It dealt with social issues and race relations in the South. Birthright was first published as a serial in Century Magazine in 1921. Century would also publish it as a novel in 1922. The protagonist of the novel was an educated mulatto male who tried to survive in a small Southern town filled with racial prejudice. The setting of the novel was Hooker’s Bend which was modeled after the author’s hometown of Clifton. Many years after its publication, Stribling identified his work as “the first realistic novel of Negroes written in this country since Opie Read produced My Young Master.”
In 1924, the famous black director Oscar Micheaux adapted Birthright into a silent film. Part of the uniqueness of Micheaux’s work was his use of an all-minority cast. Fifteen years later with the advent of talking film, Micheaux would remake the same movie into a talking version.
Over the next few years T. S. Stribling published a string of novels. East is East was his third novel. It was published in 1922 by the Frank A. Munsey Company of New York. The following year Fombombo was published by Century Publishing Company. It’s successor was Red Sand, which was published by Harcourt Brace of New York in 1924. Stribling’s sixth novel was Teeftallow. Published in 1926, it became his first best seller in addition to being a critical success. Teeftallow was well received by critics in America and England. However, Southern critics were hostile to the manner in which Stribling dealt with some of the South’s social issues. Mr. Stribling would later adapt this novel into a Broadway play called “Rope.” Rope was limited to thirty- two performances at the Biltmore Theater in New York. Over the next several years, T.S. Stribling continued writing novels which dealt with a myriad of political and social issues. Some of these novels included Bright Metal (1928), Strange Moon (1929), Clues of the Caribees (1929), and Backwater (1930). All of these novels were published by Doubleday Publishing Company.
In the 1920’s and 30’s, T.S. Stribling was America’s foremost author. He sold more books than any author between the two world wars. The former Florence resident even outsold his leading contemporaries, William Faulkner and Ernest Hemingway. Stribling is credited with being at the vanguard of the Southern Literary Renaissance. Critics acknowledge his work as paving the way for other Southern writers to directly address the pressing social and political issues which faced the region. While he was ostracized in much of the South, the work of this former Florence resident has played an important role in both literature and social progress. The private papers of T. S. Stribling were given to the Tennessee State Library and Archives after his death. These papers include his correspondence, travel journals, short stories, literary contracts, reviews, and rough drafts of his novels. A copy of this Stribling collection has been donated to the University of North Alabama. It is available for viewing at UNA’s Collier Library along with a permanent display case of collectibles from Mr. Stribling’s life. Framed copies of the certificate which T. S. Stribling received for winning the Pulitzer Prize have been donated and are available for viewing at Collier Library and the Florence Public Library.
Recipients of this scholarship shall be full-time students majoring in English.