Kresge Library / University Advancement

Kresge Library fundraiser features staged reading of ‘Alabama Story’

The play, based on real events and developed by Birmingham native playwright Kenneth Jones, takes a powerful look at a children’s book, racism and censorship.

icon of a calendarJune 23, 2021

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Kresge Library fundraiser features staged reading of ‘Alabama Story’
Terrell Donnell Sledge as Joshua and Madeleine Lambert as Lily in "Alabama Story" performed at the Alabama Shakespeare Festival in 2020. Photo by Stewart Edmonds.

University Advancement, in partnership with the OU Libraries, is planning a unique fundraiser on Saturday, August 21 at 2 p.m. on the lawn of the John Dodge House on campus at Oakland University with a staged reading of the play “Alabama Story.”

The performance, led by artistic director John Rutherford and Barebones Theatre Productions, is a six-actor, one-set play with props. It is inspired by real events and created by Kenneth Jones (an Oakland University alum, who also attended Birmingham Groves High School). The play dramatizes a determined librarian who faces off with a segregationist senator over a children’s book in 1959 Montgomery, Alabama. The play is based upon a real book, “The Rabbits’ Wedding,” a picture book by Garth Williams, best known for his artwork for “Little House on the Prairie” and “Charlotte’s Web.”

That book depicts the marriage of two rabbits, one with white fur and one with black fur. That particular union has fictional Sen. E.W. Higgins calling for a book ban. But even as the pressure mounts, librarian Emily Wheelock Reed (the real-life heroine who attended the University of Michigan and once worked at the Detroit Public Library) refuses to yield to censorship.

Kenneth Jones
Playwright and OU Alum Kenneth Jones will
be on hand to meet patrons at the event.

“It’s a romance, a political thriller, a memory play, a workplace drama, a tearjerker, a comedy, a discussion about race, censorship and political desperation, and a rumination on the power of books,” playwright Jones says. “Most importantly, it’s a play about how we behave when we face terrible circumstances — how character is revealed in times of transition, change and crisis.”

Jones added, “While reading the New York Times, I came across the story of Emily Wheelock Reed, the former State Librarian of Alabama who had been challenged by a segregationist state senator in 1959. Senator E.O. Eddins demanded that the children’s book be purged from the shelves of Alabama libraries on the grounds that it promoted race-mixing. Their conflict was reported worldwide. Before I finished reading the article, I knew this was an idea for a play.”

For Jones, the process of creating “Alabama Story” included research visits to Montgomery, Selma and the senator’s hometown of Demopolis, Alabama. He toured the State Capitol, walked the halls of Emily’s library office in the State Archive Building, wandered antebellum homes and graveyards and city parks and museums. He even interviewed local historians and librarians and residents.

The highly theatrical play has been produced in more than 40 cities since its premiere, introducing the world to this little-known true story of a strong librarian.

“If you love theater, if you love books, if you think librarians are heroes, you will love what the OU Libraries are bringing to the Oakland University campus in August. I’m so proud to be an OU grad,” Jones said. “And, I am over the moon that this production will be part of the great restoration of live performance in the U.S. following 17 months of dormancy during the pandemic.”

The play has also gotten critical acclaim from The Washington Post, who called it a play “of national relevance.” Likewise, The Cape Cod Times wrote that the play “artfully explores Southern attitudes when the civil rights movement is catching fire.”

You can purchase your space at the event at: The cost is $50 for general admission and $200 patron admission, allowing two people to attend the play reading and afterglow event.

Contact Kath Borg in OU Libraries for more information at

There are also opportunities for corporate sponsorship. More information can be found here: Proceeds from this event will benefit OU Libraries second floor space redesign with modern, flexible, and accessible study spaces.

About the OU Libraries:
For 60 years, Oakland University Libraries, located at the heart of OU’s beautiful campus, have been committed to fostering academic excellence and promoting information literacy. Today, the library serves OU’s students and faculty and the broader community with scholarly information, research support, library instruction, access to special and archival collections, as well as dynamic and welcoming learning environments.

Kresge Library at OU


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