Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Alabama 'PastPort' book is great way to take part in bicentennial

One of the neatest things to come out of Alabama’s ongoing bicentennial celebration is the “Alabama Bicentennial PastPort” book, a 174-page “guide to historic destinations in each of Alabama’s 67 counties featuring historical and cultural information and engaging original artwork.”

Billed as a “Time-Traveler’s Companion to Our Counties,” these books are being made available by the Alabama Bicentennial Commission, and they are chock-full of historic sites, museums and landmarks from every county in Alabama, including Wilcox County. Just as travelers have their passports stamped when they cross international borders, travelers in Alabama can have their PastPort books stamped at designated places in each of Alabama’s counties. The books are $10 each and can be purchased throughout the state at various locations or online through the Bicentennial Commission’s website,

Wilcox County is one of 12 Black Belt counties featured in the book, and the portion of the book dedicated to Wilcox County describes aspects of the county that many readers will find familiar. The book highlights the famous Gee’s Bend quilters, the role of the Alabama River and the Gee’s Bend ferry in local history, Pine Apple’s large historic district and Camden’s well-known Black Belt Treasures Cultural Arts Center. The book also encourages visitors to explore the Gee’s Bend Quilt Mural Trail and to see local quilters in action at the Gee’s Bend Quilters Collective.

One of the most fun things about these PastPort books is getting them stamped when you visit different counties. According to a list in the book, there are five places in Wilcox County where you can get your book stamped. Those locations include the Gee’s Bend Quilters Collective, the Gaines Ridge restaurant in Camden, the Wilcox Female Institute in Camden and at Black Belt Treasures.

On Saturday morning, I dropped by Black Belt Treasures to get my book stamped, and the nice folks there were more than happy to get me fixed up. They told me that they’d already had a number of folks stop by to get their books stamped, and they were pleased to see visitors who had never been to Camden before. Another plus is that, while waiting for my stamp to dry, I had a good excuse to take a long look around at all the cool stuff at Black Belt Treasures.

The staff at Black Belt Treasures also told me on Saturday that the PastPort books have proved so popular that they are currently sold out. However, more of the books have been ordered and are expected to arrive at the store soon. Folks who haven’t gotten a copy for themselves might want to check with Black Belt Treasures later this week. (You can also kill two birds with one stone there since you can have your book officially stamped before you leave.)

In the end, I highly recommend that history buffs in the reading audience get one of these PastPort books. Not only do they may a great keepsake and souvenir from the bicentennial, but it’s also full of information about historical sites throughout the state. No doubt they will also make good gifts for family members, children and students, who will get a big kick out of collecting stamps in their books.

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