While most of us know a cake walk to be a joyful celebration where the best bakers have an opportunity to show off their skills, it wasn’t always that way! In fact, the cake walk had its origins in Afro-American history:
The cakewalk was a pre-Civil War dance originally performed by slaves on plantation grounds. The uniquely American dance was first known as the “prize walk”; the prize was an elaborately decorated cake. Hence, “prize walk” is the original source for the phrases “takes the cake” and “cakewalk.”
Webster’s Dictionary defines it as “a black American entertainment having a cake as prize for the most accomplished steps and figures in walking; a stage dance developed from walking steps and figures typically involving a high prance with backward tilt; an easy task.”
The Cakewalk seems to have begun in the days of slavery, when black folks strutted along in a fanciful manner in imitation of formal white dancing. Supposedly the name comes from the custom of the master awarding a cake to the couple who put on the best performance. The dance came back around in the twentieth century when white folks started to imitate the black version.
Drop off cakes prior to Birmingham Historical Society annual meeting on February 27th. Taste testing will follow meeting! Be sure to include a card with your name and description. More information here.
Everyone is welcome at the Annual Meeting of the Birmingham Historical Society on February 27th at 7:00PM at the Birmingham Botanical Gardens. Copies of the book, “Deep South Dynasty” published by University of Alabama Press will be available for sale and signed by Professor of History, Kari Frederickson. A popular annual cake walk follows the meeting.
This popular annual BHS event is finally back. Calling all Cakes! What’s your childhood favorite?
Is it the Southern Living all time favorite, Hummingbird Cake? 7 Layer (difficult to assemble) Caramel Cake? Maybe Lady Baltimore, Coca Cola, or even a 7-Up Bundt? We KNOW you have a favorite—so it’s time to enter this year’s Birmingham Historical Society Heritage Cake Contest!
Monday, February 27th at Birmingham Botanical Gardens Auditorium, 4PM
It’s another Cake Walk into the Past but this year, we’re featuring your favorite childhood cakes.
The rules are simple:
1. The Birmingham Historical Society annual meeting is Monday, February 27—it’s also Cake Contest Day.
2. Bake your Childhood Favorite Cake and bring it to the Birmingham Botanical Gardens’ Auditorium by 4 p.m. February 27 for judging
3. Be sure to fill out the form (see below) and bring it along.
4. Remember, bake ANY cake that’s your official childhood favorite!!
5. We’ll serve all the scrumptious cakes after our meeting and speaker
It’s that time of year again! As a non-profit operating entirely with volunteers, we depend upon the support of our donors and the service of our Trustees. We ask that you renew your membership and join us in the important work of documenting Birmingham’s history. Currently celebrating our 81st year, we appreciate the generous gifts of members and patrons that enables us to provide annual seminars, tours, book signings, publications, and newsletters.
Birmingham has a very rich heritage and learning from its past, shapes its future. Please refer to the long list of publications below!
If you are a Trustee, please complete this form and submit it prior to February 14th, 2023, according to the requirements of our by-laws.
If you would like to join or renew your membership, please complete this form. Thank you for your support! We appreciate your interest!
BIRMINGHAM HISTORICAL SOCIETY PUBLICATIONS 1977-2022
2022. Birmingham’s Dynamite Hill
2021. Birmingham: The City Beautiful, Compliments of G. Ward
2020. The Birmingham District: An Industrial History and Guide (reprint of 1981 edition)
2019. Pretty Posies, Powerful Healing: An Herbal Primer
2019. Shades Creek: Flowing Through Time
2018. Warren H. Manning’s City Plan for Birmingham, reprint of 1919 plan
2016. Birmingham, 1915, reprint
2016. For Science and Humanity: Building Southern Research
2015. Bob Moody’s Birmingham: A City in Watercolor
2014. Mountain Brook-A Historic American Landscape
2013. MINUTES-Central Committee of the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference
2012. The Jemison Magazine: Birmingham and Mountain Brook, 1926-1930, reprint of the magazines
2011. The Jemison Magazine and The Selling of Birmingham, 1910-1914, reprint of the magazines
2010. Digging Out of the Great Depression: Federal Programs At Work In and About the Birmingham Area
2009. Mountain Brook Village: Then & Now
2008. D.O. Whilldin: Alabama Architect
2007. Hand Down Unharmed: Olmsted Files on Birmingham Parks: 1910-1925
2006. The Olmsted Vision: Parks for Birmingham
2005. A Park System for Birmingham, Olmsted Brothers, 1925, Reprint.
2004. Art of the New South: Women Artists of Birmingham, 1890-1950
2003. A Guide to Architectural Styles Featuring Birmingham Homes
2001. Aspiration: Birmingham’s Historic Houses of Worship
2001. A Pizella Affair: Portraits of the Comer Family
1999. Walking Tours of Birmingham Churches Conducted from 1990-1999
1999. Vive Vulcan! Activities for Schools
1998. In Celebration of the Restoration of Alabama Power Company’s 1925 Tower
1998. Low Virtues: The Value of Human Scale Architecture to Birmingham Urbanism
1998. A Walk to Freedom-The Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth and the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights, 1956-1964
1997. Birmingham Bound-An Atlas of the South’s Premier Industrial Region
1996. Birmingham View: Through the Years in Photographs
1995. Birmingham’s Vulcan, reprint 1938 booklet
1995. Vulcan & His Times-A Tell all about Birmingham’s Most Famous Landmark
1994. The Birmingham Industrial Heritage District Map
1992. True Tales of Birmingham
1991. Mountain Brook Estates, reprint of a 1926 publication
1991. Judge Clarence Allgood: His Brother’s Keeper
1990. Cinderella Stories, Transformations of Historic Birmingham Buildings
1989. Designs on Birmingham: A Landscape History of a Southern City and its Suburbs
1989. Buildings Against Cities: The Struggle to Make Places
1988. House Detective: A Guide to Researching Birmingham Buildings
1986. Image of the City, by Grady Clay
1985. Go To Town, Birmingham: A Public Forum on a Vital City Center
1984. Old Birmingham-New Architecture: Student Projects for a Historic Downtown Context
1983. Five Points Heritage Hike and Patch
1982. Town Within A City: The Five Points South Neighborhood, 1880-1930
1981. The Birmingham District: An Industrial History and Guide
1980. Birmingham Heritage Hike Guide and Patch
1978. The Ghost in the Sloss Furnaces
1978. Downtown Discovery Tour
1978. Downtown Birmingham: Architectural and Historical Walking Tour Guide
1977-1987. The Journal of the Birmingham Historical Society, 14 issues