A newsletter published by the Department of History
The University of Memphis
Vol. 6, no. 3
Glimpse into the eyes of the young women on the cover, students from West Tennessee State Normal School, the forerunner of what is now the University of Memphis. There is a determination there, a stoic understanding of lessons learned and applied into these young women’s own, future classrooms. Dr. Basil Georgiadis, an alumnus of the department, tells us in this newsletter’s pages that “learning is a life-long endeavor.” We see this passion for education in Jim Blythe’s description of his impressive two-volume work on a critical medieval thinker, in tales by our recent Ph.D.s about the joys and struggles of dissertation writing, in the accounts of our graduate students as they pursue research and outreach, and in Beverly Bond’s chronicle of some amazing women from Tennessee’s history. Enjoy!
I have been studying Tolomeo Fiadoni (Ptolemy of Lucca)(1236–1327) for over ten years, much longer than I expected.
Unlike most scholars, I began my career with a big, synthetic work—about medieval and Renaissance political science treatises—and then moved to a more specific subject. My first book disproved the myth that all medieval thinkers favored absolute monarchy. It showed their wide support for mixed constitutions: governments combining monarchy, aristocracy, and/or democracy. The United States constitution was so intended, but Greek, Roman, and Renaissance thinkers got most of the credit.
Researching that project, I discovered Tolomeo, a student and confessor of Thomas Aquinas, Dominican prior of San Romano in Lucca and Santa Maria Novella in Florence, resident at the papal court in Avignon, acquaintance of the saintly Pope Clement V and the reviled Pope John XXII, European traveler, and author of works of history, political thought, and biblical exegesis.
Little was written about him, but I believed that he was extremely important and influential. Unlike all other contemporary writers, he detested kingship as inherently despotic. While others praised the Roman Empire, he lauded Republican Rome and called Caesar tyrannical. Unusually, he wrote about contemporary governments and compared Italian city-states to Republican Rome and Greek city-states. Strangely, he also supported absolute papal monarchy.
I could have written a book about these ideas in a few years, but I decided to do more: to write his first real biography and describe his worldview, views on women and gender, theory of God’s plan for history, and various contradictory influences that he tried to harmonize: natural vs. supernatural causation, government for the common good vs. repressing evil, papal vs. republican rule, active vs. contemplative life, and gender complementarity vs. gender polarity.
|The only known autograph of Tolomeo Fidadoni|
The biography required the most work. Intellectual historians’ primary sources are typically printed books or microfilms of manuscripts. But now I needed archival documents. Tolomeo came from a Luccan commercial family, and he appears in many transactions and as executor of many wills. All survive, often damaged, in a highly abbreviated and difficult gothic Latin script.
The good part is that I had to travel for two summers to Lucca, Florence, Venice, and Rome. Since I needed only to gather photocopies for later deciphering, my wife and I had time to see the beautiful sights and eat a lot of great food—little pizza, although most Americans ate that habitually (one Venetian restaurant proclaimed: No Pizza! No Lasagna! No Tourist Menu!). I also spent many hours taking photographs. I’m especially happy with my series of graffiti close-ups.
There were some surprises. After Pope John made him Bishop of Torcello in the Venetian Lagoon, the octogenarian Tolomeo’s archbishop excommunicated and jailed him, forcing the pope to intervene. Earlier, he was punished for hosting an inappropriate feast in his convent, and he supervised the devotions and wills of several important women, including Countess Capoana, widow of Ugolino of Pisa, whom Dante depicted gnawing on the head of an archbishop in hell.
Instead of one book, I ended up with two. The first, The Life and Works of Tolomeo Fiadoni (Ptolemy of Lucca), is the biography and discussion of Tolomeo’s works—complicated by questions of dating, authenticity, and interpolation. The second, The Worldview and Thought of Tolomeo Fiadoni (Ptolemy of Lucca), analyzes his thought. I got great images for the covers, from a thirteenth-century manuscript reflecting Tolomeo’s republican and papal views, and an inside photo of his only known autograph.
I’m very pleased with the result, but don’t want to be remembered only as the one who devoted his life to Tolomeo. So I’m beginning a very different project, about apocalyptic movements.
During the Fall 2009 Commencement services, four of our graduate students received their Ph.D. diplomas. We asked two of them — John Bass and Kim Nichols — what they considered their greatest challenge in completing their dissertation.
John’s dissertation, entitled “Bolsheviks on the Bluff — A History of the Memphis Communists and their Labor and Civil Rights Contributions,1930-1957,” was written under the direction of Dr. Charles Crawford. Kim’s dissertation, entitled “The Civil Rights Underground: The Movement for Compliance with the Civil Rights Act of 1964,” was written under the direction of Dr. Janann Sherman.
One of the questions that I am asked most often is how I chose my topic. Most of my early graduate study had concentrated on Russia and the Soviet Union, but I wanted to round out my understanding of history by working on other areas of the world. As an undergraduate at Union University, I had taken an interest in the history of the United States in the 20th century. One of the first classes that I enrolled in at the University of Memphis was Dr. Crawford's research seminar. Trying to come up with a topic that could make the transition from my area of familiarity to Memphis history, I decided to examine what role, if any, the Communist Party USA may have played in the Memphis area. To be honest, I did not expect to find very much, but Dr. Crawford encouraged me to leave no stone unturned. I soon found enough material to write an acceptable paper. With the support of Dr. Crawford, this paper developed into my PhD dissertation.
For my dissertation, I made use of a variety of sources, traveling to what was then the Reference Center for Marxist Studies. This center was the library of the Communist Party USA. (In 2006, the Reference Center closed and, in 2008, its papers were donated, along with the post World War II files of the CP-USA, to New York University's Bobst Library). I also visited archives at the University of Texas at Arlington, Duke University, Atlanta University, Emory University, and the University of Georgia (where I found a great deal of information on the Communist-organized Memphis union for agricultural processing workers "Local 19"). I also went to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the location of not only oral histories of various African-American Communists, but also the archival collections of Junius Scales, a regional organizer of the Communist Party, the Communist-allied National Negro Congress, and the Civil Rights Congress.
Dr. Michael Honey was a big help, providing advice and loaning me some of the interviews of deceased Memphis Communists that he used in his book Southern Labor and Black Civil Rights. I also made use of the William Amberson, Southern Tenant Farmers Union, and Earl Browder collections from our own library, as well as the E. H. Crump papers and the Socialist Party Scrapbook from the Memphis Public Library. The most memorable and most helpful sources were two interviews with one of the last surviving former Memphis Communists, Lawrence McGurty, arranged with the assistance of Southern CPUSA Director, Scott Marshall.
Obtaining the material took a great deal of time. Once I got all the material organized and started writing, the fact that I had grown very interested in a little-known subject kept me well-motivated. Once I had typed up the first draft, the rest of my work involved editing and reorganization. In fact, my problem was that I wrote too much. I kept wanting to write more, but my committee and other faculty I worked with did an excellent job of keeping me focused on the task at hand. The interesting part is that the dissertation is only the beginning. By the time the post-World War II CPUSA files became available, I was almost finished and did not have the time to go to New York and research them. In addition, there are archives in Moscow that may be worth investigating. I'm hoping to research all of these in the near future.
The most significant challenge I faced in completing my dissertation was being employed full-time outside the realm of academia. It was as if I was leading two separate lives. My primary existence was parading as a corporate citizen, working 8:00 to 5:00 (or longer) and yielding to the demands of others like a worker bee. My secondary existence was as a scholar. There was a constant struggle between these two identities, and I would often surrender one to the detriment of the other. If I focused on my job, my dissertation suffered. And if I focused on my dissertation, my job suffered. W.E.B. Du Bois’ ideas about the “twoness” that one feels has merit. I can attest to that.
Under these circumstances, progress on my research and then writing was made intermittently over years, not months. Thankfully, the constant support of Dr. Janann Sherman, my dissertation advisor, helped me keep sight on the importance of finishing my work after coming so far. Dr. Sherman was instrumental in keeping me excited about my topic. She was optimistic about my research, and she focused on my writing.
I would like to offer these words of advice for those embarking on their own venture on writing a dissertation: First, it’s not a masterpiece, it’s a dissertation. Do not seek perfection when you begin your writing stage, just write something. Words on paper are better than no words at all. It will be a start and from there you can make it better. Second, keep in touch with your dissertation advisor. Let your advisor be a constant source of support and guidance as you journey through research and writing. And lastly, utilize Dr. Sherman’s dissertation group. Having a network of peers that understand your challenges and who can field questions and concerns can be a tremendous help. Remember, you do not have to go through this alone.
Cheers to ALL!
Dr. Basil D. Georgiadis obtained a master’s degree in history from what was then Memphis State University in 1980. He enjoyed a twenty-year career as an officer in the United States Air Force, alternately working in aircraft logistics and teaching in the Department of History at the U.S. Air Force Academy (USAFA) in Colorado Springs. Sponsored by the Air Force, Georgiadis completed his doctorate in Eastern European history at Florida State in 2004, then returned to Colorado Springs, where he taught Russian and world history before retiring. After moving to Richmond, Virginia, in 2007 with his two children, he taught history and Spanish language at a prep school for two years, and then moved on to work in military logistics again, procuring, assembling, and shipping field medical kits for the Marine Corps Systems Command.
Dr. Georgiadis recently traded e-mails with our department’s own Scott Marler.
|Dr. Basil L. Georgiadis|
Dr Marler: How did you end up studying history at the University of Memphis? Were you originally from the Memphis area?
Dr Georgiadis: My parents, a Greek immigrant father and a Long Island school teacher mother, moved from Champaign-Urbana, Illinois, where they both attended graduate school, to Memphis. They lived directly above a doctoral candidate who had been hired to teach history at Memphis State. That young man, a paralyzed US Army veteran of World War Two, was Dr. Marcus Orr, who had a distinguished career teaching history at U of M.
Dr Marler: You obtained your master’s degree in history from the U of M in 1980. What were your major and minor fields?
Dr Georgiadis: I concentrated on modern Europe and Latin America, with Dr. Orr as my primary advisor.
Dr Marler: Can you share any memories about Dr. Orr?
Dr Georgiadis: Dr. Orr was very tough on us, expecting us to read and digest two or sometimes three major works a week. There were a few of us—Jimmie Farr, currently a professor at Purdue, Mike Brumas, now Communications Director for Sen Murkowski, and myself—who griped about our heavy workload under the taskmaster. He would verbally pummel you in his office if you weren’t ready for an intense Socratic dialogue during your seminar hour. One time, after returning from a relaxing trip to Mexico, Dr. Orr queried me about what I’d been working on down there, to which I replied, “My tan.” I think I dodged a tome or two, and lived to tell about it, much to amusement of my colleagues. Those who studied with Dr. Orr remember him as someone who was always asking questions, saw life holistically, and was a master teacher who helped you challenge yourself. He excelled in the classroom environment and was equally comfortable discussing the Middle Ages, Imperial Chinese art, or ancient Greek literature. His passion for learning affected everyone around him.
Dr Marler: What about other historians who now comprise the senior scholars in our department, such as Walter “Bob” Brown or Kell Mitchell?
Dr Georgiadis: Dr. Mitchell was my boss when I worked as a graduate student “Service Assistant,” which was the job title for Master’s candidates who worked in the Department. He had a way of reducing a complex issue to something more comprehensible. Dr. Brown understood the complexity of eighteenth-century France and the Enlightenment, and he guided us towards a deeper understanding of the period by discussing the personalities, lives, and ideas of the philosophes. He made history come alive and led you into the world of ideas.
Dr Marler: What proficiency in foreign languages did you have upon graduation from the U of M? When and where did you obtain those skills?
Dr Georgiadis: I was proficient in Spanish and Italian, which I studied in college, and I knew survival Greek from home. Later, the Air Force encouraged me to study Romanian, another Romance language. I did and became a qualified Foreign Area Officer. Languages have always helped me to understand other parts of the world and open up horizons. It’s a hobby for me. Undergraduate students have great opportunities today to learn Spanish, Arabic, and Chinese for careers in business and government work.
Dr Marler: You then spent twenty years as an U.S. Air Force officer. During some of that time, you taught history at the U.S. Air Force Academy (USAFA) in Colorado Springs. What particular subjects did you teach?
Dr Georgiadis: I enjoyed two tours at USAFA. During the first, I taught colonial and modern Latin America, along with world history, a discipline that the three service academies pioneered in the 1980s to prepare their lieutenants and ensigns for worldwide deployment. As officers we also function as ambassadors, and the Academies do their best to provide a historical foundation for the cadets. Later, after returning from the doctoral program at Florida State, I also taught modern Europe, Russia, and the Soviet Union. Once, while helping to host a conference at USAFA, I met a retired officer named Colonel Russell Mank, who had also studied under Marcus Orr as a history major at Memphis State. He now works as an officer for the Paralyzed Veterans of America.
Dr Marler: The Air Force ultimately sent you to Florida State University to obtain a Ph.D. in history. How did that come about?
Dr Georgiadis: Instructors at the AF Academy thought I was a good teacher who connected well with the cadets, but the real clincher was the voluntary dinners that I organized for the faculty at places I liked in Colorado Springs. The Department Head, Brigadier General Reddel, must have seen some value in that, because he offered me a three-year tour (with major’s salary) to attend Florida State for a doctorate in history. Of course I grabbed it!
Dr Marler: What did you study at Florida State, and with whom?
Dr Georgiadis: I went there to study Russian and Eastern European history with Jonathan Grant and William Oldson, respectively. Dr. Oldson later got involved with a massive World War Two collection that Tom Brokaw donated, so I had to be flexible.
Dr Marler: Did the military mandate that you study Eastern European history?
Dr Georgiadis: The USAFA History Department needed a Russianist, so I volunteered. I may have been a product of the Cold War, but Russia and Central Asia were still valid areas of inquiry.
Dr Marler: Tell us a little about the subject of your dissertation.
Dr Georgiadis: I didn’t speak Russian but had picked up Romanian, so I decided to research the Romanian media from the communist period to the post-communist transition. I had the language skills, and besides, what could be more readily available than information about the media in print newspaper, radio, and television?
Dr Marler: How did the end of the Cold War affect your studies?
Dr Georgiadis: I did my research from 2001-2004. Romania, a former Eastern Bloc nation, was just about to enter NATO, so most of my younger Romanian contacts were friendly, though some of the older people were suspicious. I got a letter of introduction from the US Embassy, which opened more doors than any cartons of cigarettes or bottles of whiskey ever could. Still, there were some awkward moments. Once, an elderly archive worker in Bucharest locked me in a room so I wouldn’t steal newspapers that described the “genius of the people,” Nicolae Ceausescu.
Dr Marler: How long did your doctoral studies take to complete?
Dr Georgiadis: The Air Force only gave us three years to finish coursework, comps, and the dissertation. No ABDs allowed! I wrote the thesis in under a year and finished in 2004, right on schedule to return to the Academy. My major advisor, Dr. Grant, gave me some good advice. First, to save time, he told me to write term papers for courses as if they were chapters of the dissertation. Second, he advised me to use my summers to research in the Romanian archives and then write three pages a day, after the comprehensive oral and written exams.
Dr Marler: Any suggestions for graduate students writing theses today?
Dr Georgiadis: If you’re going to get a doctorate on a subject that is not based in the English-speaking world, you need a working knowledge of the subject language, especially reading. The bottom line: memorize a Barron’s verb book (you’ll need to be able to conjugate in present, past, and future), and go for it! If it’s a strategic language like Chinese, Farsi, Arabic, or Mandarin, employers will come to you. Also, present academic papers at professional conferences, and schmooze—don’t be bashful. You need to start networking now.
Dr Marler: And what advice do you have for young college-level instructors?
Dr Georgiadis: “Own” your texts and do lots of related reading. As you research, think about how you will present this material to eighteen- to twenty-somethings who may (or may not) have a basic knowledge of the discipline, and hopefully, some interest in it. For example, some good teaching aids include film, as well as art, to illustrate concepts and promote lively discussions. Set high goals, be very clear about your expectations, and be fair. Students want to be challenged, and they will respect you for it.
Dr Marler: Seems like quite the full life, well-spent, and with education a recurring motif throughout. Do you think the process of learning ever really stops?
Dr Georgiadis: Learning is a life-long endeavor. Right now I’m learning life-cycle logistics. It’s challenging, enables me to support the troops, and it pays the bills. My own dad was taking business seminars at Harvard well into his sixties for his last company, Del Monte Foods.
Dr Marler: Well, thanks for your time, and for your lifetime of service to the nation. Any final thoughts for us?
Dr Georgiadis: Thank you for this opportunity and Go Tigers!
|Dr. Bill Mulligan|
Another successful year has passed for the Epsilon Nu Chapter of Phi Alpha Theta. As is customary, Phi Alpha Theta hosted a monthly luncheon series. This year’s theme, Media and History, brought a plethora of fascinating and invigorating lectures. From Dr. Andrei Znamenski’s informative, unique lecture on the Red Shambhala to Dr. Sarah Potter’s interesting and captivating discussion on the 1950s TV Family to Dr. Jonathan Judaken’s thought provoking talk on Jews and the Media , there was something for all those who attended. In addition to faculty lectures, our annual lecture series ends with a graduate student presenting his or her research. Jared Krebsbach, doctoral student in Egyptology, gave a well-received talk entitled “The Persians and Atum Worship in Egypt’s Twenty-Seventh Dynasty.” An informational workshop for undergraduates interested in graduate school followed Jared’s talk, led by Amy Piccarreto, Phi Alpha Theta President, and Dr. Sarah Potter, next year’s faculty advisor of Phi Alpha Theta.
Phi Alpha Theta also held an initiation ceremony for new members on March 27th at the Alumni Center. The new members inducted into Phi Alpha Theta included Michael Blum, Steve Buckingham, Emily Callahan, Casey Caputa, Amber Colvin, Genevieve Donovan, Kaylin Ewing, Matthew Garth, Brian King, Daniel Lee, Cory Morton, Samantha Myles, Alexis Partee, Rebekah C. Propst, and Robert Emmett Turner IV.
|Dr. Janann Sherman and Katarzyna Scherr|
The featured speaker at the initiation ceremony was Dr. Bill Mulligan, Professor of History and History Graduate Program Coordinator at Murray State University. Dr. Mulligan, a scholar in early America, Irish history, and the Irish Diaspora, delivered a short, pithy, and comical lecture entitled “Reshaping the Past: Generations of Historians Encounter the Past.” Mulligan brought out his life experiences as a young child and also connected his lecture to his research that he embraces ever so methodically. Dr. Mulligan is well published. Some of his publications include Badger Boy in Blue: The Civil War Letters of Chauncey H. Cooke; The Shoemakers of Lynn, Massachusetts, 1850-1880: Family During The Transition From Hand to Machine Labor; and “Shades of Green and Orange: The Varied Meanings of ‘Irishness’ in the Diaspora,” found in Affecting Irishness: Mutability, Nationality, and Writing the Green.
|Dr. Peter Cash|
Also at the banquet, Dr Janann Sherman, professor and chair of the department, presided over the awarding of various honors. These included the Tennessee Historical Commission Prize for the undergraduate history major with the highest grade-point average, which was given to Paige Barr, who has a GPA of 3.9; the Major L. Wilson Undergraduate Paper Prize, awarded to Patrick Halloran; and the Major L. Wilson Graduate Paper Prize, won by Mark Janzen. Katarzyna Scherr won the Outstanding Graduate Assistant Teaching Award, and Dr Peter Cash won the Outstanding Adjunct Teaching Award.
On behalf of all Phi Alpha Theta officers, I would like to thank Dr. Suzanne Onstine for her commitment, enthusiasm, and her willingness to be our faculty advisor over the years. She will be stepping down as our faculty advisor. We appreciated her help and assistance in making our roles as officers easier. In addition, we would also like to thank all faculty and graduate students for their continued support of our organization. Without you, we would not be able to function as an organization. Have a safe and prosperous summer. See you in the fall!
The Department of History’s Endowment Committee, chaired by Dr. Dennis Laumann, awarded funding to 15 graduate students during the 2009-2010 to support their conference participation and research activities.
Award recipients delivered papers at academic conferences across the United States, as well as in Belgium and the Netherlands in Europe. Others received funding to conduct research abroad in Bulgaria, Egypt, England, Ireland, Scotland, and Turkey. Awards were given to graduate students carrying out research at libraries and archives in New York and Washington D.C., and to another collecting oral history in Mississippi. The Endowment Committee awarded funding to students from various history fields within our department, including the United States, Ancient Egypt, and Modern Europe. Funding is awarded on a competitive basis and recipients are required to submit follow-up reports to the committee.
We asked some of this year’s award recipients to tell us about their research projects funded by the Endowment Committee.
I received research funding from the Endowment Committee in Fall 2009 to carry out primary and archival research on New Kingdom agricultural tomb scenes within the Theban Necropolis in Luxor, Egypt, over winter break.
|Figures in Theban tomb|
Though many Theban Tombs have been published, not all publications include an epigraphic record, and since epigraphic volumes are expensive to produce, even epigraphic publications often provide a selective tomb record. Due to the nature of these secondary sources, it was important for me to visit the tombs in person in order to fully comprehend their artistic program. Since a significant number of Theban tombs remain unpublished and a majority of them are closed to the public, I also spent a lot of time in the Chicago House Library looking at photographs taken by the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago Epigraphic Survey.
I was able to get “inside” twenty-one unpublished Theban tombs with agricultural scenes through the use of Chicago Epigraphic Survey photographs, and I accessed additional tombs by way of the Siegfried Schott archival photograph collection and a duplicate collection of Metropolitan Museum of Art photographs taken by the Egyptian Expedition. The Chicago House Library in Luxor houses one of the most comprehensive archival and secondary resource collections to be found anywhere, the majority of which may be handled with special precautions. I had direct access to material that I could never hope to receive by way of Interlibrary Loan. The funding I received from the Endowment Committee provided me the opportunity to carry out research on location, resulting in better focused questions and new directions to explore. I am most grateful.
This summer I will travel to New York City and Washington D.C. to examine primary sources and conduct interviews of key figures related to my dissertation topic: “Coming to the Stage: Dick Gregory, Bill Cosby, and the New Cultural Politics of African American Stand-Up Comedy.”
My study juxtaposes the two leading African American comedians at the height of the Civil Rights Movement and reconstructs their opposing strategies in attacking segregation and Jim Crow. Gregory’s “comedy of protest” represented the masses of African Americans demanding immediate political action and shocked white audiences with its undercurrent of social criticism. Cosby’s “comedy of respectability” represented African Americans in search of equality based on the principle of universal humanity, easing white audiences with its family-friendly storytelling completely void of racial material.
Both men achieved amazing crossover success, and ushered in the first wave of African American stand-up comedians, who delivered calculated attacks against white supremacy before white and integrated audiences. I am expecting my journey into the archives at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, Library of Congress, and National Museum of American History, among other locations, to prove fruitful in situating my subjects among more recognized figures – Muhammad Ali, James Baldwin, Jackie Robinson – in the struggle for African American freedom on the cultural front.
Funding support from the Endowment Committee will help make possible this research trip at a critically important time to the advancement of my project. The committee’s competitive awards are quite motivational because they demonstrate departmental support for substantive research despite these times of shrinking budgets. Without this internal funding source, I may have had to return to performing stand-up comedy to help offset the cost of my research travel!
The dispute over royal legitimacy and the subsequent forced abdication of James II led to a series of conflicts, the Jacobite Rebellions, from the period 1689-1745, as tradition and legacy battled modernity in the English monarchy. Although James II and his descendents’ fight to regain the Stuart throne ultimately ended in tragic – if romanticized – defeat, the popular support expressed within the Jacobite rebellions possessed a potency that was both politically and culturally significant. The commitment of Jacobite supporters to the Stuart cause in Scotland still superseded religious affiliations.
In my dissertation, I intend to express how and why this phenomenon occurred in Scotland, especially in the Highlands. I plan to explore the way in which the question of royal legitimacy was used by the Scots to justify their substantial support of the essentially Catholic Jacobite cause and how such sentiments fueled their ability to gain popular support. Both the rebellion’s senior leaders and the common men who took up the Stuart cause did not share their monarch’s religious beliefs. However, to the Jacobite supporters, loyalty towards the Stuarts far outweighed apathy towards Catholicism or reservations about the Stuarts’ monarchical legitimacy. My research will thus focus on the formation of such support for the Stuarts in the wake of the Glorious Revolution and especially in the context of the Hanoverian ascension.
Secondly, I want to see if there is a connection between religious affiliations and gender roles. Thus, I plan on examining the attitudes and actions of women in the creation of support for the Stuarts and to assess the importance of the role that women had in popularizing Jacobite sympathies.Notable women in the history of the Jacobite Rebellions have been well documented, but there has not yet been an attempt by an historian to assess the importance of women collectively within the Jacobite movement. I believe that the role of women in the formulation of nostalgic sentiments for the displaced Stuarts had an indelible effect on how support manifested throughout the region. One of my primary goals is to locate and thus measure the effects of gender roles in Scottish support for the Stuart cause. The funding I received from the Endowment Committee will be instrumental in my upcoming research efforts. As such, I will be able to spend this summer in various archives and libraries located throughout Scotland and will return to Memphis in the fall ready to begin the writing phase of my dissertation. I am enormously grateful to the Endowment Committee and the History Department for their support and I am extremely eager to continue my research into this fascinating period of British history.
I was awarded a scholarship from the Endowment Committee that allowed me to carry out crucial dissertation research at the Library of Congress in March 2010. While in D.C., I had the opportunity to further develop my primary source materials on Tuskegee Institute’s first president Booker T. Washington’s third wife, Margaret Murray Washington. The trip included archival research into the reels and papers of key individuals in my work. I researched in the papers of Margaret Murray Washington and Mary Church Terrell, and I examined microfilm reels of records from the National Association of Colored Women. This research endeavor helped to significantly build a base of primary sources to shape my dissertation.
|Margaret Murray Washington|
Along with collecting an abundance of primary source materials on Margaret Murray Washington and her close associates, I was fortunate enough to find scores of secondary material that were not previously accessible. My research focuses on the life works of Margaret Murray Washington and shows how her early beginnings played a significant role in her future ideas on self-help and community betterment. I examine Washington’s pioneering work with the Tuskegee Women’s Club and her involvement with a number of black women’s clubs, including the National Federation of Afro-American Women’s Clubs, the National Association of Colored Women, and the International Council of Women of the Darker Races.
Through my scholarship I was able to conduct research at the largest library in the world, which greatly benefited my understanding of Washington, while also providing me with helpful leads into future dissertation chapters. Ultimately, this trip helped me to better understand the domestic and international aspects of Margaret Washington’s activism and club work. This research in Washington D.C. considerably helped me with my dissertation, while also enhancing my professional development and career as a historian of African and African American history. The funds that the Endowment Committee awarded helped to make my travels to the Library of Congress in Washington D.C. possible and affordable on a graduate budget.
The release of Volume One of Tennessee Women: Their Lives and Times and Times in February 2009 was an event that was almost six years in the making. The book is a collection of eighteen biographical essays by leading scholars of American History; many have current or past connections to the University of Memphis. Tennessee Women is part of an emerging series, from the University of Georgia Press, on southern women. Our volume was the second in the series, after Mississippi Women: Their Histories and Lives (2003) and has been followed over the past fifteen months by books on Louisiana, Georgia, and South Carolina, as well as second volumes from Mississippi and South Carolina. Scholars in Arkansas, Texas and (possibly) Kentucky are working on books for the series.
When my co-editor for this volume, Sarah Wilkerson Freeman from Arkansas State University, and I began working on this book, we had no idea which women we would include, or who the authors of the essays would be. We contacted scholars that we knew were working on biographies of women who had significant connections to the three centuries of Tennessee History. Our general goal was to place women at the center of the historical stage as actors through whose lives we could see the social, political and economic development of the state, the region and, in some cases, the nation. As we note in our introduction: “These women left intriguing footprints in Tennessee’s history.” Focusing on their life stories “encourages a greater appreciation of women’s history as Tennessee’s history.”
It is not an easy task to create a volume that encompasses three hundred years of life in a state as geographically, racially, and ethnically diverse as Tennessee, but Sarah and I think that we accomplished this goal. Our first essay, by Cynthia Cumfer, focuses on the changing roles of Native American women - as seen in the life of Nan-ye-hi (Nancy Ward), the Beloved Woman of the Cherokee people - as European colonists migrated into western Carolina/eastern Tennessee. Subsequent essays follow a chronological arrangement, ending with Melissa Checker’s essay on Doris Bradshaw, an African American woman who led a local struggle to force the federal government to deal with the impact of decades of environmental pollution at the Memphis Defense Depot. The Tennessee women that readers meet in the three centuries of history between Nan-ye-hi and Bradshaw include Milly Swan Price, an antebellum free black woman carving out a life in a slave society; Mary Church Terrell, daughter of a wealthy black businessman who became an international figure in woman suffrage, education, and civil rights; blues woman Alberta Hunter; country music personality Minnie Pearl (Sarah Colley Cannon); acclaimed writer and historian Wilma Dykeman; Olympic runner Wilma Rudolph; aviator Phoebe Omlie; labor activist Lucille Thornburgh; and suffragist Sue Shelton White. Their lives highlight women’s roles in major social, political, and economic trends across the state.
Since Tennessee Women was released in February 2009, Sarah and I (together or individually) have done presentations in a variety of venues. I delivered two lectures in the Perre Magness Lecture Series at Hutchinson School to audiences that ranged from 3rd graders to school administrators, and a lecture in the Samuel Shannon Distinguished Lecture Series at Tennessee State University. We’ve also had book signings and discussions at Davis-Kidd Bookstore, the Benjamin L. Hooks Public Library, the Germantown, Jackson/Madison County, and Brownsville/Haywood County Libraries, the Tennessee Conference of Historians, and the Southern Festival of Books.
In March, the Center for Research on Women at the University of Memphis featured Tennessee Women, Their Lives and Times in two presentations for Women’s History Month. The first was a “Readings in the Rotunda” at McWherter Library from the writings of four of our subjects – Frances Wright, Phoebe Omlie, Wilma Dykeman, and Mary Church Terrell – and songs popularized by blues singer Alberta Hunter. The readings were done by faculty and students from the College of Communications and Fine Arts, and singer Joyce Cobb performed the Alberta Hunter songs. The second presentation was an opportunity to meet the authors of four of the essays: Janann Sherman on Phoebe Omlie, Sarah Freeman on Charl Ormond Williams, Aram Goudsouzian on Wilma Rudolph, and Gail Murray on Jocelyn Wurzburg. Ms. Wurzburg also participated in this session, and Ms. Bradshaw attended the “Readings in the Rotunda.”
Late in 2008, as we neared completion of this collection of essays, our editor at University of Georgia Press asked us whether the title should include “Volume I.” This was an unexpected question for two almost-burned-out first-time editors. We knew that the Mississippi editors were working on a second volume, and we had heard that the South Carolina editors were going for three volumes. We had also heard that some scholars in Texas were considering joining the series – and we all know that they could easily fill five or six volumes. But were we up to doing a second volume and, more importantly, could we find authors who were willing to sign on to the project? Yes, we decided. Essays for Tennessee Women: Their Lives and Times, Volume II will be coming in later this month, and we have a preliminary agreement to deliver the volume to University of Georgia Press in January 2011. This second volume will be more thematic than biographical, but it will present the same challenges of covering the three grand divisions and the broad sweep of three hundred years of Tennessee history. But Sarah and I, like the editors and contributors to all of these state volumes, believe that placing women onstage in the dramas, comedies, and tragedies of southern history will enrich understanding of complex issues of race, class, gender, economics and politics, and they will deepen our appreciation of the importance of place in southern life.
|Minnie Pearl (Sarah Colley Cannon) and Mary Church Terrell|
The University of Memphis, a Tennessee Board of Regents institution, is an Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action University. It is committed to education of a non-racially identifiable student body.