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2023 Porter L. Fortune Symposium: “The Passage of the Armies”

Posted on: September 20th, 2023 by

Porter L. Fortune, Jr. Symposium

The Porter L. Fortune, Jr., History Symposium began as a conference on southern history in 1975. In 1983, it was named for Porter L. Fortune, Jr., chancellor emeritus, to honor his contributions to the success of the symposium. Past events have examined topics such as religion in the South, medicine and technology in the Civil War, women’s history, and the place of the United States South in the World.

The conference is held annually. It is a three day event that is free of charge and open to the general public.

The passage of the armies: soldiers, civilians, and the enslaved in the civil war and reconstruction

“The Passage of the Armies: Soldiers, Civilians, and the Enved in the Civil War and Reconstruction

45th Porter Fortune Symposium
Department of History
University of Mississippi
October 12-14, 2023

For schedule please click here.



Kidada Williams Gives Annual Gilder-Jordan Lecture

Posted on: September 20th, 2023 by

Historian Focuses on Lives of Black Americans During Reconstruction

Kidada Williams gives annual Gilder-Jordan Lecture

Kidada E. Williams


Many Americans learn in school that Reconstruction failed, but few can accurately identify who failed to do what and why. In the annual Gilder-Jordan Lecture in Southern Cultural History, historian and author Kidada E. Williams answers those questions in “The Devil Was Turned Loose: African Americans in the War Against Reconstruction.”

In the Sept. 19 lecture at the University of Mississippi, Williams plans to discuss what Black Southerners did with their freedom, the price white Southerners made them pay for their success and the ways Reconstruction was violently overthrown.

The 6 p.m. presentation in Nutt Auditorium is free and open to the public.

For the full article, click here.

National Parks Services Names Dr Beth Kruse to Humanities Fellowship

Posted on: June 23rd, 2023 by

National Parks Services Names UM Instructor to Humanities Fellowship

Research to focus on African American Experience in Vicksburg after Civil War

Beth Kruse, instructor of history, recently earned a National Park Service Mellon Humanities Postdoctoral Fellowship to study the African American experience in Vicksburg from the Civil War through the reconstruction period. Submitted photo.

Beth Kruse, instructor of history, recently earned a National Park Service Mellon Humanities Postdoctoral Fellowship to study the African American experience in Vicksburg from the Civil War through the reconstruction period. Submitted photo.


For the next two years, University of Mississippi history instructor Beth Kruse will live and work in Vicksburg, delving into the untold story of Black Americans in the tumultuous Civil War South. 

The National Park Service Mellon Humanities Postdoctoral Fellowship has named 15 postdoctoral fellows – Kruse among them – to help tell a more inclusive and complete story of American history, particularly focusing on people who have, in the past, not been included in history’s narrative. 

As a fellow, Kruse will be piecing together the history and experiences of African Americans living in and around Vicksburg between the Civil War and Reconstruction. 

“This is an enormous accomplishment for Beth,” said Kathryn McKee, director of Center for the Study of Southern Culture. “Beth has gotten a post doc that potentially points her toward a career in public history. This is a testimony to her persistence and her hard work and the quality of her work.” 

For her fellowship, Kruse will examine widow and orphan pension letters and other documents from African American soldiers buried in the Vicksburg National Cemetery who died in the war. She will also gather stories from families who are descendants of Civil War soldiers and the local Freedmen communities. 

“It’s a matter of looking at records with current historical understandings searching for African American history that was previously overlooked and talking to people about their ancestors’ stories,” Kruse said. “We can actually form a picture of Mississippi and Louisiana’s Civil War and Reconstruction era African American’s daily lives based on their documented experiences.”

The sources have already revealed the strength of community and family in forming Vicksburg Freedmen towns as well as the bonds formed between men who joined the U.S. Colored Troops and their families, Kruse said.

By tracing these documents, Kruse hopes to find missing links in the genealogy of some African Americans living in the region. During the fellowship, Kruse will be part of the Vicksburg National Park plan to host a genealogy class helping community members trace their family’s back to the antebellum era.

“We are strengthening partnerships with the Vicksburg African American community because many of them are descendants of the U.S. Colored Troops or Freedmen,” Kruse said.  “It is their stories that we want to insert back into the local Civil War and Reconstruction era history.”

Telling the lesser-known stories about African American soldiers who fought and died in the war will also help close a gap in history, Kruse said. 

“I really want to give the life stories of those, especially the men who are buried in that cemetery,” Kruse said. “Those who have been written out of history, they’re still fighting for the rights that were guaranteed for them after the Civil War that were denied through Reconstruction era violence and Jim Crow era laws.

“There’s still systemic racism and exclusion in America. We have to get their story out to make the U.S. a better place.”

Read the full story here.

Dr Ted Ownby Retires After 35 Years

Posted on: June 6th, 2023 by

Making History: Ted Ownby to Retire After 35 Years

OXFORD, Miss. – After 35 years as a member of the University of Mississippi faculty, including 11 years as director of the Center for the Study of Southern Culture, history and Southern studies professor Ted Ownby is preparing to retire at the end of June.

During his time as a scholar, researcher and director at the center, it expanded its graduate programs to include a Master of Fine Arts in Documentary Expression, updated its landmark Encyclopedia of Southern Culture and released The Mississippi Encyclopedia. He stepped down as director in 2019, having served in that role for 11 years.

When he arrived on the Ole Miss campus in 1988, Ownby knew little about the center. By coincidence, he arrived at the same time as the first large graduate class of master’s students.

“My own specialty to that point, which was primarily my dissertation, relied on history and also some reading in anthropology,” said Ownby, who earned his bachelor’s degree from Vanderbilt and a doctorate from Johns Hopkins University. “Coming to an interdisciplinary program was exciting, but not something I felt prepared to do.

“I’ve gotten to learn from my colleagues and from other students, and learn from the freedom that the program gives. In coming in and immediately team teaching with colleagues who study literature and folk life and sociology and anthropology, it meant I was learning outside my field from the very beginning of being here.”

Ted Ownby (right) attends an event at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C., honoring the publication of the Mississippi Encyclopedia. Submitted photo

Some of those learning experiences took place with faculty such as Nancy Bercaw, Bob Brinkmeyer, Bill Ferris and Charles Reagan Wilson – the latter two also former directors of the Southern studies center – where they all encouraged one other to think about the possibilities of interdisciplinary work.

“Students have so much freedom in an interdisciplinary program that our job as faculty is to push them to do excellent work with whatever choices they make,” Ownby said.

More recently, he taught with Katie McKee, a professor of English and the center’s current director, who said everyone at the center will miss Ownby’s presence.

“We can take solace in knowing that he will continue doing what he loves: researching and writing about the complexities of ‘the South,’ however anyone defines it,” McKee said. “Ted leaves a legacy of serious, scholarly engagement, not only with abstract ideas about region, but also with people and the stories they tell themselves and others about who they are.

“Students love Ted for his steady support of their ambitions; faculty and staff love him for his steady presence in even the most aggravating of situations; and we all love him for his steadfast commitment to the center.”

During his time at the university, Ownby has taught many graduate and undergraduate courses, including Southern religious history, Southern cultural history, American intellectual history, Mississippi history, U.S. history survey, and seminars on methods, identity, autobiography, violence and peace, and the contemporary South.

He has directed more than 50 master’s theses and more than 30 doctoral dissertations, and also served as a member of 100 other graduate committees in Southern studies and history.

“What I love is seeing all of those alumni doing creative things in academia and far beyond academia,” Ownby said. “It’s not like the faculty and administrators got together and said, let’s create an environment in which we will stimulate creativity, but it just happened, and it is impressive to see.”

Ted Ownby gives introductions at the 10th annual Gilder-Jordan Lecture in Southern Cultural History in 2019 at the Center for the Study of Southern Culture. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

Chuck Ross, a history department colleague of Ownby since 1995, has served on more graduate committees with him than any other faculty member.

“Ted has been an invaluable faculty member when it comes to mentoring students,” Ross said. “Outside of the classroom, I’ve had the opportunity to play hundreds of rounds of golf with Ted, and his distinctive sense of humor and ability to stay calm during difficult holes makes him unique in our group of golfers.”

Ownby has authored three books: “Subduing Satan” (1990), “American Dreams in Mississippi” (2002) and “Hurtin’ Words: Ideas of Family Crisis and the Twentieth-Century South” (2018), all by University of North Carolina Press. He also is editor or co-editor of eight other books, including The Mississippi Encyclopedia (University Press of Mississippi, 2017).

One of Ownby’s recent accolades was being named the William F. Winter Professor of History in 2018. He said being connected with Winter is an honor it itself, as well as because the two previous individuals in that role were Charles Eagles and Winthrop Jordan.

“William Winter was so impressive in his work as a governor and so welcoming and kind as an individual,” Ownby said. “What having an endowed chair allowed is research trips. Beyond the name, it allows me to do research without having to ration or limit or rush my work.”

Ownby is working on a new book that asks big questions through individual narratives of obscure Mississippians who did fascinating things.

“I look forward to concentrating on the research and writing without all the other things like grading and deadlines and emails that I may or may not find interesting,” he said. “Like lots of people who retire, I’m looking forward to the freedom to control my own time.”

The annual Summer Sunset Series will feature a Southern Studies Showcase in Ownby’s honor, organized by Southern studies alumnus Jamison Hollister. Alumni Tyler Keith, Kell Kellum and Thomas Bryan Ledford will perform eclectic music on the Grove stage at 6 p.m. on Sunday, June 11.


Click here to read full story.

Marchiel Named Cora Lee Graham Award for Outstanding Teaching of First Year Students

Posted on: May 26th, 2023 by

College of Liberal Arts Celebrates Outstanding Accomplishments


Students, teachers, staff, and alumni were honored by the University of Mississippi College of Liberal Arts at a campus celebration on April 27.

“The inaugural College of Liberal Arts Awards Ceremony celebrates some of the outstanding individuals who make our university a special place,” said Lee M. Cohen, dean of liberal arts. “This has been a vision of mine for some time, recognizing recipients of the College level teaching and research awards for faculty, newly created staff awards, student Ventress Medals and the first College of Liberal James Meredith Changemaker Award, and notable alumni awards.”


  • Rebecca Katherine Marchiel, associate professor of history
    Cora Lee Graham Award for Outstanding Teaching of First Year Students (tenure track)






To read full story, click here.

Jeffrey R. Watt Named Distinguished Professor

Posted on: May 26th, 2023 by

Jeffrey R. Watt, the Kelly Gene Cook Sr. Professor of History was named as a Distinguished Professor on Friday (May 12) during the 2023 spring faculty meeting in Fulton Chapel

MAY 12, 2023 BY


Chancellor Glenn Boyce (left) and Provost Noel Wilkin (right) congratulate Jeffrey R. Watt, the Kelly Gene Cook Sr. Professor of History, for being named a Distinguished Professor. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

Watt came to UM in 1988 after receiving his doctorate from the University of Wisconsin at Madison. Promoted to professor in 2005, he has held the Cook title since 2015.

He said the Distinguished Professor recognition is the greatest he has received during his 35 years at the university.

“Both personally and professionally, I find it quite gratifying to receive this recognition, though it is also a bit humbling since I know that there have been so many outstanding professors at this university – rightly esteemed for both their teaching and their scholarship – who definitely deserved this distinction but never received it,” he said.

Having authored four books and edited a dozen more, Watt is recognized as one of the preeminent scholars of the Reformation. One of the most prolific researchers and scholars in his field, he has published more than 40 peer-reviewed articles and 70 book reviews and made 50 scholarly presentations at academic conferences.

Jeffrey Watt

In 2021-22, Watt received more than $375,000 in grants from Swiss foundations to complete the decadeslong project he has led to publish scholarly editions of the records of the Consistory of Geneva, a morals court created by Protestant reformer John Calvin.

“Even as Jeff has reached the pinnacle of his field, his intellectual energy and innovation continue unabated as he finalizes his fifth monograph in addition to the Consistory project work,” said Noell Wilson, chair of the Department of History. “This award acknowledges Jeff’s prominent profile on the international history stage, and the UM history department is thrilled that the selection committee recognized this global stature.”

Besides the Reformation, Watt teaches courses on the history of the Renaissance, the Enlightenment, women and the family, and witchcraft. In 2019, he received the College of Liberal Arts’ Award for Achievement in Research and Scholarship in the Humanities; in 2007, he won the Mississippi Humanities Council’s Teacher of the Year; and in 1991, he received the College of Liberal Arts’ Cora Lee Graham Award for the Outstanding Teaching of First-Year Students.

“There is no doubt in my mind that Dr. Watt embodies what we in the College of Liberal Arts have determined to merit this award,” said Lee Cohen, UM liberal arts dean. “He is considered to be one of the top early modern historians currently working in the field worldwide.”


For the full story, click here.

Two History Alums Honored as Frist Student Service Awards

Posted on: May 15th, 2023 by

Ashleen Williams and Blake Adams named recipients of annual Frist Awards

Ashleen Williams, assistant professor and senior Barksdale fellow in the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College, is this year’s faculty honoree for the Frist Student Service Award. Submitted photo

Ashleen Williams, assistant professor and senior Barksdale fellow in the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College, is this year’s faculty honoree for the Frist Student Service Award. Submitted photo


Two University of Mississippi employees who have demonstrated a commitment to “going the extra mile” to encourage and assist students have been honored for their outstanding service.

This year’s Frist Student Service Award honorees are Ashleen Williams, assistant professor and senior Barksdale fellow in the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College, and Blake Adams, program manager for the Mississippi Excellence in Teaching Program in the School of Education. Williams is a ’23 History Ph.D. graduate, and Adams is ’08 History BA graduate.

A chancellor-appointed committee selected Williams and Adams from dozens of nominations submitted by students, alumni, faculty and staff.

“Ashleen and Blake exemplify the caring and supportive nature of our university community,” Chancellor Glenn Boyce said. “It is a fitting honor that they were selected as this year’s Frist Award winners.

“I’m deeply grateful for their outstanding commitment to our students and for how their dedicated work makes a difference on our campus. They are shaping futures and changing lives.”

The awards are presented annually to one full-time faculty and staff member. Winners receive a $1,000 prize and a plaque, and will be acknowledged during Convocation on May 13 in the Grove.

“This is deeply meaningful to me because working with students to achieve their goals is the privilege of a lifetime,” Williams said. “I was astonished and very grateful that people would take the time to nominate me.”

Adams said he also is grateful for the recognition.

“I am honored to even be considered for this award,” he said. “I truly love my work here, and believe in our mission at the School of Education. It is humbling to work with so many amazing faculty, staff and students who share in that strong conviction of purpose.”

One nomination letter for Williams recounted how she had encouraged the nominator and changed the course of his college career. The student lauded her for recognizing “the humanity of her students,” noting that she acts as “a coach, a mentor and a confidante to many.”

“With her guidance and encouragement, she has helped me form great connections within the School of Engineering and across disciplines with other students on campus,” the student wrote. “Professor Williams encouraged me to submit applications and pursue what I wanted. I am so thankful that she did because now I have been interning at the same company for the past two summers.

“Even now, as I prepare to continue my work experience, she has been willing to help me find funding and housing as I get ready to move across the country for the summer and potentially even after school.”

Blake Adams, program manager for the Mississippi Excellence in Teaching Program in the School of Education, is the staff recipient of this year’s Frist Student Service Award. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

Blake Adams (BA history and political science), program manager for the Mississippi Excellence in Teaching Program in the School of Education, is the staff recipient of this year’s Frist Student Service Award. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

Besides her duties as senior Barksdale fellow and Honors College professor, Williams, with Lauren Jones, developed and co-chairs the First-Generation College Student Task Force and serves as an adviser to the First-Gen Student Network. She also advises the UNICEF and Period@UM student groups and serves on the Stamps Scholar Selection Committee.

Staff and students alike praised Adams’ passion for encouraging students in the School of Education.

“Blake takes the time to sit down with students and their families to discuss their interests and career aspirations,” one staff member wrote. “He has used his extensive network to help students find a way to attend UM and offers valuable advice on career paths, internships and other professional opportunities.”

One thing that sets Adams apart from others is his willingness to go the extra mile in helping students achieve their academic goals.

“I have witnessed Blake take the time to meet with struggling students and provide them with extra support and guidance,” another staff member wrote. “He helps students with issues ranging from course scheduling conflicts, assistance with financial aid issues and support when a student needs assistance academically to stay eligible for the program.

“He always lends an ear to students who just need help adjusting to college during their freshman year.”

Original article linked here.

Elixir: A Parisian Perfume House and the Quest for the Secret of Life

Posted on: May 2nd, 2023 by

Elixir: A Parisian Perfume House and the Quest for the Secret of Life by Theresa Levitt (April 2023)


A story of alchemy in Bohemian Paris, where two scientific outcasts discovered a fundamental distinction between natural and synthetic chemicals that inaugurated an enduring scientific mystery.

Dr. Theresa Levitt pictured with Elixir

For centuries, scientists believed that living matter possessed a special quality—a spirit or essence—that differentiated it from nonliving matter. But by the nineteenth century, the scientific consensus was that the building blocks of one were identical to the building blocks of the other. Elixir tells the story of two young chemists who were not convinced, and how their work rewrote the boundary between life and nonlife.

In the 1830s, Édouard Laugier and Auguste Laurent were working in Laugier Père et Fils, the oldest perfume house in Paris. By day they prepared the perfumery’s revitalizing elixirs and rejuvenating eaux, drawing on alchemical traditions that equated a plant’s vitality with its aroma. In their spare time they hunted the vital force that promised to reveal the secret to life itself. Their ideas, roundly condemned by established chemists, led to the discovery of structural differences between naturally occurring molecules and their synthetic counterparts, even when the molecules were chemically identical.

Scientists still can’t explain this anomaly, but it may point to critical insights concerning the origins of life on Earth. Rich in sparks and smells, brimming with eccentric characters, experimental daring, and the romance of the Bohemian salon, Elixir is a fascinating cultural and scientific history.


Check out an interview Dr. Levitt gave here.

Brutal Campaign: How the 1988 Election Set the Stage for Twenty-First-Century American Politics

Posted on: April 25th, 2023 by

Earlier this month, Dr. Robert L. Fleegler published his second book Brutal Campaign: How the 1988 Election Set the Stage for Twenty-First-Century American Politics through the University of North Carolina Press. It is now available for purchase and will soon be available to read through the campus library.

Fleegler shown with his book

Dr. Fleegler shown with his book, Brutal Campaign

At 8:00 p.m. eastern standard time on election night 1988, NBC news anchor Tom Brokaw informed the country that they would soon know more about the outcome of “one of the longest, bloodiest presidential campaigns that anyone can remember.” It was a landslide victory for George H. W. Bush over Michael Dukakis, and yet Bush would serve only one term, forever overshadowed in history by the man who made him vice president, by the man who defeated him, and even by his own son. The 1988 presidential race quickly receded into history, but it was marked by the beginning of the modern political sex scandals, the first major African American presidential candidacy, the growing power of the religious right, and other key trends that came to define the elections that followed. Bush’s campaign tactics clearly illustrated the strategies and issues that allowed Republicans to control the White House for most of the 1970s and 1980s, and the election set the stage for the national political advent of both Joe Biden and Donald Trump.

Robert L. Fleegler’s narrative history of the 1988 election draws from untapped archival sources and revealing oral history interviews to uncover just how consequential this moment was for American politics. Identifying the seeds of political issues to come, Fleegler delivers an engaging review of an election that set a template for the political dynamics that define our lives to this day.

History Students Participate in Forum of Race and Ethnicity

Posted on: March 9th, 2023 by

Over 70 University of Mississippi faculty and graduate students shared their research on race and ethnicity in a Feb. 27 forum.

This event began with breakfast at 8:30 a.m., and the first panel began at 9 a.m. in the Butler Auditorium of the Triplett Alumni Center. The goal of the forum was to bring UM faculty and graduate students together as a community to learn about and discuss research on race and ethnicity that’s being done at UM.

“With over a total of 25 submissions, we got an overwhelming response to the call for proposals,” said Simone Delerme, McMullan associate professor of anthropology and Southern Studies. Delerme is coordinating the event alongside Marcos Mendoza, associate professor of anthropology, and Catarina Passidomo, Southern Foodways Alliance associate professor of Southern Studies and anthropology.

“We have graduate students and faculty representing the law school; (departments of) Sociology, Southern Studies, History, Leadership and Counselor Education, English, Social Work, and Modern Languages; the Center for Community Engagement; and the School of Journalism and New Media. We were really excited to receive some proposals from very impressive folks from units that didn’t present last year.”

History Department had three students that presented:

  • Scott Blusiewicz, doctoral candidate in history, “Crafting a Legacy: Politics and Memory in Ralph David Abernathy’s Autobiography”
  • Travis Patterson, doctoral candidate in history, “Claude Neal and the Fight for Antilynching Legislation, 1934-1950”
  • Brianna Taylor, master’s degree student in history, “The American Civil War Viewed Through a Different Lens: Print Culture and the American Perception of the Mexican Reform War”

The forum is organized by the Study of Race and Racism Exploration Group, a working group of faculty seeking to found a Center for the Study of Race and Racism on campus. Co-sponsors include the Division of Diversity and Community Engagement, Graduate School, Department of History, Center for the Study of Southern Culture, College of Liberal Arts, Department of Sociology and Anthropology, and Department of Social Work.