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Department of History
University of Mississippi

Robert L. Fleegler

Associate Professor of History

Office hours at Desoto Center campus: Tuesdays 2:00 pm -4:15 pm in Student Services Center & By Appointment

Tupelo/DeSoto campuses

Ph.D., Brown University

Teaching and Research Interest
20th-century America

Professor Fleegler’s research focuses on attitudes toward immigration as well as politics in 20th-century America. His first book, Ellis Island Nation: Immigration Policy and American Identity in the Twentieth Century, was published by the University of Pennsylvania Press in 2013. Drawing on sources as diverse as World War II films, records of Senate subcommittee hearings, and anti-Communist propaganda, Ellis Island Nation describes how the eastern and southern European immigrants who entered the country through Ellis Island gained greater acceptance between the passage of immigration restriction legislation in 1924 and the liberalization of the immigration laws in 1965. He shows how the ideology he calls “contributionism” eventually shifted the focus of the immigration debate from assimilation to a Cold War celebration of ethnic diversity and its benefits—helping to ease the passage of 1960s immigration laws that expanded the pool of legal immigrants and setting the stage for the identity politics of the 1970s and 1980s. Ellis Island Nationprovides a historical perspective on recent discussions of multiculturalism and the exclusion of groups that have arrived since the liberalization of immigrant laws.

UNC Press published his second book, Brutal Campaign: How the 1988 Election Set the Stage for Twentieth-First Century Politics, in 2023. Though it has been largely forgotten over the last three decades, the 1988 election between Vice President George H. W. Bush and Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis witnessed the beginning of many important trends that still shape our politics today. Among other things, the race featured the beginning of modern political sex scandals, the first serious African American presidential candidate, as well as the national political debuts of Joe Biden, Bill Clinton, and Donald Trump. The contest also illustrated the tactics and issues which allowed the Republican Party to win five of six presidential elections from 1968 to 1988. Finally, it revealed how late 20th century politics differed from early 21st century politics as candidates shifted from pursuing swing voters using television ads in the late 1980s to concentrating on motivating their respective bases through the Internet and social media in the early 2020s.

Professor Fleegler is currently researching the cultural and political history of smoking in the United States since the publication of the Surgeon General’s landmark report on the health hazards of smoking in 1964.