Organized through the Center for the Study of Southern Culture, the African American Studies Program, Center for Civil War Research, and the Department of History, the Gilder-Jordan Speaker Series is made possible through the generosity of the Gilder Foundation, Inc. The series honors Richard Gilder of New York and his family, as well as Dan and Lou Jordan of Virginia.
The 2018 Gilder-Jordan Lecture in Southern Cultural History took place on Wednesday, September 12, at 7 p.m. in Nutt Auditorium on the University of Mississippi campus. The speaker was James Oakes, Distinguished Professor and Chair of Humanities at the City University of New York. The title of his talk was “The Triumph of Abolitionism.”
2018: James Oakes, City University of New York
James Oakes, one of the leading historians of nineteenth-century America, has an international reputation for path-breaking scholarship. In a series of influential books and essays, he tackled the history of the United States from the Revolution through the Civil War. His early work focused on the South, examining slavery as an economic and social system that shaped Southern life. His pioneering books include The Ruling Race (1982; 2nd ed., 1998); Slavery and Freedom: An Interpretation of the Old South (1990); The Radical and the Republican: Frederick Douglass, Abraham Lincoln, and the Triumph of Antislavery Politics (2007); and his latest, Freedom National: The Destruction of Slavery in the United States, 1861–1865 (2012). The latter two garnered, respectively, the 2008 and 2013 Gilder Lehrman Lincoln Prize, an annual award for the finest scholarly work in English on Abraham Lincoln or the American Civil War era.
An alumnus of Baruch College, Dr. Oakes holds M.A. and Ph.D. degrees from the University of California–Berkeley. He has been on the faculty of the Graduate Center since 1997 and the holder of the Graduate School Humanities Chair since 1998. Before coming to the Graduate Center, he taught at Princeton and Northwestern Universities.
2017: Rhonda Y. Williams, Vanderbilt University
Dr. Williams is the John L. Seigenthaler Professor in American History at Vanderbilt University. She is the Founder & inaugural Director of the Social Justice Institute at Case Western Reserve University, as well as the Founder & inaugural Director of the Case Western Postdoctoral Fellowship in African American Studies.
The author of Concrete Demands: The Search for Black Power in the 20th Century (2015) and the award-winning The Politics of Public Housing: Black Women’s Struggles against Urban Inequality (2005)Williams has been honored by History News Network as a Top Young Historian; the Organization of American Historians as a Distinguished Lecturer; and is listed in the 2009 and 2015 editions of Who’s Who in Black Cleveland. Williams is a recipient of an American Association of University Women Postdoctoral Fellowship and a former Harvard University W.E.B. Du Bois Institute Fellow. She is the co-editor of the recently launched book series, Justice, Power, and Politics, with the University of North Carolina Press and co-editor of Teaching the American Civil Rights Movement.
Her publications include articles on black power politics, the war on poverty, low-income black women’s grassroots organizing, and urban and housing policy. Her research interests include the manifestations of race and gender inequality on urban space and policy, social movements, and illicit narcotics economies in the post-1940s United States.
Williams received her PhD in history from the University of Pennsylvania in 1998 and her undergraduate degree in journalism from the University of Maryland College Park in 1989, where she became that university’s first black salutatorian in its then 187-year history.
In Cleveland, Ohio, Williams was engaged in local community efforts, including police and criminal justice reform as a member of the Collaborative for a Safe, Fair, and Just Cleveland, the “Cleveland 8,” and the Cleveland Community Police Commission. She has appeared on MSNBC and Democracy Now! She is a Baltimore native.
2016: Edward L. Ayers, University of RichMond
Edward Ayers is President Emeritus of the University of Richmond, where he now serves as Tucker-Boatwright Professor of the Humanities. Previously Dean of Arts and Sciences at the University of Virginia, where he began teaching in 1980, Ayers was named the National Professor of the Year by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching in 2003.
A historian of the American South, Ayers has written and edited 10 books. The Promise of the New South: Life After Reconstruction was a finalist for both the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize. In the Presence of Mine Enemies: Civil War in the Heart of America won the Bancroft Prize for distinguished writing in American history and the Beveridge Prize for the best book in English on the history of the Americas since 1492. He was awarded the National Humanities Medal in 2013.
A pioneer in digital history, Ayers created “The Valley of the Shadow: Two Communities in the American Civil War,” a website that has attracted millions of users and won major prizes in the teaching of history. He serves as co-editor of the Atlas of the Historical Geography of the United States at the University of Richmond’s Digital Scholarship Lab and is a co-host of BackStory with the American History Guys, a nationally syndicated radio show and podcast.
Ayers has received a presidential appointment to the National Council on the Humanities, served as a Fulbright professor in the Netherlands, and been elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
2015: Theda Perdue, University of North Carolina
On September 9, 2015, Theda Perdue of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill presented the 2015 Gilder-Jordan Lecture in Southern History. Her talk is entitled “Indians and Christianity in the New South.”
Theda Perdue is the Atlanta Distinguished Professor Emerita of Southern Studies at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, where she taught American Indian history in the history, women’s studies, and American studies departments. She holds a Ph.D. from the University of Georgia. Perdue is author, co-author, or editor of sixteen books including Cherokee Women: Gender and Culture Change, “Mixed Blood” Indians: Racial Construction in the Early South, and Race and the Atlanta Cotton States Exposition of 1895. She also has appeared frequently as a talking head in documentary films. She has held fellowships from the Rockefeller Foundation, the Newberry Library, the National Humanities Center, the Woodrow Wilson Center, and the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation. Perdue has served as president of the Southern Association for Women Historians, the American Society for Ethnohistory, and the Southern Historical Association. She is an inveterate traveler, especially by train, and in 2009 she and her husband went around the world by land and sea, a trip that included crossing Europe and Asia by train and the Pacific by freighter. Her current book project is on American Indians in the segregated South.
2014: Jacquelyn Dowd Hall, University of North Carolina
Dr. Hall’s lecture, “How We Tell About the Civil Rights Movement and Why It Matters Today,” was September 24 at 7pm in Nutt Auditorium on the UM campus.
Watch an interview of Dr. Hall by UM Assistant Professor of History and Southern Studies Dr. Jessie Wilkerson.
2013: Walter Johnson, Harvard University
“The ‘Negro Fever,’ the South, and the Ignominious Effort to Re-Open the Atlantic Slave Trade”
Watch an interview of Dr. Johnson by UM Assistant Professor of History Dr. Deirdre Cooper Owens here.
2012: Grace Elizabeth Hale, University of Virginia
“So the Whole World Can See: Documentary Photography and Film in the Civil Rights Era”
Watch an interview of Professor Hale by UM Professor of History and Southern Studies Dr. Ted Ownby here.
2011: David Blight, Yale University
“American Oracle: The Civil War in the Civil Rights Era and Our Own Time”
2010: Barbara J. Fields, Columbia University
“Racecraft and Southern History”