Research--The civil rights movement in Mississippi.
Dissertation--Yapping Dogs: Joe T. Patterson and the Mississippian's Dilemma
"Our knowledge depends upon the living relationship between what we see going on and ourselves."--Eudora Welty, One Time, One Place
Philosophy of Teaching
Outside the world of historians, most people believe that the study of history is a boring, static field. The population at large sees history as something that has happened, something that can be absorbed through large amounts of rote learning, and something that can be regurgitated at any time. At the outset of their college careers, most undergraduates fall into this category.
As a historian, I see it as my responsibility to break through this mold. I want my students to know that history is much more than dates and figures and names. Over the course of a semester, I want them to learn that what has happened in the past is important but even more so is how people conceptualize what has happened in the past. I want them to be able to read a primary document and look at it through a historianís eyes. Critical and analytical thinking and especially writing are essential in this process.
With that in mind, my classes center on reading and writing assignments. The ability to analyze a document beyond what is presented and to express that critique on paper is an invaluable skill beyond a history class. I emphasize that students must not accept what people have said or how events have happened at face value, but they must delve into deeper meanings. I show my students how these deeper meanings, accessible only through analysis, have practical implications for the world today; itís not just about what happened during the Vietnam War but what the Vietnam War can teach us about the War on Terror. I want them to see that my own research is not just about the civil rights movement or segregationists but that it links what the South is today to what it was then.
In the end, I want my students to love history as much as I do, but Iím not naÔve. I realize that most of my students will not walk away from my class dreaming of becoming a history professor or even a history major, but maybe some of them will. Perhaps a few will be as excited as I was when I attended my first undergraduate history classes and will see the study of history as a dynamic and revealing process. For the rest, I hope they gain an appreciation for the complexity of history as an intellectual endeavor and for the capacity of history to inform their choices and the world today.