Top Young Historians: 40 – Jane Dailey


Edited by Bonnie K. Goodman

40: Jane Dailey, 1-15-07

Basic Facts

Teaching Position: Associate Professor of History, University of Chicago, 2006–
Area of Research: Nineteenth and twentieth century United States, with an emphasis on the American South, Primarily a political historian, she has strong interests in African American history, legal history, and the politics of race.
Education: Ph.D., 1995, Princeton University
Major Publications: Dailey is the author of Before Jim Crow: The Politics of Race in Post-Emancipation Virginia (University of North Carolina Press, 2000), published as part of the  Gender and American Culture series, and Jim Crow America: A Norton Casebook in History (W. W. Norton & Co., forthcoming 2007). Dailey co-edited with Glenda Elizabeth Gilmore and Bryant Simon.Jumpin’ Jim Crow: Southern Politics from Civil War to Civil Rights (Princeton University Press, 2000). Dailey is currently working on Sex and Civil Rights, A history of the politics of race and sex in America from 1865 to ca. 1980. and The American Republic a two-volume United States history textbook, with Harry Watson of UNC; Dailey is responsible for second volume on the US, 1877-2004.
Awards: Dailey is the recipient of numerous awards and fellowships including:
Berlin Prize Fellow, American Academy in Berlin, 2004-5;
Fellow, American Council of Learned Societies, 2004-5;
Fellow, John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, 2004-5;
Rice Undergraduate History Major Society Award for Outstanding Dedication to Students, 1998;
Center for the Study of Cultures Fellow, Rice University, 1996-7; Mellon Post-Enrollment Fellow, Princeton University, 1992-3;
Woodrow Wilson Fellow, Princeton Society of Fellows, 1991-2;
Mellon Fellow, Virginia Historical Society, 1991
Additional Info:
Dailey is formerly Associate Professor of History, Johns Hopkins University, 2001—2006 and Associate Director of the Program in Comparative American Cultures, Johns Hopkins University, 2001-3. She was also formerly Assistant Professor of History, Rice University (Tenured: 2000) 1994-2000, and was a Visiting Fellow in History, Princeton University, 1996-7.
Dailey has written numerous articles and book reviews for such publications as Journal of American History, Journal of Southern History, Law and History Review, American Historical Review, and Social History among others. Daily has also contributed book chapters including: “The Sexual Politics of Race in WWII America” in Kevin Kruse and Stephen Tuck, eds., Mobilizing the Movement (Oxford University Press, forthcoming 2007), and “Unintended Consequences: Protestants and Other Americans United for Separation of Church and State and the Question of School Prayer,” with Sarah Barringer Gordon (Prof. of Law and History, University of Pennsylvania), in Glenn Feldman, ed., How the South Became Republican (forthcoming, 2007).

Personal Anecdote

“Ignorance is the mother of wonder,” someone once said, and I’ve discovered that my favorite part of a project comes at the height of my ignorance, when I don’t yet know what I’m supposed to find banal. It is at that point, and not later, that every shard of the world I am starting to explore seems to hold endless and exciting possibilities. An example: on the last day of my first research trip for what has grown into my current book project, I noticed a file labeled “Miscellaneous Race” at the University of Southern Mississippi and called it up. This file contained a number of unusual articles, each of which encoded a portal to narratives of the past. There was, for instance, a rubber dog toy of a hooded Clansman that exhorted Fido to “Krush the Klan!” There was also a bumper-sticker, unattributed and undated (as bumper-stickers tend to be). Probably from 1968, it read: “George Wallace Uses Hair Straightener.” In many ways, my book manuscript, which looks at the interplay between white worries about miscegenation and racial knowledge and the African American freedom struggle, is an extended exegesis of this bumper-sticker. It is only at the beginning of a project, when one doesn’t know better than to look at everything with wide-open eyes, that we open such boxes marked “miscellaneous.”

Apart from opening such boxes, another way of shocking ourselves out of ignorance is to make friends with an alien. When we think we know our world, there are questions we don’t ask. A comparative perspective—looking at the same thing from far away—can make the too-familiar seem strange again. From that same research trip to Mississippi, I brought home piles of documents that deployed Biblical texts and religious language to express white opposition to desegregation, and to characterize “racial amalgamation” as against God’s will. The historiography of civil rights tends to dismiss this language as inconsequential, and to focus instead on the religious arguments in favor of desegregation. I might have been tempted to stick with the consensus were it not for my resident alien, who glanced at one of my documents and exclaimed, “Hey, these guys sound like my people!” (He works on Christian/Jewish/Muslim relations in medieval Europe.)


By Jane Dailey

  • “Faced with the obscenity and scope of the Jim Crow South, it is easy to see white supremacy as irresistible and to pass over attempts at interracial political cooperation between 1877 and 1900. But these attempts mattered just as much, and were often as heroic, as those of our more recent and eulogized past. . . . Knowing where we ended up, it has been difficult to imagine that we were ever elsewhere or that the route from there to here was not direct. By focusing intently on the hard-fought political battles of Readjuster Virginia, this book shows how significant these early encounters were. In particular, it demonstrates that late-nineteenth-century formulations of white supremacist racial ideology did not represent an easy continuation of past oppressions. It was not at all clear after the war that antebellum racial hierarchies could be reproduced in the context of the Reconstruction amendments to the federal Constitution, which outlawed slavery, embraced African Americans as citizens, and enfranchised black men. Although postwar southern society was eventually reranked according to racial hierarchy, the path from emancipation to Jim Crow was rockier than is sometimes realized, with many detours and switchbacks along the way. New forms of white dominance coalesced through the lived, and often conflictual, everyday experiences of black and white southerners after emancipation. The white supremacist South was not preordained, and its victory was never certain.” — Jane Dailey in “Before Jim Crow: The Politics of Race in Postemancipation Virginia” (Chapel Hill, 2000)

About Jane Dailey

  • “This is a fine book–an elegant blend of political and cultural history, and a model of what state-level political history ought to look like in the wake of recent advances in our understanding of identity.” — Suzanne Lebsock, University of Washington reviewing “Before Jim Crow: The Politics of Race in Postemancipation Virginia”
  • “Before Jim Crow is one of the most exciting books on the South I’ve read in years. Dailey not only recasts the history of post-Reconstruction southern politics by recovering the virtually forgotten history of the Readjusters (and the critical role black people played in the movement), but she reminds us that nothing is inevitable. Southerners might have taken another path, and only violence, intimidation, and a realignment of race undermined a more democratic future.” — Robin D. G. Kelley, New York University reviewing “Before Jim Crow: The Politics of Race in Postemancipation Virginia”
  • “In Before Jim Crow, Jane Dailey brilliantly recreates the world of the Readjusters in late nineteenth-century Virginia. Emphasizing the fluidity of southern politics after the Civil War, Dailey makes clear that the emergence of segregation and disfranchisement was not preordained. An indispensable book for anyone who wants to understand the opportunities and challenges involved in building an interracial democracy in the South.” — Peter Bardaglio, Goucher College reviewing “Before Jim Crow: The Politics of Race in Postemancipation Virginia”
  • “A nicely written and sharply observed study, which adds theoretical precision and empirical substance to the growing body of scholarship that treats race as a socially constructed, rather than a ‘natural,’ category of historical analysis.” — Journal of American Studies review of “Before Jim Crow: The Politics of Race in Postemancipation Virginia”
  • “Impressive. . . . A sophisticated and complex analysis. . . . A provocative and important work, one that should influence the study of race for years to come.” — Journal of Southern History review of “Before Jim Crow: The Politics of Race in Postemancipation Virginia”
  • “The narrative of the rise and fall of the Readjuster Party provides a mere backdrop against which Dailey explores several fascinating issues . . . . An important addition to the growing literature about race in the late nineteenth-century South.” — American Historical Review review of “Before Jim Crow: The Politics of Race in Postemancipation Virginia”
  • “This study aids in developing a more complete picture of race relations and the struggle for equality in nineteenth century America.” — Civil War Book Review review of “Before Jim Crow: The Politics of Race in Postemancipation Virginia”
  • “Before Jim Crow is an elegant, often sardonic study of the Readjuster movement.” — Times Literary Supplement review of “Before Jim Crow: The Politics of Race in Postemancipation Virginia”

Posted on Sunday, January 14, 2007 at 7:16 PM

%d bloggers like this: