Top Young Historians: 72 – Mark I. Greenberg

TOP YOUNG HISTORIANS

Edited by Bonnie K. Goodman

72: Mark I. Greenberg, 10-29-07

Basic Facts

Position: Associate Librarian, University of South Florida, January 2007-present
Director, Special Collections, University of South Florida Tampa Library, January 2004-present
Director, Florida Studies Center, University of South Florida Library System, November 2001-present
Director, Oral History Program, University of South Florida Library System, November 2001-present
Area of Research: Southern and immigrant/ethnic history (especially southern Jewish history), Florida history, USF history, and oral history.
Education: Ph.D., American History, University of Florida, May 1997 M.L.S., Library and Information Science, University of South Florida, December 2006
Major Publications: Greenberg is the author of the forthcoming The Jews of Savannah Georgia, 1733-1900, (manuscript revisions in process), and Mark I. Greenberg JPG University of South Florida: The First Fifty Years, 1956-2006, (Tampa: University of South Florida, 2006), Greenberg is the co-editor with Marcie Cohen Ferris of Jewish Roots in Southern Soil: A New History, (Waltham, MA: Brandeis University Press, 2006), and editor with William Warren Rogers and Canter Brown, Jr. of Florida’s Heritage of Diversity: Essays in Honor of Samuel Proctor, (Tallahassee: Sentry Press, 1997), which contains his essay “Tampa Mayor Herman Glogowski: Jewish Leadership in Gilded Age Florida.”
Greenberg is also the author of numerous scholarly journal articles, book chapters and reviews that have appeared in American Jewish History, American Jewish Archives, and The Georgia Historical Quarterly, and include among others: “A ‘Haven of Benignity’: Conflict and Community Among Eighteenth-Century Savannah Jews.” The Georgia Historical Quarterly, Vol. 86, Winter 2003, “Savannah’s Jewish Women and the Shaping of Ethnic and Gender Identity, 1830-1900.” The Georgia Historical Quarterly, Vol. 82, Winter 1998, and “Becoming Southern: The Jews of Savannah, Georgia, 1830-1870,” American Jewish History, Vol. 86, March 1998.
Awards: Greenberg is the recipient of numerous awards and fellowships including among others:
Co-Sponsor, “Florida African American History Web Site,” from Florida Humanities Council, 2006-2007;
Project Director, Ephemeral Cities Digitization Project, from Institute of Museum and Library Services, 2003-2005;
University of South Florida, Committee on Issues of Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity, Pride Award, 2007;
Mississippi Humanities Council, Humanities Scholar Award, 2000;
American Jewish Historical Society, Leo Wasserman Essay Prize, 1998;
Southern Jewish Historical Society, Graduate Student Essay Prize, 1996.
Additional Info:
Greenberg was formerly the Resident Historian, Institute of Southern Jewish Life, Jackson, Miss., May 1997-October 2001, Adjunct Professor–U.S. Immigrant/Ethnic History, Millsaps College, Jackson, Miss., Fall 1998, 1999, Instructor, U.S. survey courses, University of Florida, August 1995-May 1997. and Assistant Editor, Florida Historical Quarterly, University of Florida, January 1992-July 1995

Personal Anecdote

Academic careers can begin in strange ways. In 1990, I left Canada and enrolled at the University of Florida with plans to continue my interest in nineteenth-century American history. My M.A. work had focused on the plantation Mammy, and I imagined expanding that project into a dissertation.

In my first semester at UF, I had the pleasure of taking Bertram Wyatt-Brown’s seminar in southern history. Among the many books and authors tackled in the class, he included Drew Gilpin Faust’s The Creation of Confederate Nationalism (Louisiana State University Press, 1988). Overwhelmed with reading, a common issue in many graduate courses, I learned when to skim and read selectively. I might easily have passed over a single sentence on page 50. In late summer 1862 “gentile residents of Thomasville, Georgia, expelled all the town’s Jewish families, accusing them of extortion, speculation, and counterfeiting.” I was stunned. My understanding of American Jewish history did not include expelling Jews. I related that experience to Europe not to the United States.

I followed Faust’s footnotes to two articles, read as much on the southern Jewish experience as I could find, and ruminated for several months. In spring 1991, I enrolled in Wyatt-Brown’s research seminar and set about finding out why Thomasville’s Christian population had expelled the town’s Jews. I spent days in the Thomas County Courthouse and Georgia State Archives and wrote a paper that proved Thomasville civic leaders passed an expulsion decree but had not expelled their Jewish residents. The article ultimately appeared in American Jewish Archives XLV (Spring/Summer 1993).

The Thomasville project took me to Savannah, as the Atlanta & Gulf Railway connected the two communities in early 1861. Many Thomasville Jews got their economic start in Savannah, and the port city had a small but highly visible and prominent Jewish community in the late antebellum era. Aside from a congregational history, no full- length study of Savannah Jewry existed. After some discussion with Samuel Proctor, my mentor and dissertation advisor, he relented on his wish that I focus on Florida, and I set my sights one state further north.

I never forgot Drew Faust or her scholarship. Before I graduated in 1997, Wyatt-Brown introduced me to her at a conference. “You are the Godmother of my dissertation,” I explained. She seemed puzzled and amused, and I shared the story of how one sentence from her slim volume on Confederate nationalism had launched my scholarly career.

It was not the career I ever imagined. As a new Ph.D. student, I dreamed of a comfortable teaching job at a small New England college. I ended up at the Museum of the Southern Jewish Experience in Jackson, Mississippi. It was as far from my Canadian upbringing or New England dreams as anyone could imagine, but public history suited me. I left Mississippi in 2001 to become director of the University South Florida Libraries’ Florida Studies Center. Sam Proctor was pleased to have me back in Florida, and I was excited to undertake new challenges.

The challenges proved greater than expected. Two years into the Florida Studies Center job, my dean asked me to become director of the Special Collections Department as well. The Ph.D. offered some credentials, but I quickly realized a library and information science degree was necessary. After thirteen consecutive years of university (1984-1997), I never imagined going back to school, but there I was taking courses to become a librarian. In December 2006 I was done. A fourth degree, earned while working full time, raising a family, and writing or editing two books.

Today, I’m part historian, part librarian. I have kept my hand in the historical profession, despite heavy administrative responsibilities and a meager research assignment. I do not know what the future will bring, but if the past is any prediction it is sure to take some unexpected turns.

Quotes

By Mark I. Greenberg

  • Any study of southern Jewry begins with Eli Evans’s seminal 1973 book The Provincials. Part memoir, part Jewish Roots in Southern Soil: A New History JPG regional ethnic history, he paved the way for the first serious work on Jews in the U.S. South. Jewish Roots in Southern Soil: A New History aims to bring the southern Jewish experience into the 21st century and to synthesize the best scholarship in the field since Evans. Ranging chronologically from the colonial period to the present and thematically from the arts to xenophobia, the anthology offers subject newcomers and veterans a concise overview of the topic. Mark I. Greenberg in “Jewish Roots in Southern Soil: A New History”
  • A growing interest in multiculturalism and diversity in American society has prompted an outpouring of scholarship during the last few decades on the history of immigrant and ethnic groups, but relatively few studies have focused upon immigrants to the South. This dearth is particularly glaring in view of evidence that immigrants constituted a significant portion of the region’s white urban residents. In a recent work on the South, and Savannah, Georgia, in particular, one historian has shown that prior to the Civil War, the foreign-born share of whites living in Northern and Southern urban places was almost identical. Tabulations for the 1860 census reveal that the adult white population was slightly over half foreign born, and only one-third were natives of the South. Only after 1865 did Northern cities become disproportionately ethnic in composition.Savannah Jewry (as a religious, rather than strictly national, group) fell within the foreign- and native-born categories. In 1860 just under 55 percent of the city’s adult Jews were born in the German states. They had immigrated to America beginning in the mid/late 1840s to escape occupational, residential, and marital restrictions in their homelands. An additional 35 percent were born in the South. Some, like the Minis family, had arrived just after James Oglethorpe in 1733. Other men and women, the Myers and Cohen clans, for example, settled in Charleston and Georgetown, South Carolina, prior to the American Revolution but moved to Savannah in the late 1830s and early 1840s in search of greater economic opportunities. Most of the remaining 10 percent hailed from the Northern states. In all, approximately 350 Jews made up 2.5 percent of Savannah whites at the start of the Civil War.It is one thing to note the relative size of Jewish and foreign settlers but quite another to analyze the lives of those newcomers who settled here. Important questions about Southern immigration have remained largely unanswered. Specifically, is the South merely a geographic designation with little or no power to explain immigrant and ethnic life? Or did the South possess a distinctive culture which affected ethnic migration patterns, institutional development, economic choices, and intergroup relations? —
    Mark. I. Greenberg in “Becoming Southern: The Jews of Savannah, Georgia, 1830-70”About Mark I. Greenberg
  • “The anthology provides thirteen fascinating articles on a variety of topics including southern Jewish women writers, African American-Jewish relations, Jewish peddlers, Jewish Confederates, and the blossoming of Reform Judaism in the region. The book will delight erudite scholars and ‘snowbirds’ who go ‘south’ to escape the cold weather and would like to learn how Jews shaped the region.” — Jewish Book World reviewing “Jewish Roots in Southern Soil: A New History”
  • “An area of history long neglected . . . this book is a must-have for anyone interested in the American Jewish experience.” —- Virginia Jewish Life reviewing “Jewish Roots in Southern Soil: A New History”
  • “With Jewish Roots in Southern Soil, the history of Jews in the South has finally come of age. Boldly asserting the power of place, it demonstrates Southern Jews negotiating complicated identities across time and space. The result, these essays masterfully convince, is a claim for this particular and unique American identity.” — Pamela S. Nadell, Professor of History, American University reviewing “Jewish Roots in Southern Soil: A New History”
  • “Jewish Roots in Southern Soil: a New History is a superb collection of essays on the still not fully known topic of Jews in the American South. The breath of the topics discussed and the depth of the individual essays make the book an essential and highly compelling reading. It provides readers with everything they wanted to know about the subject and more.; —- Yaakov Ariel, Professor of Religious Studies, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill reviewing “Jewish Roots in Southern Soil: A New History”
  • “This anthology of original essays is the most recent addition to the widening body of work on the history of the Jewish South, a neglected area of research until about 30 years ago. This collection covers an extensive chronology, from the first Jewish settlers in the South in the 1730s up to the present day, and debates what it means to be both Southern and Jewish. The book serves the dual purpose of offering an introduction to the field and furthering discussion of the Southern Jewish experience in the United States.” — Library Journal reviewing “Jewish Roots in Southern Soil: A New History”
  • In Jewish Roots in Southern Soil, Marcie Cohen Ferris and Mark I. Greenberg introduce readers to eighteen scholarly essays, including one by each of the editors, which provide rich insights into varying aspects of the Southern Jewish experience. The essays cover a wide swath of American history that begins in the colonial period and culminates in the present. Eli Evans wrote an enthusiastic foreword to the volume, welcoming the recent scholarship that explores the complex interweaving of identity and region from such diverse temporal and historical points….Mazel Tov to Ferris and Greenberg for assembling an all-star cast of scholars to whet our appetites for more analyses of Jewish regional surviving and thriving. — Bobbie Malone, Wisconsin Historical Society reviewing “Jewish Roots in Southern Soil: A New History” in Shofar
  • For a long time, the study of Jewish life in the South was given short shrift, but in recent years there has been an explosion of new material. In their comprehensive and expertly researched anthology, Jewish Roots in Southern Soil: A New History, editors Marcie Cohen Ferris and Mark I. Greenberg paint a complex portrait of the Jews who settled and thrived below the Mason-Dixon line. The book includes the work of top scholars in this growing field and answers many provocative questions….
    Jewish Roots in Southern Soil helped shatter my arrogant belief that Jewish culture in this country was invented by New Yorkers, Chicagoans, and other Northern Jews. The story of how the Jews of the South acculturated to their region while still holding onto their Jewish identity is a vitally important chapter in the history of American Jewry. The scholars represented in this excellent resource prove once and for all that being a Jew in the United States does not begin and end with a plate of lox and bagels but can also include a little gumbo, black-eyed peas, and some matzo-meal fried-green tomatoes. — Danny Miller reviewing “Jewish Roots in Southern Soil: A New History” at J.Book.com

Posted on Sunday, October 28, 2007 at 10:16 PM

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