TOP YOUNG HISTORIANS
Edited by Bonnie K. Goodman
84: Joseph Crespino, 2-11-08
Teaching Position: Assistant Professor, Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia 2003-present
Area of Research: Political culture of twentieth century America, in particular, the American South in the second half of the century.
Education: Ph.D., Department of History, Stanford University, 2002
Major Publications: Crespino is the author of In Search of Another Country: Mississippi and the Conservative Counterrevolution, (Princeton University Press, 2007). He is currently working on The End of Southern History? (edited with Matthew Lassiter). An edited collection of essays by a range of modern American historians
that seeks to integratethe histories of the modern South and the nation. He is also working on the manuscript American Kulturkampf: Private Schools and Modern Conservatism This book will examine conflicts over private school education since the Brown decision as a way of framing a broad and diverse set of debates over race, religion and citizenship in modern America.
Crespino is also the author of numerous scholarly journal articles, book chapters and reviews including among others: “Civil Rights Versus the Religious Right: Desegregation, Christians Schools, and Religious Freedom in the 1970s” in Julian Zelizer and Bruce Schulman, eds., Rightward Bound: Making America Conservative in the 1970s, (Harvard University Press, Spring 2008); “Civility and Civil Rights In Mississippi,” in Ted Ownby, ed., Manners and Southern History, (University Press of Mississippi, 2007); “The Best Defense Is A Good Offense: The Stennis Amendment and the Fracturing of Liberal School Desegregation Policy, 1964-1972,” The Journal of Policy History 18, no. 3 (2006): 304-25; “The Strange Career of Atticus Finch,” Southern Cultures 6, no. 2 (Summer 2000): 9-29 “Ronald Reagan’s South: The Tangled Roots of Modern Southern Conservatism,” in Vincent Cannato and Gil Troy, eds., The 1980s: Gilded Age or Golden Age (forthcoming, Oxford University Press). He is also working on the book chapter “Mississippi as Metaphor: State, Region and Nation in the Historical Imagination,” in Joseph Crespino and Matthew Lassiter, eds., The End of Southern History?.
Awards: Crespino is the recipient of numerous awards and fellowships including among others:
National Academy of Education/ Spencer Foundation 2006-2007;
Postdoctoral Fellowship J.N.G. Finley Postdoctoral Fellow in American History, 2002-2003 George Mason University, Fairfax, Virginia;
Dissertation Award, Jepson School of Leadership Studies, 2003 Richmond University;
Dissertation Fellowship, Miller Center of Public Affairs, 2001-2002 University of Virginia;
Theodore C. Sorenson Research Fellowship, 2001 John F. Kennedy Library Foundation;
Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Dissertation Fellowship, 2000-2001 Stanford University;
Research grant, Lyndon B. Johnson Foundation 2000;
Stanford University Department of History Full Fellowship 1996-2000;
S.T.A.R. Teacher Award, Mississippi Economic Council, 1996 Gentry High School;
Phi Beta Kappa, Northwestern University 1994.
Crespin’s reviews or editorials have appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post Book World, Commonweal, and also the Clarion-Ledger (Jackson, Miss.).
He was formerly Social Studies Teacher, Gentry High School, Indianola 1994-1996, School District, Indianola, Mississippi.
It’s a bit of a cliché I know, but my first book had a lot to do with where I grew up.
I’m from a tiny town in Mississippi, where my mother’s side of the family has lived since the 1830s. It was a place where the vestiges of Jim Crow segregation were very real. Local politics were intensely divided along racial lines. All the white children in the area attended a white-flight private academy. In a town where over sixty percent of the population was African American, I had incredibly little contact with black folks-at least African American children my age. Pickup basketball games in my driveway that happened to include a few black kids who wandered by were enough for neighbors to complain to my mother.
I was lucky to be able to attend high school and college outside of Mississippi, where I gained perspective on the unique aspects of my hometown and my childhood. My undergraduate years were critical in leading me to study history. I had great teachers who inspired me, but the most important experience came outside of the classroom. I went to Northwestern, where I got involved in a community organizing project in the Henry Horner Homes in Chicago. There I met so many residents who were part of the historic migration of African Americans from the rural South to the urban North. Volunteering in the Henry Horner Homes and seeing the intense poverty of residents and the neighborhood segregation in Chicago cast my childhood experiences in a new light.
I had always thought that the isolation, distrust and misunderstanding between blacks and whites in my hometown was part of Mississippi’s unique history. What I came to realize, of course, was that my own experience was just one part of a larger story.
That realization shaped the approach I took in my first book, which examines segregationist politics in Mississippi. Too often histories of civil rights struggles in the South treat white southerners as exceptional from other white Americans; their racism is seen as being different in both kind and degree from that of other white Americans. My personal experience and my research both confirmed and contradicted these accounts.
Certainly there were differences in the racism of whites in Mississippi and Chicago. Those Henry Horner residents who fled Jim Crow towns in Mississippi knew that better than anyone. And Mississippi really was the “belly of the beast” for civil rights activists who had the courage to confront the racial authoritarianism that existed in my home state.
Yet it is easy to overstate the differences between white Mississippians and other white Americans in a way that warps our understanding of racism in modern America. This is true in many different ways, but an important one is this: emphasizing the uniqueness of southern racism obscures how white southerners were able to reframe their opposition to the civil rights movement in ways that resonated with white Americans in other parts of the country.
That’s the heart of my first book-how white Mississippians contributed to a modern conservative countermovement against the historic changes of the 1960s. It’s a subject I learned a lot about in college and graduate school, but the most basic lesson I discovered in my own journey from Mississippi to Chicago.
By Joseph Crespino
- This book shows how, despite segregationists’ popular pledges that they would never submit to racial integration, white leaders in the state initiated a subtle and strategic accommodation to the demands of civil rights activists and the federal government, one that helped preserved the priorities of white elites and that put white Mississippians in a position to contribute to a broad conservative countermovement against the liberal triumphs of the 1960s. Whites in Mississippi rearticulated their resentment of the liberal social policies that allowed for black advancement in ways that would come to resonate with white Americans far outside of the Deep South. They conceived of their struggle against civil rights activists and federal officials not merely as a regional fight to preserve white supremacy, but as a national battle to preserve fundamental American freedoms. In doing so, they made common cause with a variety of conservative constituencies: with Cold Warriors concerned about an expansive federal state; with fundamentalist and evangelical Christians worried about liberalism “infecting” Protestant churches; and with parents opposed to federal school desegregation efforts, who wanted to determine where and with whom their children went to school. — Joseph Crespino in “In Search of Another Country: Mississippi and the Conservative Counterrevolution”
About Joseph Crespino
- “In his study of Mississippi, Crespino provides a challenging, comprehensive examination of white southerners confronting the modern Civil Rights Movement. While focusing on the actions, strategies, and beliefs from the Brown v. Board of Education decision to the rise of Ronald Reagan in 1980, Crespino successfully reevaluates the perspective of southern whites beyond the Ku Klux Klan and those espousing virulent racism.” — J. Michael Bitzer, Choice reviewing “In Search of Another Country: Mississippi and the Conservative Counterrevolution”
- “In Search of Another Country is so rich in facts and details . . . that it immediately should become a cornerstone volume in understanding Mississippi’s convoluted political history.” — Bill Minor, Clarion-Ledger (Jackson, Miss.) reviewing “In Search of Another Country: Mississippi and the Conservative Counterrevolution”
- In Search of Another Country represents a major advance in our understanding of the conservative counterrevolution that remade the American political landscape after the sixties. This book is the best retort to those who still see the civil rights movement in triumphalist terms. Elegantly written and meticulously researched, it could only have been written by someone with enormous respect for the complexity of the people of Mississippi, irrespective of where they stood in the fray.” — Charles Payne, Duke University reviewing “In Search of Another Country: Mississippi and the Conservative Counterrevolution”
- “This is the most thoroughly researched and incisively interpreted account of one of the most complex social and political transitions ever to take place in any American state. No one is better equipped to write this book than this brilliant young historian, who out of his own personal observations growing up in Mississippi has captured with remarkable intuition and understanding the nuances of life in his native state. This is a must- read for anyone seeking a clearer understanding of the bitter struggles of the civil-rights movement and the political evolution that has followed.” — William Winter, former Governor of Mississippi reviewing “In Search of Another Country: Mississippi and the Conservative Counterrevolution”
- “Crespino’s study of the transformation of white Mississippi politics will instantly become the standard work in southern history and American political history in the late twentieth century because it does what many prominent southern historians have been calling for: it takes white opposition to the civil-rights movement seriously. Rather than viewing white Mississippians as an undifferentiated mass, Crespino shows divisions among segregationists based around competing strategies for preserving the racial order. For political historians who have sought to understand the rise of conservative Republicanism in the South, this book provides a thoroughly researched exploration of how the civil-rights struggle led whites to develop a nonracist discourse that sought to salvage what they could of white supremacy.” — Daryl Michael Scott, Howard University reviewing “In Search of Another Country: Mississippi and the Conservative Counterrevolution”
- “Joe Crespino’s marvelous book asks how white southerners responded to the moral and political challenges of the civil-rights movement. It traces the successful accommodation conservative white Mississippians made to the new world precipitated by the campaign for black civil rights, and then shows how that accommodation affected conservative politics in the region and in the nation. Crespino helps define a recent arc of scholarship dedicated to understanding, and not simply vilifying, civil-rights opponents. This is an important book and Mississippi is the right place to anchor this story.” — Jane Dailey, coeditor of “Jumpin’ Jim Crow: Southern Politics from Civil War to Civil Rights” reviewing “In Search of Another Country: Mississippi and the Conservative Counterrevolution”
- “In this bold and thoughtful study, Joseph Crespino explains how the race-based Republican ‘southern strategy’ became part of a broader, truly ‘American’ appeal that swept across the nation in the aftermath of the civil rights movement.” — James C. Cobb, author of “Away Down South: A History of Southern Identity” reviewing “In Search of Another Country: Mississippi and the Conservative Counterrevolution”
- “I have had many professors since I came to Emory, but Professor Crespino is the best professor I have had so far. He cares about his students and it shows.”… “I looked forward to coming to this class every day. It was the best American history course I’ve taken at Emory.”… “I took [the class] to fill a GER and get it out of the way, but it ended up being my favorite class. I enjoyed the books a lot and the classes were interesting and easy to follow.” — Anonymous Students
Posted on Sunday, February 10, 2008 at 10:02 PM