W. Fitzhugh Brundage

W. Fitzhugh Brundage

Fellow: Awarded 2011
Field of Study: United States History

Competition: US & Canada

University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

W. Fitzhugh Brundage is the William Umstead Distinguished Professor in the Department of History at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, a position he has held since 2002. Previously he was an Assistant, then Associate, Professor of History at Queen’s University in Ontario, Canada (1989-97), before joining the faculty of the University of Florida as an Associate Professor of History; he was promoted to Professor of History in 1999. He was educated at the University of Chicago (B.A., 1981) and Harvard University (M.A., 1984; Ph.D., 1981).

Mr. Brundage is the author of Lynching in the New South (1995), winner of the Merle Curti Prize for Best Book in Social History from the Organization of American Historians (OAH) and the Elliott Rudwick Prize from the University of Illinois Press. Now required reading in many history courses, the book offered the first in-depth study of lynching from a historical-sociological perspective, charting its regional distribution, presenting explanations for the periodic rise and fall of the practice, and demonstrating how the entire spectrum of Southern race relations after the Civil War were shaped by it. That work led to his editing Under the Sentence of Death: Lynching in the South (1997), a collection of multidisciplinary essays that expanded on his earlier work, discussing lynchings from the antebellum period to the early twentieth century, occurrences outside of the South, and same-race lynchings, among other topics. He also wrote the Introduction to the volume and contributed the article “Black Resistance and White Violence in the American South, 1880-1940.” The Journal of Southern History deemed Under the Sentence of Death “required reading for every historian of the modern South.”

One serendipitous discovery during his research for these volumes was a photograph of 300 socialists disembarking a train in Waycross, Georgia, in 1899. These stalwart remnants of the utopian Ruskin Colony in Tennessee, which, riven by internal strife, had dissolved that year, had come to Waycross to join the likeminded settlers at Duke Colony there; but that too was a shaky venture that dissolved two years later. Intrigued, Mr. Brundage began unearthing all the information he could on this group and the brief sprouting of socialist Ruskinite colonies in the South at the turn of the century. The result was A Socialist Utopia in the New South: The Ruskin Colonies in Tennessee and Georgia, 1894-1901 (1996), which Choice selected as one of the outstanding academic books of the year.

With The Southern Past: A Clash of Race and Memory (2005), Mr. Brundage made a case for enlarging our understanding of the South’s past beyond the sectional, and beyond the racial. A dialogue between black and white Southerners over the years has shaped the collective memory of their shared history, and, as in any place at any time, print media, folklore, stereotypes, oral histories, and even decisions on what events or people to memoralize in public works, all shape perceptions of events. Perhaps his most influential work to date, The Southern Past received the Southern Historical Association’s Charles Sydnor Award, the Southern Regional Council’s Lilian Smith Prize, and was a finalist for both the American Studies Association’s John Hope Franklin Prize and the National Council on Public History’s book prize. In addition, the OAH appointed him a distinguished lecturer, which led to his speaking about historical memory at various public forums in several states, and invited him to participate in a roundtable on “Problems of American Historical Memory” (2003) and to cohost the panel on “Emerging Issues in the Study of American Historical Memory” (2004). He has also lectured on this topic to academic audiences across the U.S., and in Austria, Australia, Canada, Singapore, Denmark, and the United Kingdom.

Among Mr. Brundage’s other publications are a number of works he edited: a new edition of Booker T. Washington’s Up From Slavery (2002) and Booker T. Washington and Black Progress: A Centenary of Up From Slavery (2003), a collection of essays on the impact of Washington and his monumental autobiography; Where These Memories Grow: History, Memory, and Regional Identity in the American South (2000); and Beyond Blackface: African Americans and the Creation of American Popular Culture, 1890-1930 (2011). He has also had many articles published in American Nineteenth-Century History, Journal of Southern History, Journal of American History, Canadian Journal of American Studies, and Georgia Historical Quarterly, and other refereed journals and anthologies.

During his Guggenheim Fellowship term, he is undertaking a study entitled Torture in America: The Long History, tracing its use from antebellum days to the recent controversy over “enhanced interrogation” methods used in the U.S. war on terror and examining its impact on the concept of American exceptionalism.


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