Derek H. Alderman is Professor of Geography and Betty Lynn Hendrickson Professor of Social Science at the University of Tennessee. He is a past President of the American Association of Geographers (2017-18) and founder of Tourism RESET, an interdisciplinary and multi-university initiative devoted to analyzing and challenging historical and contemporary social injustices in travel, tourism, and mobility.
Dr. Alderman’s specialties include race, public memory, civil rights, heritage tourism, counter-mapping, and critical place name study—all within the context of the African-American struggle for social and spatial justice. He is the author of over 150 articles, book chapters, and other essays along with the award-winning book (with Owen Dwyer), Civil Rights Memorials and the Geography of Memory. He is co-editor (with Reuben Rose-Redwood and Maoz Azaryahu) entitled The Political Life of Urban Streetscapes: Naming, Politics, and Place (Routledge) and co-author of Remembering Enslavement: Reassembling the Southern Plantation Museum (UGA Press).
Dr. Alderman's scholarship advances our understanding of the role of named places in struggles over civil rights, race, memory, and public space in America. He is a nationally recognized authority on the topic of street naming, especially for Martin Luther King Jr. He also explores, more broadly, place names as cultural arenas for reckoning with the histories and ongoing legacies of racism and as tools for promoting reconciliation, anti-racist and decolonial education, and more socially just landscapes. In 2022, Dr. Alderman was appointed by Secretary Deb Haaland to serve on the Department of Interior's Advisory Committee on Reconciliation in American Place Names.
Committed to publicly engaged scholarship, Dr. Alderman frequently uses his research to engage and inform the news media, government officials, community activists and organizations, and the broader public. He has been interviewed or quoted over 250 times in print, radio and television media outlets, including CNN, MSNBC, New York Times, CityLab, Washington Post, USA Today, The Guardian, and BBC Radio News. He is the recipient of a Distinguished Career Award from the Ethnic Geography Specialty Group of the AAG, a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Southeastern Division of the AAG, and a recently elected Fellow of the American Association of Geographers..
Dr. Alderman's recent work includes a NSF-funded project that examines the contested place of discussions of slavery at plantation museums in the southeastern United States, with an emphasis on reforming the way these institutions represent racism, memory, and African American identity. He is also involved a NSF-funded project that examines the role of counter-mapping, geospatial intelligence, and opposition research within SNCC, the important 1960s civil rights organization. In 2022, Dr. Alderman co-directed a National Endowment of Humanities-funded summer training institute for K-12 educators on the role of geographic mobility in the African American Freedom Struggle.