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Professor of History, Emory University

Joseph Crespino, Jimmy Carter Professor of 20th century American political history and Southern history since Reconstruction. Author of Strom Thurmond’s America (Hill & Wang, 2012) and In Search of Another Country: Mississippi and the Conservative Counterrevolution (Princeton, 2007). Co-editor, with Matthew Lassiter, of The Myth of Southern Exceptionalism (Oxford, 2010).

Crespino is a historian of the twentieth century United States, with expertise in the political history of post-World War II America. His published work has examined the intersections of region, race and religion in American politics in the second half of the twentieth century. The argument that animates both of his books, as well as an edited collection, is the notion that the struggles in the American South over race and modernization in the twentieth century should not be viewed in isolation, but rather as part of a broader series of transformations in national political life.

Crespino’s most recent book, Strom Thurmond’s America (Hill and Wang, 2012), is a political biography of the longtime U.S. Senator from South Carolina that figures Thurmond not merely as one of the last of the Jim Crow demagogues, but also as one of the pioneers of a postwar Sunbelt conservatism that reshaped the national Republican Party. Complicating Thurmond’s life and legacy in this way, he argues, helps us to rethink important assumptions about both southern and national politics in the second half of the twentieth century.

His first book, In Search of Another Country: Mississippi and the Conservative Counterrevolution (Princeton, 2007), examines how whites in Mississippi, generally considered to be the most recalcitrant Deep South states, strategically accommodated themselves to civil rights changes. In doing so, they linked their fight against racial change with a number of other conservative constituencies throughout the country and became important contributors to a conservative countermovement in the 1960s and 70s.

He is currently at work on two projects. The first is a history of civil rights struggle in the American South that takes as its starting point the notion that African Americans’ confrontation with Jim Crow represented not only a political crisis, but a religious, or spiritual, one as well, and it follows the implications of that idea for how we write the history of this period. The second is a study of Atticus Finch, the hero of the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel To Kill a Mockingbird, and how the figure of Atticus and the enduring influence of the novel have both reflected and shaped American arguments over race and morality in the modern South and nation.

Crespino teaches a range of courses on the history of modern American politics and the history of the American South. In 2009 he was awarded the Emory Center for Teaching and Curriculum’s Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching.


  • –present
    Jimmy Carter Professor, History , Emory University