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Charles & Emma Jackson Memorial Lecture

"C. Vann Woodward: Historian on a Mission"

Professor James Cobb, University of Georgia

My talk will offer a broad assessment of the remarkable career of C. Vann Woodward, whose work not only revolutionized the study of southern history, but marked him as perhaps the twentieth century’s most influential American historian. Woodward’s aim in much of his writing was to encourage his readers to challenge the flawed and unjust practices and institutions of the present by assailing the myths and misconceptions about the past that appeared to justify the status quo. Not content to advocate for change from the security of the academic cloister, he also placed himself on the front line of activist crusades of all sorts. The talk will pay particular attention to his determination to integrate the annual meetings of the Southern Historical Association, and the challenges he faced as president of the organization when it met in Knoxville in 1952 after hotels refused on the eve of the meeting to accommodate his insistence on delivering his presidential address to an integrated banquet audience. At the very last minute, a resourceful cohort of local SHA members managed to secure an alternative site for the evening’s festivities, but the episode in Knoxville encapsulated what Woodward and others of like mind were up against in trying to free the association of the shackles of Jim Crow and why, despite their determined efforts, it would be more than a decade before they achieved their aim.

James C. Cobb is Emeritus B. Phinizy Spalding Distinguished Professor in the History of the American South, at the University of Georgia   He has published 15 books and more than 50 articles covering the entire chronological sweep of southern history and dedicated to examining the interaction of economy, politics and culture in the region. His most recent book, C. Vann Woodward, America’s Historian, was published in 2022 by the University of North Carolina Press. A pioneer in approaching the study of the American South from a global perspective, Cobb is also committed to engaging readers outside the scholarly community by contributing pieces to, among others, The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The Wall Street Journal, the New Republic, The [London] Times Literary Supplement, The Financial Times, and TIME.COM. A former president of the Southern Historical Association, Cobb has been recognized by the University of Georgia for both his teaching and his research, and he holds an honorary Doctorate in Humane Letters from Washington & Lee University.  He was chosen by the Fellowship of Southern Writers to receive the 2014 Woodward-Franklin Award for Distinguished Historical Writing, and in 2017, he was inducted into the Georgia Writers Hall of Fame. 

Dial-In Information

Webcast link.

Wednesday, October 4, 2023 at 5:30pm to 6:30pm

Strong Hall, Room 101
1621 West Cumberland Avenue, Knoxville, TN 37996

Event Type

Lectures & Presentations


Humanities & Social Sciences


Current Students, Faculty & Staff, Alumni, General Public

Contact Name

Mary Beckley

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