My primary research interests include the Civil Rights Movement, and the exploration of local movements in particular. I’m fascinated by the various means individuals and organizations utilized in their efforts to create change. Beginning in my undergraduate days at Morehouse College and continuing through my graduate school tenure at Duke, I’ve worked to illuminate the under-researched phenomenon of mass-based protest and community struggle that takes place far removed from the urban centers of the South. My first book, Greater Freedom: The Evolution of the Civil Rights Struggle in Wilson, North Carolina (University Press of America, 2010), explored the slow, deliberate building of a movement in a rural community in the eastern-central portion of the state. It’s one thing to march, organize and boycott under the glare of city lights and press cameras. It’s quite another thing to march, organize and boycott in areas that major networks have never heard of and will likely never seek to find. The rules of engagement change significantly in this instance. Additionally, I’ve written a number of articles focusing on school desegregation, electoral politics and the central role of women in the construction of freedom movements.
My next project, tentatively titled Losing the Party of Lincoln: George Washington Lee and the Struggle for the Soul of the Republican Party, explores the life and career of George Washington Lee, an African American Republican operative and civil rights activist who lived in Memphis in the middle of the twentieth century. Lee was a staunch supporter of civil rights, and fought against the rightward drift of the party, a drift greatly facilitated by the ascension of Barry Goldwater in the early 1960’s. I’m also co-editing a volume, along with Aram Goudsouzian of the University of Memphis, which is an overview of the black freedom struggle in Memphis.