I am an associate professor of history and African American studies at Valdosta State University in Georgia, USA, the author of the recent The Grapevine of the Black South: The Scott Newspaper Syndicate In the Generation Before the Civil Rights Movement (Georgia, 2018). My book Jim Crow’s Last Stand: Nonunanimous Criminal Jury Verdicts In Louisiana (LSU, 2015) helped spark a movement that constitutionally overturned the state’s nonunanimous jury law. A second edition appeared this fall. While this work has been an important part of my professional life, my personal life has long been devoted to helping animals, and here at Exeter I am working to merge my vocation and avocation by turning my research focus to animal studies.
My project is a cultural history of twentieth century thought and actions related to animals in the United States. It will begin with an account of pseudoscientific creations of chains of being in the late-nineteenth century and conclude with an analysis of literary and filmed tropes of human-animal relationships in the late-twentieth, discussing the representational semiotics that shaped opinions (or an overt lack of thought entirely) about a variety of nonhuman animals, all of whom suffered as a consequence. Its goal is to reshape mainstream historical thinking about the American twentieth century to include animals.