I am a Professor of History at Stephen F. Austin State University (SFASU), where I teach courses in African American history and American cultural history. My first book, Cuttin’ Up: How Early Jazz Got America’s Ear, was published by the University Press of Kansas in 2009 (paperback edition, 2012), and I am currently working on a number of article- and book-length projects on race, memory, and American popular culture.
At present, I am completing a book manuscript on the 1864 massacre of black Union soldiers at Fort Pillow, a redoubt just north of Memphis, Tennessee. This book explores the larger context of the massacre by discussing the history of slavery, slave trading, and slave hiring that defined the world of West Tennessee and the Mississippi River Valley. What sets this study apart is its holistic approach to investigating Fort Pillow and provides a unique glimpse into the lives and struggles of African Americans in the Mississippi River Valley during the Civil War.
In addition, my research analyzes the politics of racial identity and the historical power of artistic expression. By concentrating on the cultural transmission of African-American visual and musical art, my work considers the way black Americans in urban centers influenced the development of the modern nation. By tracing the social, cultural, and musical developments of the 1920s through the story of the creation of jazz, my work places early jazz within the larger picture of the impact of black culture on the national entertainment industry. In Cuttin’ Up and elsewhere, my scholarship synthesizes race, ethnomusicology, southern history, and cultural studies to create intersectional studies of black contributions to music and American culture.
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