University of South Alabama Department of History News


Department Newsletter Fall 2020

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JULY 7, 2020 

Over the last three months, we have witnessed, yet again, the profound and deadly consequences of racism in the United States of America. From the exceedingly disproportionate number of pandemic deaths affecting African-American communities to the recent murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, David McAtee, Tony McDade, and Rayshard Brooks by the police and white vigilantes, we are bearing witness to its many shapes and forms. As historians, we understand current systemic racism in America has deep and pervasive historical roots in the violent, racist, and white supremacist ideologies constructed globally and nationally. We believe all citizens have a civic duty to address honestly and with compassion the painful elements of our past. For Mobile, this includes the forced removal of indigenous peoples, the brutal enslavement of Africans and African-Americans, decades of Jim Crow segregation, and the 1981 lynching of Michael Donald.


 Although Civil Rights activists, the community, and city officials have made important progress, the legacy of racism remains. Like the rest of the nation, minority communities in Mobile have experienced police brutality and abuse. Too many people in our area lack access to health care, suffer poverty, and experience food insecurity. The slow and systematic defunding of public education has disproportionately affected African American neighborhoods, which in turn creates a new cycle of reduced opportunity.      


In Mobile, as well as around our nation, and the world, the response to the recent killings and all that they symbolize has been rapid as communities mobilize for justice. We are hopeful that the current worldwide protests are opening a new historical phase in the dismantling of racism. We are in solidarity with the millions in the U.S. and around the globe protesting and affirming that Black Lives Matter. We are further encouraged by activities in our own community and have identified contributions that we, as historians and educators, can make in this moment as we advocate for positive change in Mobile and work towards creating a more affirming, inclusive and equitable University of South Alabama.


Diversify our faculty and course offerings. Almost a quarter of the University of South Alabama student body is African American. We recognize an urgent need to diversify our course offerings and our all-white faculty in the History Department, a problem reflected throughout our university and in universities across the nation. In order to create a faculty and curriculum that better represents and address the needs of our diverse student body, we resolve to do the following:


  • Petition university administrators to restore the position in African American History, left vacant following the retirement of our previous specialist.


  • Petition university administrators to transform the interdisciplinary African American Studies Minor into a Major, with the goal of making it the leading program in our region.


  • Petition university administrators for enhanced resources to increase course offerings dedicated to examining diversity more broadly.


  • Participate in a collaborative initiative with African-American Studies and the Honors College to establish funded History internships focusing on important local sites such as Africatown.


  • Expand internships and curriculum featuring outreach for marginalized and underrepresented communities.


  • Coordinate with the university’s Chief Diversity Officer to determine best practices for diversifying the faculty in future hires.


  • Reassess the teaching of diversity in our current curriculum and make improvements where possible using available resources.


  • Strengthen existing relationships with the Secondary Education Social Studies program in the College of Education to better support History/Secondary Ed majors.


  • Create new networks and partnerships with local primary and secondary educators.


  • Continue to engage in anti-racist education by identifying and confronting historic structures of inequality that persist through the present.



Increase our department's community engagement in public historical activities in the the Mobile Bay Metropolitan Area and the State of Alabama in the following ways:


  • Enhance programs and establish new internships serving historical sites of underrepresented communities. We have already begun preliminary conversations with community leaders and potential partners at USA.


  • Support the re-evaluation and relocation of monuments, place names, and holidays. We have already called upon city leaders to form a fully representative citizen committee to compose an inventory of confederate and segregationist monuments and place names. We have invited city leaders to a dialogue on this matter and volunteered our time and expertise for that initiative;


  • Press state leaders to repeal the Alabama Memorial Preservation Act, which hamstrings local governments from making appropriate choices for their communities; and


  • Expand coalitions with people engaged in the practice of state and local history for the purposes of historical advocacy.


Support our institution in identifying inherent discriminatory practices in higher education and create more opportunities for student access. We call upon university administrators do the following:


  • Implement a broad range of initiatives to recruit, retain, and graduate students from marginalized communities.


  • Eliminate standardized tests, which research shows discriminates against socially culturally marginalized people and privileges the most wealthy.


  • Create more scholarships for students from marginalized communities.


  • Use student, staff, and faculty input to establish additional methods of support for underrepresented groups above and beyond scholarships.


  • Establish mandatory diversity and anti-racist training for students, faculty, and staff as proposed by the Student Government Association, with a long term goal of a more comprehensive in-house program tailored to the needs of University of South Alabama.


  • Introduce a required course on diversity into the general education curriculum, as well as a diversity certificate.


  • Provide resources and strategies to departments for diversifying open faculty lines.


  • Expand reach and resources for the Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer.


  • Establish diverse hiring committees to work with search firms to ensure diverse candidate pools, particularly African-American candidates, for higher administrative positions.



December 2020  Dr. Claire Cage is one of 13 USA Office of Community Engagement and Service Learning Program Faculty Fellows.  The inaugural class of faculty fellows will work together to learn and redesign an academic course and/or a research project to help solve real-world issues locally in collaboration with community partners.  

Full Story and Press Release



December 2020 Dr. Mara Kozelsky received seed money from a U.S. Department Education Grant for a digital humanities project to build a digital history lab. The lab will allow the History Department to train our students to become leaders in the next era of the information age.

Full Story and Press Release



November 2020 A team at the University of South Alabama led by the Honors College, with collaborators from the Office of Community Engagement, African American studies program, department of history, and the Doy Leale McCall Rare Book and Manuscript Library, received a renewal for its Delta Fellows program from the Jean O’Connor-Snyder Internship Program at the David Mathews Center for Civic Life.

Full Story and Press Release


October 2020    Dr. Mara Kozelsky and her book Crimea in War and Transformation (Oxford University Press, 2018) received an Honorable Mention in the 2020 Marshall Shulman Book Prize from the Association of Slavic, East European and Eurasian Studies (ASEEES).  The prize is for an outstanding monograph dealing with the international relations, foreign policy, or foreign-policy decision-making of any of the states of the former Soviet Union or Eastern Europe. The prize went to the Department’s 2019 Mahan Lecturer, Dr. Kate Brown of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, for her book Manual for Survival: An Environmental History of the Chernobyl Disaster (W.W. Norton & Company, 2019).

Congratulations, Dr. Kozelsky!



Dr. Kathy Cooke, Founding Dean of the University of South Alabama Honors College and Professor of History, has been elected President of the Southern Region Honors Council, a coalition of Honors scholars in the Southern Region.

Congratulations Dr. Cooke!!



University of South Alabama graduate student, Marcee Hinds has been named the 2020 Gilder Lehrman Institute’s History Teacher of the Year for Alabama. The Gilder Lehrman Institute is the nation’s leading organization dedicated to K-12 American history education. Hinds teaches at Baker High School and was selected by a panel of teachers, administrators, and scholars from Alabama for her achievements in American history education.

Congratulations Ms. Hinds!!



Dr. Timothy Lombardo was nominated by the University of South Alabama for a National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Stipend grant and has learned he was awarded the grant- one of 108 grant winners from thousands of nominees. This funding will allow Dr. Lombardo to examine archives around the United States for his second book project, tentatively titled  Beer Cities: How Craft Brewing Remade Urban America. This work will examine late 20th century urban revitalization and gentrification in America through the prism of the craft brewing industry. The aim of the project is to use the resurgence of small-scale brewing since the 1970s to address larger questions about race, class, gender, inequality, post-industrial economies, popular culture, urban politics and policy, and the use and re-use of urban space. Congratulations, Dr. Lombardo! The NEH announcement is here:


In the 2019-20 academic year, three faculty in the Department of History won the University of South Alabama's Seed Grant to support the Arts and Humanities t fund research. These are familiar names, winning awards from across campus and nationally - congratulations to Dr. Claire Cage for her project "Sex Crimes and Colonial Courts in Nineteenth-Century French Algeria," part of her larger work on the development of forensic medicine in criminal investigation in 19th century France; Dr. Timothy Lombardo for "Beer Cities: How Craft Brewing Remade Urban America," his second book project on urban gentrification and the growth of the craft brewing movement in the Unites States from the 1970s on; and Dr. David Meola for the beginning research on his second book project, entitled "Fighting among the Volk: Jews in the German Liberal and Democratic Movements before 1848."


Dr. Kelly Urban has been awarded a Summer Professional Development Grant from the College of Arts & Sciences at USA. She will use this grant to work on completing her book, tentatively entitled Politicosis: Tuberculosis, Public Health, and Politics in Cuba, 1925—1970. This follows the award of a Faculty Development Council grant and a grant from the American Historical Association last year, which allowed Dr. Urban to carry out final research for her book in Cuban archives. Congratulations, Dr. Urban! 


Dr. Claire Cage, Associate Professor of History, has been awarded a National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) Fellowship for the calendar year 2021. This is the largest individual grant given by the NEH, an entity of the federal government meant to support research and creative work in the humanities across the United States. This Fellowship, worth $60,000, will allow Dr. Cage to conduct research in France and complete writing a book for her research project entitled "The Science of Proof: Forensic Medicine in Nineteenth-Century France." Congratulations!

See the full announcement of all the NEH awards here:


Dr. David Meola, Fanny and Bert Meisler Assistant Professor of History and Jewish Studies, recently published two new pieces of research. The first is the chapter "Making News: Jewish Germans and the Expansion of Vormärz Print Culture" in Vance Byrd and Ervin Malakaj, eds., Market Strategies and German Literature in the Long Nineteenth Century (Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 2020). The second is entitled "Mirror of Competing Claims: Antisemitism and Citizenship in Vormarz Germany" and appears in the journal Antisemitism Studies 4:1 (2020). Both of these writings are drawn from Dr. Meola's research on the German Jewish community in the 1830s and 1840s. Congratulations, Dr. Meola!


Dr. David A. Messenger, Professor in the Department of History and Chair of the Department, has published a new book entitled War and Public Memory: Case Studies in Twentieth Century Europe with the University of Alabama Press, as part of their "War, Memory and Culture" series. This book is not based on original research, but draws on the writings and research of many scholars to introduce students and others to how different societies and cultures remember their national conflicts, and how memories evolve over time. The case studies presented emphasize the major wars fought on European soil as well as the violence perpetrated against civilian populations. Each chapter begins with a brief overview of the conflict and then proceeds with a study of how memory of that struggle has entered into public consciousness in different national societies. The focus throughout is on collective social, cultural, and public memory, and in particular how memory has emerged in public spaces throughout Europe, such as parks, museums, and memorial sites. Messenger discusses memories of the First World War for both the victors and the vanquished as well as their successor states. Other events discussed include the Bolshevik Revolution and subsequent conflicts in the former Soviet Union, the Armenian genocide, the collapse of Yugoslavia, the legacy of the civil war in Spain, Germany's reckoning with its Nazi past, and the memory of occupation and the Holocaust in France and Poland.


See the attached story for details of a significant multi-student research project in oral history in the Mobile-Tensaw Delta region, guided by the USA Honors College and Dean Kathy Cooke, also a member of our Department:


Congratulations to Dr. David Meola, who has been awarded a J. William Fulbright Fellowship to Germany to conduct summer research from 2019 to 2021 in the city of Goettingen (at the University of Goettingen). This time will be spent on researching his book project: "Fighting for the Volk: Jewish Germans in the German Liberal and Democratic Movements before 1848”.


Recent History Department Faculty Publications