Renowned Professor Teaches Civil Rights through Literature at Stallworth Lecture

Posted on October 2, 2018
Joy Washington

An award-winning author and educator will address civil rights through the character analysis of Atticus Finch at the N. Jack Stallworth Lecture in Southern History on Wednesday, Oct. 3, in the John W. Laidlaw Performing Arts Center at the University of South Alabama. The 7 p.m. lecture is titled “Atticus Finch and American History.”  

Dr. Joseph Crespino, the Jimmy Carter Professor of American History at Emory University, will use “To Kill a Mockingbird” character, Atticus Finch, to explain how civil rights has shaped the American society and culture. He will also focus on how the civil rights era impacts our present attitudes on race as well as understanding the life of the novel’s author, Harper Lee. The lecture is free and open to the public.

He will discuss his most recent book, “Atticus Finch: The Biography,” which tells Finch’s story through famous inspirations such as, Harper Lee’s father, Finch’s evolution in Lee’s novels and his portrayal in the film adaptation. It also focuses on the relationship between Harper Lee and her father and understanding the political struggles, including race relation at the time that preoccupied them.

“This book serves as a way to teach others about the racial tolerance within our society,” Crespino said. “I hope the audience walks out with a better understanding of not just the story, but the ongoing significance it has in our culture.”     

Crespino earned his Ph.D. from Stanford University and has received numerous awards for his work as a historian. He has served on the nominating committee and book award committee for the Organization of American Historians and the membership committee of the Southern Historical Association. He was also on the board of consultants for “Publishing the Long Civil Rights Movement,” for the University of North Carolina Press.

Crespino is a historian of the twentieth century United States and the American South since Reconstruction. While at Emory, Crespino has earned several awards for writing from multiple organizations and was named distinguished lecturer for the Organization of American Historians.

“The annual Stallworth Lecture provides a wonderful opportunity for the USA and Mobile communities to hear some of the most distinguished historians whose research and teaching focuses on the multifaceted nature of the American South throughout history,” said Dr. Martha Jane Brazy, associate professor of history. “Our Stallworth lecturers have examined through the historical lens some of the most critical social, political, economic and cultural issues within the South and nation.”

The Stallworth lecture is named in honor of N. Jack Stallworth, who contributed much to the South Alabama region. Stallworth was well known in Mobile business circles and having owned and operated several business ventures and restaurants in Mobile and was instrumental in founding the America’s Junior Miss, the Mobile Chapter of the English Speaking Union, and the Camellia Ball. With his grand leadership of the Mobile Carnival Association, he was known as “Mr. Mardi Gras.”

In addition, Stallworth provided the USA Foundation with his family’s assets to be used to enhance the teaching of Southern history and to support programs at USA. He also established two scholarships for history majors, in memory of his parents, Montgomery Carlton Stallworth and Minnie Lee Wilkens Stallworth. His love for Mobile, Southern life, and history, led him to create the N. Jack Stallworth Lecture, which allows passionate scholars to lecture in depth on different aspects of America’s history.

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