It's thus oddly appropriate that I've devoted my career to studying the industrialization of the South. Not a terribly lucrative way to spend one's time, but I've fortunately gotten Vanderbilt University to help pay the bills, in return for the opportunity to teach the history of the American South. I teach for other reasons than to feed a habit, of course; having grown up in the South at the end of the Jim Crow era, listening to tales of the South of mules and poverty at the kitchen table, I'm aware of the rush of change, and even more of the gulf separating my own experience and that of my students. I see my task as bridging both of those gulfs, of showing the depths that lie beneath the too-glossy surface of the modern urban-suburban South.
This task I see as especially important because the past shapes the present in ways not readily visible to those not aware of it. For all the complaints about the "disappearing South," it hasn't so much disappeared as simply changed--for better and for worse . As this photograph shows, the floor of the mill shown above is now empty, but it ran over ninety years, and the way of life it created shaped the lives of generations of southerners, in ways that continue to haunt the South of skyscrapers and suburbs.
Teaching and research isn't all I do. I'm a (too infrequent) cyclist, and a choral singer (with, among other groups, the Nashville Symphony Chorus), with a particular interest in the old shaped-note, or fasola tradition of the rural South. I am an elder (currently inactive) at Trinity Presbyterian Church in Nashville, a congregation of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). Finally, I occasionally indulge longtime enthusiams for southern culture of various sorts, but especially mountain-derived music such as "old-time" and bluegrass music.
Here's an up-to-date Curriculum Vitae.