SEPTEMBER 2, 2015 | By REBECCA LAUCK CLEARY & BECCA WALTON
Native American history is the topic of this year’s Gilder-Jordan Lecture in Southern History at the University of Mississippi.
Theda Perdue, distinguished professor emerita at the University of North Carolina, speaks at 7 p.m. Sept. 9 in Nutt Auditorium. Free and open to the public, the event is organized through the Center for the Study of Southern Culture.
After spending the day meeting with graduate students in history and Southern studies, and being interviewed by the Southern Documentary Project, Perdue will lecture on “Indians and Christianity in the New South,” a talk partly inspired by Charles Reagan Wilson, UM professor emeritus of history and Southern studies.
“When I began to think about Christianity and Southern Indians, Charles’s work came immediately to mind,” said Perdue, whose research focuses on the native peoples of the Southeast. “Historians tend to categorize the past – politics, the economy, intellectual life, the arts, religion, race, gender and so forth. But the human experience is much more muddled. Charles has an extraordinary ability to make the muddle intelligible without sacrificing its complexity. I greatly admire his scholarship, his editorial skill and his administrative abilities, and I value his long professional friendship.”
Perdue taught American Indian history in the history, women’s studies, and American studies departments of UNC, and is author, co-author or editor of 16 books, including “Cherokee Women: Gender and Culture Change,” “‘Mixed Blood’ Indians: Racial Construction in the Early South” and “Race and the Atlanta Cotton States Exposition of 1895.”
Mikaëla M. Adams, a UM assistant professor of history who specializes in Native American studies, is a former student of Perdue’s who is eager to learn more about her new research.
“I think the lecture will be a wonderful opportunity for our students here at the University of Mississippi to engage with a topic that often is neglected in Southern history: the story of indigenous people,” Adams said. “Theda’s work reminds us that there is more to Southern history and culture than the black-and-white binary we are most familiar with. She helps put native people back into the picture, which complicates our understandings of race, culture, identity and sovereignty.”
Past Gilder-Jordan lecturers include Barbara Field of Columbia University, David Blight of Yale University, Grace Hale of the University of Virginia, Walter Johnson of Harvard University and Jacquelyn Dowd Hall of UNC.
Other sponsors of the lecture include the UM African American Studies Program, Center for Civil War Research and the Arch Dalrymple III Department of History. The Gilder-Jordan Speaker Series is made possible through the generosity of the Gilder Foundation Inc. The series honors Richard Gilder of New York and his family, as well as his friends Dan and Lou Jordan of Virginia.