Karen L. Cox

Karen L. Cox is a professor of history at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte where she teaches courses in American history with a focus on southern history and culture. She is the author of Dixie's Daughters: The United Daughters of the Confederacy and the Preservation of Confederate Culture (2003), which won the Southern Association for Women Historians' Julia Cherry Spruill Prize, Dreaming of Dixie: How the South Was Created in American Popular Culture (2011), Goat Castle: A True Story of Murder, Race, and the Gothic South (2017), and most recently, No Common Ground: Confederate Monuments and the Ongoing Fight for Racial Justice (2021). She is also the editor of Destination Dixie: Tourism and Southern History (2012). A public intellectual, she has written op-eds for the New York Times, the Washington Post, Time, CNN, Smithsonian Magazine, Publishers Weekly, and the Huffington Post. She has been interviewed by journalists from around the world for her expertise on Confederate monuments and Confederate culture more broadly. Her next project will examine the Rhythm Club fire in Natchez, Mississippi. More than 200 members of the Black community perished in this fire in April 1940 and it is still the fourth deadliest club fire in the history of the United States.

OAH Lectures by Karen L. Cox

Since 2015, Confederate monuments have been at the center of public debates and national politics. For some, these statues are symbolic of white supremacy and systemic racism, while others see them as benign objects of history and heritage. These divergent points of view did not recently emerge but have existed since the nineteenth century. Like the monuments themselves, they are set in stone. There is, simply put, no common ground.

This lecture focuses on the historical recovery of ordinary people and what they tell us about American history. Using the life of one woman, an innocent black domestic convicted of murder in the Jim Crow South, this lecture emphasizes the importance of local history, oral history, and bringing together the small details of her life to create a portrait of a woman whose life sat at the intersection of slavery, Reconstruction, Jim Crow, and the civil rights movement.

While the emphasis of the talk is on the pre-television era, the discussion is extended through contemporary representations of the South in popular media. The presentation includes sound and film clips.

This lecture explores how the debate over Confederate monuments took shape after the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville and draws on Dr. Cox's personal experience writing op-eds, giving talks, and the public's response.

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