OAH Distinguished Lecturer Profile

OAH Distinguished Lectureship program 40 years 1981-2021

Orville Vernon Burton

Portrait of Orville Vernon Burton

Orville Vernon Burton is the Judge Matthew J. Perry Distinguished Professor of History, Sociology and Anthropology, Pan African Studies, and Computer Science at Clemson University, and emeritus University Distinguished Teacher/Scholar, University Scholar, and professor of history, African American studies, and sociology at the University of Illinois where he is also a senior research scientist and emeritus associate director of humanities and social sciences at the National Center for Supercomputing Application. Burton has written nearly 300 articles and written or edited more than 20 books including The Age of Lincoln (2007), which won the Chicago Tribune Heartland Literary Award for nonfiction; In My Father's House Are Many Mansions: Family and Community in Edgefield, South Carolina (1985); and Penn Center: A History Preserved (2014); and coauthor with Civil Rights attorney Armand Derfner, Justice Deferred: Race and the Supreme Court. He is also the author or director of numerous digital humanities projects. Burton's research and teaching interests include the American South, especially race relations and community, and the intersection of humanities and social sciences. A recognized authority on race relations, Burton is often called upon as an expert witness in discrimination and voting rights cases throughout the United States. He has served as the president of the Southern Historical Association and of the Agricultural History Society. Recognized for his outstanding teaching, Burton has been named U.S. Research and Doctoral University Professor of the Year by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and by the Council for Advancement and Support of Education and has also won the American Historical Association's Eugene Asher Distinguished Teaching Prize. In 2007 the Illinois State legislature honored him with a special resolution for his contributions as a scholar, teacher, and citizen of Illinois. He was one of ten historians selected by the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies to contribute to the 2013 Presidential Inaugural Portfolio. In 2017 he received the Governor’s Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Humanities from the South Carolina Humanities Council.

Featured Lecture

OAH Lectures

This lecture looks at race and the history of race in the U.S. through the lens of the Supreme Court: from 1619 and colonial slavery - including the Cherokee Trail of Tears and Jim Crow, Chinese exclusion Act, Japanese internment - to the triumph of Brown v. Board of Education, affirmative action, criminal justice, and to the current dismantling of the Voting Rights Act, 2013 and 2021, and continuing today.
Reconstruction is the most important, and least understood, period in U.S. History. It was the most progressive period of history in what was the former Confederacy, and the tragedy of Reconstruction is that this legitimately elected interracial democratic government was overthrown by terrorist paramilitary groups in a coup d'etat.