OAH Distinguished Lecturer Profile

Jarod Roll

Portrait of Jarod Roll

Jarod Roll is an associate professor of history at the University of Mississippi, where he teaches about modern America. His research explores the working-class experience and popular economic thought, particularly in rural America. He is the author of Spirit of Rebellion: Labor and Religion in the New Cotton South (2010), which won the Herbert G. Gutman Prize, the Missouri History Book Award, and the C.L.R. James Award. Roll is also a coauthor of The Gospel of the Working Class: Labor's Southern Prophets in New Deal America (2011), which received the Southern Historical Association's H.L. Mitchell Prize. His current project, "Poor Man's Fortune: A History of Working-Class White Conservatism in American Metal Mining, 1850-1950," explores the long history of white working-class anti-unionism in base metal mining.

Featured Lecture

OAH Lectures

The current weakness of organized labor in the South is often taken to mean that southerners are now, and have always been, naturally opposed to unions and the politics of class. This lecture surveys the rich and dynamic history of southern labor and working-class activism since the Civil War to counter this presentist assumption and offer fresh understanding of working-class politics in the contemporary South.
There are different stories about how Missouri became known as the Show-Me State. Few of those stories, however, are true. Today the motto signifies the stalwart, salt-of-the-earth nature of the state's residents, but it originated in the 1890s as an oath of opprobrium used to denigrate Missourians for their obsequiousness and stupidity. Union miners in Colorado coined the term during an 1896 strike to mock the nonunion Missouri miners who came to the Rockies to work as strikebreakers. Missourians did not like it. Calling someone 'show-me' was an easy way to start a brawl, or a gunfight. This lecture tells that story and its consequences, including how Missouri strikebreakers transformed 'show-me,' once considered a grave insult, into a dubious badge of honor.
This lecture explores how a coalition of southern labor activists, inspired by prophetic Christian belief, organized the region's sharecroppers and factory workers into a working-class movement that captured the attention of the Roosevelt administration during the worst years of the Great Depression, and in doing so brought the "forgotten man" into the center of national debates about social and economic justice.
The history of America's precious metal mining booms is well known: Sutter's Mill, the Comstock Lode, the Black Hills. The history of America's base metal mining booms is not well known: La Motte, Fever River, Granby. We can easily understand why thousands of miners set out in search of gold and silver. It is harder for us to understand why thousands of prospectors and small-scale miners set out in search of lead, iron, and zinc. And yet they did, often opting to mine cheaper base metals rather than join contemporaneous precious metal rushes. This lecture examines the choices, ambitions, and careers of the miners who produced the base metals that were essential to American industrial development in the nineteenth century.