Pippa Holloway, a professor of history at Middle Tennessee State University, is the author of Living in Infamy: Felon Disfranchisement and the History of American Citizenship (2014) and Sexuality, Politics, and Social Control in Virginia, 1920–1945 (2006). She is also the editor of Other Souths: Diversity and Difference in the U.S. South, Reconstruction to Present (2008). Her research on felon disfranchisement was supported, in part, by a Soros Justice Fellowship from the Open Society Foundations. She teaches courses in U.S. history, focusing on southern history, the history of incarceration, LGBT history, and historical research methods. Her current research examines the right of those charged with crimes or convicted of felonies to testify in court.
One of the first scholarly efforts to chronicle the history of felon disfranchisement laws in the US identified a man named John Field Bunting as the mastermind behind the strategy of using felon disfranchisement to target African American voters. Bunting, drawing on his experience as a local magistrate, claimed in 1901 that “The crime of wife-beating alone would disqualify sixty percent of the Negroes.” John Field Bunting never existed; the name was a mis-transcription of "John Fielding Burns," an Alabama planter and member of the 1901 Alabama Constitutional Convention. However, John Field Bunting lives on in two ways. First, writers in a variety of disciplines and venues have perpetuated this mis-transcription, citing a variety of sources as its origin, making "Mr. Bunting" a oft-cited authority on the matter. Second, and perhaps more importantly, focusing on his quote and his ideas about suffrage has produced popular narratives about felon disfranchisement that fail to examine the larger context and longer history of ideas about violence, criminality, and fitness for citizenship.