Saturday, August 10, 2013

Welcome Dr. Andrei Gandila!

Dumbarton Oaks Library
Dr. Andrei Gandilla

Welcome Dr. Gandila! 

The history department welcomes a second assistant professor to our ranks this fall: Dr. Andrei Gandila. Dr. Gandila spent last year as a Dumbarton Oaks Junior Fellow after which he defended his dissertation, “Marginal Money: Coins, Frontiers, and Barbarians in Early Byzantium in the Sixth and Seventh Centuries,” at the University of Florida.

Perhaps it’s not surprising that Dr. Gandila, a Romanian (“citizen of Rome”), focuses on Roman history and archaeology. He also brings expertise in antiquity and the early middle ages to UAH, and public history students will benefit from his experience as a museum curator and archaeologist.  Incidentally, comments can be addressed to Dr. Gandila in Romanian, French, German, or you can write to him Latin, Ancient Greek (take note Society for Ancient Languages!), Italian, or Spanish. Preferably about futball (soccer), which is a passion of his.

Dr. Gandila uses archaeological field work in Romania and Italy to flesh out his study of Byzantium’s frontiers, particularly around the Danube. Become a “marginal” historian: Join him on the borders and in the margins in his fall course, “Roman Frontiers and Borders (HY498/598).”

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

MA Alum Thomas Reidy Helps Set Stage for Pardon of "Scottsboro Boys" AND Defends his PhD Dissertation!

The UAH History Department is extremely proud of our MA Alum, Thomas Reidy, for his academic achievements and contributions to the betterment of society this past year.

Tom played a pivotal role in the Alabama Legislature’s 2013 passage of the Scottsboro Boys Act, which allows the Board of Pardons and Paroles to consider posthumous pardons, as well as Resolution of Exoneration for all nine defendants in the Scottsboro case. On top of all of this, Tom defended his PhD dissertation at the University of Alabama in June!

"The story of the "Scottsboro Boys" is well-known. In 1931, nine African-Americans, ages twelve to nineteen, were taken off a train in Paint Rock and charged with raping two white, Huntsville women. The accused were driven to Scottsboro on the back of a flat-bed truck and given a hasty trial. Not surprisingly in the Jim Crow era, all "Scottsboro Boys" except twelve year-old Roy Wright were convicted, and sentenced to death. Young Roy was given life in prison.

Ultimately, after a long series of appeals and retrials, their case led to two landmark Supreme Court decisions, one affirming the right of defendants to competent counsel, and a second affirming the right of African-Americans to service on juries.

Nonetheless, none of the defendants was pardoned until the 1976 pardon of Clarence Norris, which Tom documented in a 2012 essay
in the Alabama Heritage magazine, “Awaiting Justice: The Improbable Pardon of ‘Scottsboro Boy’ Clarence Norris.” Norris was the only “Scottsboro boy” still alive at that time.

This article was an outgrowth of Tom’s work since 2011 alongside Sheila Washington, director of the Scottsboro Boys Museum and Cultural Center, to seek pardons for the Scottsboro Boys. The two met with the Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles, several legislators, and various attorneys for several months prior to the article’s publication. Tom also drafted a letter sent to Governor Robert Bentley asking for the pardons.

After the publication and widespread circulation of the much-praised Alabama Heritage article, Tom and Sheila Washington met with the five legislators who would sponsor the “Scottsboro Boys” bill--John Robinson, Shadrick McGill, Wayne Johnson, Laura Hall, and Arthur Orr. Once they were on board, Tom drafted early versions of both the resolution and the act. John Miller, an attorney who teaches law at UA's New College, polished the legalese and made it palatable to some skeptics. Tom was also instrumental in building relationships with very important Civil Rights leaders, whose voices certainly were heard in Montgomery and helped influence legislative passage, including Fred Gray (Rosa Park's attorney), Milton C. Davis, Bill Baxley, Donald Watkins, and John Lewis, all of whom supported the pardon efforts.

Governor Bentley has signed both bills into law, and Tom and fellow activists are now working with Morgan County and Jackson County to prepare the petition for the un-pardoned defendants.

Tom also recently defended his PhD dissertation, “Objects of Confidence and Choice: Professional Communities in Alabama, 1804 to 1861,” at the University of Alabama. This dissertation considers the contributions of professionals--lawyers, doctors, clergymen, and others with advanced degrees or licenses--in antebellum Alabama. It argues that professionals were institution-builders who provided the foundation for the growth of the state. They built court houses and jails, schools and libraries, post offices and newspapers, and sat on boards that supervised these institutions. They were town councilmen, mayors, representatives, and governors. By building and maintaining public and private institutions, professionals made the state of Alabama attractive to tens of thousands of new immigrants. Some professionals hoped to diversify Alabama's slave economy, yet they continually passed laws that strengthened the institution of slavery. The dissertation demonstrates that by the time of the Civil War, professionals helped make Alabama a wealthy and powerful state.

We are very proud of Tom’s achievements. He is an excellent example of how historical research and writing can affect society and politics in important ways, in this case correcting the historical record and advancing human justice. We look forward to posting the good news when the Scottsboro Boys achieve full pardon, and we wish Tom well in all of his future professional endeavors!

Welcome to Dr. Nicole Pacino, Expert in Latin American history!

The History Department is delighted to welcome Dr. Nicole Pacino to Huntsville and to UAH! Dr. Pacino recently defended her dissertation in Latin American history at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and she joins us as an assistant professor of history.

An active traveler, Dr. Pacino based her dissertation research on several years working with Andean environmental and health activists. She brings expertise in the history of medicine and public health, Latin American revolutions and social movements, and gender history to UAH. Her dissertation explores public health in post-revolutionary Bolivia from 1952-1964.

For her next research project, Dr. Pacino has her sights set on quinoa. Not just food for healthy hippies, quinoa provides a powerful lens through which Dr. Pacino plans to study the social and cultural history of the Andean region.

Check out her innovative Fall course on "Latin American History Through Film (HY498/598) or look for her, her two energetic dogs, and her husband gardening or exploring the region.


Monday, August 05, 2013

History Students Honored at UAH's 2013 Honors Day

The History Department is very proud of its students who achieved recognition at the Spring 2013 Honors Day. The Outstanding Undergraduate Achievement Award went to Julia Paul and the Outstanding Graduate Achievement Award to Janis Dye. Anna Grace received the National Society of the Colonial Dames of America in the State of Alabama History Essay Award, with Kirsten Currier winning the Colonel Walter Aston Chapter of the Colonial Dames of the XVII Century History Award. Rounding out our History Department winners was James Xiques, who received the Dr. John Rison Jones Award in Southern History sponsored by the Huntsville-Madison County Historical Society. Pictured here are Julia, Janis, James, and Kirsten.

Daniel T. Munn, pictured here with Dr. Richard Gerberding, also received the Award for Outstanding Classical Studies Student. It is a pleasure for us to congratulate these fine students for their achievements.

Congrats to Dr. Christine Sears on Tenure and Promotion!

The UAH History Department celebrates Christine Sears, who will be beginning the coming academic year as a tenured associate professor. We are very proud of Christine's accomplishment, which is a big boost not only to her, but also to the History Department and to UAH! Christine looks very relaxed in the photo here, but she sure isn't taking too much of a break. She is currently working on a co-edited collection (with Jeff Forret), Comodification, Community and Comparison in Slave Studies, under contract with Louisiana State University Press, in which she is also contributing a chapter on “‘In Algiers, the City of Bondage’: Urban Slavery in Comparative Context.” Congrats Christine!

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