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News about the Department of History and its faculty, staff, students, and alumni

Archives of History Happenings are available for:

The department periodically publishes a newsletter.

For upcoming events, consult the Event Calendar.

History Happenings


University billboard advertises the Department of History

Brand billboard

[3 March 2015] The University of Memphis has erected an electronic billboard at Poplar Avenue and White Station Road that advertises the Department of History. The billboard contains the new branding symbol for the university in the lower right-hand corner.

The intersection is heavily traveled. Poplar Avenue is also U.S. route 72 and Tennessee route 57 and is one of the main east-west streets in the city, and White Station Road is one of the main north-south streets in east Memphis.


Dr Aram Goudsouzian leads viewing and discussion of Freedom Riders

[25 February 2015] Dr Aram Goudsouzian led a discussion this evening at the National Civil Rights Museum of the documentary Freedom Riders in connection with Created Equal: America’s Civil Rights Struggle. This was part of a series of scholar-led film viewings and dicussions. The documentary dealt with the Freedom Rides of 1961 that were a pivotal moment in the long civil rights struggle that redefined America. Based on Raymond Arsenault’s recent book, it offers an inside look at the brave band of activists who challenged segregation in the Deep South.


Dr William Campbell speaks in Humanities Brown Bag Series for faculty

[24 February 2015] Dr William Campbell spoke this afternoon in the Humanities Brown Bag Series for faculty sponsored by the Marcus W. Orr Center for the Humanities. His topic was “The Legalities of Exploitation: Treaty-Making in Native America,” how the protocols and precedents established by negotiations immediately following the American Revolution remain important to rulings and arguments today. Dr Campbell is under contract by the National Parks Service to revisit and reinterpret the terms and means of a number of late-eighteenth-century treaties, Dr. Campbell will explore some of these themes and aspects as he discusses most recent research.


Department publishes February 2015 issue of History Happenings newsletter

Miniature of newsletter cover[24 February 2015] The February 2015 issue of History Happenings, the newsletter of the Department of History, is now online as a PDF document

The issue contains the following articles:


Department hosts largest West Tennessee History Day ever

[21 February 2015] The weather was a worrisome factor all week, since The University of Memphis had closed for four days, including yesterday, because of snow and ice. Today was a rather unpleasant day also, with a cold, blowing rain but the front that moved through the area during the early morning hours brought enough warmth with it to melt most of the ice and snow and allow West Tennessee History Day to proceed today as scheduled, in the University Center, Mitchell Hall, and the Michael Rose Theatre.

Dr Curt Fields and Jimmy OgleDr Susan O’Donovan reported that it was the largest West Tennessee Day ever, with 421 students involved in various projects such as written papers, websites, documentaries, performances, and exhibits. Judging, which was done by volunteers from the university and the community, began at 9 o’clock and concluded shortly before the awards ceremony at 3 pm in the auditorium of the University Center. Dr O’Donovan called on Shelby County Historian Jimmy Ogle to make introductory remarks and to introduce Dr Curt Fields, chairman of the Shelby County Historical Commission. (Mr Ogle remarked that Dr Fields often plays the role of General U. S. Grant in Civil War reenactments.)They were joined shortly by Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell and Dr Aram Goudsouzian, chair of the Department of History, who helped to distribute medals to the winners.

It was not only students who received honors. The Shelby County Historical Society makes an annual award (named in honor of Ed Williams, a former Shelby County Historian) to a "teacher of the year." The recipient this year (in absentia) was Dr Mark Janzen, one of our PhD alumni in Egyptology from 2013 and who now teaches U.S. history, world history, and advanced placement U.S. history at First Assembly Christian School.

Students who won first- and second-place prizes in today’s competition are eligible to participate in Tennessee History Day to be held in Nashville on 11 April 2015, and third-place winners are alternates. In addition, first-place winners will be further honored at an awards ceremony to be held by the Shelby County Historical Commission on 5 August. Here are some of the winners receiving their medals:

Winners 01 Winners 04
Winners 03 Winners 02

At the conclusion of the awards Mayor Luttrell, who had been a history major himself, exhorted the students to continue their pursuit of historical knowledge. To judge from the number of persons who attended the events and packed the auditorium to near-capacity, he might be said to have been “preaching to the choir.” Here are some of them on the way out:

Crowd exiting the awards ceremony


Dr Susan O’Donovan leads viewing and discussion of The Abolitionists

 [19 February 2015] Dr Susan O’Donovan led a discussion this evening at the Benjamin L. Hooks Central Library of the documentary The Abolitionists in connection with Created Equal: America’s Civil Rights Struggle. This was part of a series of scholar-led film viewings and dicussions. The documentary dealt with the struggles of the men and women to end slavery in the period before the Civil War.


Dr Beverly Bond leads viewing and discussion of The Loving Story

[12 February 2015] In the series of scholar-led film viewings and discussions in connection with Created Equal: America’s Civil Rights Struggle, Dr Beverly Bond this evening led discussion of The Loving Story. The documentary dealt with the interracial marriage of Richard and MIldred Loving in Virginia, the conviction under the state’s law against miscegenation, and the unanimous Supreme Court decision (1967) that led to the overturning of such laws throughout the United States.

The event was held at the Benjamin L. Hooks Central Library.


Jeffery Jones and Scott Frizzell present dissertation prospectuses

[6 February 2015] Jeffery Jones and Scott Frizzell presented prospectuses for their dissertations this afternoon at the first prospectus session of the Spring 2015 semester. Mr Jones (below left) proposes a dissertation on General Benjamin O. Davis, the first black Army officer to achieve the rank of general. Mr Frizzell (below right) will study busing and school desegregation in Memphis, Tennessee.

Jeffery Jones Scott Frizzell


Dr Sheena Harris speaks at opening event for Black History Month at LeMoyne-Owen

[5 February 2015] Dr Sheena Harris was the speaker Wednesday evening for the opening event in Black History Month at LeMoyne-Owen College, speaking on the topic of how reality shows like Real Housewives of Atlanta shape viewers’ perceptions of African- Americans.

The perceptions are not very encouraging, according to Dr Harris, not very different from the freak shows of the 19th century that presented the stereotype of black women as “docile and subservient but also exotic and oversexualized.” That image was so prevalent that elite black women such as Ida B. Wells and Margaret Murray Washington (the wife of Booker T. Washington) felt the responsibility of black elite women to help in the uplifting of the race. Today, she maintained, those ideas are being overshadowed by “the glitz and glam of rising popular culture.” 

Dr Harris is a graduate of our PhD program, having received her degree in 2012 with a dissertation on the life and times of Margaret Murray Washington, with Dr Beverly Bond as major professor. She is now an assistant professor of history at Tuskegee Institute.


Dr Aram Goudsouzian speaks about the Meredith March Against Fear at historical society meeting

[2 February 2015] At the February meeting of the West Tennessee Historical Society this evening, Dr Aram Goudsouzian spoke on the theme of his book Down to the Crossroads: Civil Rights, Black Power, and the Meredith March Against Fear.


U of M faculty members to lead viewing and discussion of films for Created Equal: America’s Civil Rights Struggle

Poster for the event

[30 January 2015] Dr Earnestine Jenkins, associate professor of art history, will join with Dr Beverly Bond, Dr Susan O’Donovan, and Dr Aram Goudsouzian of the Department of History in a series of film viewings and discussions during February in connection with Created Equal: America's Civil Rights Struggle, a project brought to Memphis by the National Endowment for the Humanities, The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, and the American Library Association.

All the events will be held on Thursday evenings from 6 to 8 pm; two will be at the National Civil Rights Museum and two will be at the Benjamin L. Hooks Central Library:

  • 5 February, National Civil Rights Museum: Slavery by Another Name, led by Dr Jenkins
  • 12 February, Meeting Rooms A-C, Benjamin L. Hooks Central Library: The Loving Story, led by Dr Bond
  • 19 February, Meeting Rooms A-C, Benjamin L. Hooks Central Library: The Abolitionists, led by Dr O’Donovan
  • 26 February, National Civil Rights Museum: Freedom Riders, led by Dr Goudsouzian


Theban Tomb 16 team reports on the current excavation season

Visitors at Theban Tomb 16

[22 January 2015] Dr Suzanne Onstine reports from Luxor, Egypt, that having worked for three weeks the team that is excavating Theban Tomb 16 has reached the halfway point in this season’s excavations. The 19th-Dynasty tomb is the burial site for Pahnesy and his wife Tarenu, priest and priestess. Dr Onstine has been responsible for excavation there since 2008 (a detailed report of the 2012-2013 season may be found in the departmental newsletter for September 2013).

The physical anthropology team has analysed thousands of bones and has discovered several lovely funerary objects like shabtis (funerary figures) and amulets. The rest of the burial equipment is in a very ruined state—all the coffins and bodies were smashed into small pieces during the looting of the tomb in the 20th century. The project, however, is happy with the amount of data that can be secured from the broken remains, and all kinds of pathologies and mummification techniques have been found.

U of M team at Theban Tomb 16The x-ray machine that was supposed to be used during this season is still sitting in the Cairo airport awaiting customs clearance, so those investigations will have to wait until a later season as the radiologist, Rosa Dinares, had to return to Spain to her “real job.” Dr Onstine remarked that the team is very fortunate to have specialists like Rosa, Jesus Herrerin (physical anthropologist), and Miguel Sanchez (pathologist), willing to devote their vacation days to research at TT16.  

The team was able to show off the tomb to the Karnak team in that team’s final days of work (see a report from the Karnak Hypostyle Hall Project earlier this month). A further update on TT16 is promised at the end of the season.

The large photograph above is of Dr Onstine explaining some information about the tomb to a group of visitors. The small photograph at the left is of the Memphis team members: Dustin Peasley, Dr Onstine, Virginia Reckard, and Elizabeth Warkentin (kneeling).


Dr Darin Stephanov receives academic appointments in Finland

Dr Darin Stephanov making prospectus presentation[13 January 2015] Dr Darin Stephanov has recently been named a post-doctoral researcher at the Academy of Finland Project “Political Power in the Early Modern European and Islamic Worlds,” and coordinator of the Nordic Exploratory Workshops “Eurasian Empires, Public Space/Sphere, and Collective Identities at the Threshold of Modernity” at the University of Jyväskylä, Finland.  He is the author of “Sultan Mahmud II (1808-1839) and the First Shift in Modern Ruler Visibility in the Ottoman Empire,” Journal of the Ottoman and Turkish Studies Association 1:1-2 (2014), among other articles.

Dr Stephanov received his PhD at The University of Memphis in 2012. His dissertation was “Minorities, Majorities, and the Monarch: Nationalizing Effects of the Late Ottoman Royal Public Ceremonies, 1808-1908,” with Dr Kent Schull as major professor. While a student he won one of the first-ever awards for making the best prospectus presentation. He did postdoctoral research in Finland and was a Fellow at the Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies during 2012-2014.


Dr Aram Goudsouzian participates in historians' assessments of President Obama’s legacy

[12 January 2015] Dr Aram Goudsouzian was one of 53 historians chosen by New York magazine to make assessments of the legacy of Barack Obama. Each historian was asked by respond to 15 questions. In its general article on the online site the magazine chose from the full assessments brief quotations that it found most thought-provoking.

Magazine coverIn the category "What We Will Remember?" it included Dr Goudsouzian’s contention that it would be the recent executive action on immigration: “According to one poll, almost 90 percent of registered Latino voters support the measure. The number of Hispanics in the United States is projected to double by 2060, which means that one-third of the nation’s population will be Hispanic. Obama’s executive action may not only help stabilize the country’s Latino population but also cement much of its loyalty to the Democratic Party.”

In the category “The Most Lasting Image?" it included Dr Goudsouzian’s judgment that it was “When Joe Wilson yelled You lie! during the 2009 State of the Union: a cheap, nasty, and disrespectful moment and a depressing emblem of the era in which Obama has governed.

The magazine published the complete text of all the responses in separate articles; Dr Goudsouzian’s response may be bound at


Karnak Hypostyle Hall Project filmed by CNN for its series “Inside Africa”

Andrew Shilling at Karnak[1 January 2015] CNN International recently visited Dr Peter Brand and his students who are working on the field mission of the Karnak Hypostyle Hall Project in Luxor, Egypt, and did extensive filming of the Hypostyle Hall for the first part of its weekly program “Inside Africa” that is seen around the world.The crew spoke with doctoral student Andrew Shilling and shot footage of him when he was upon the scaffolding recording inscriptions.

This part, which is narrated by CNN’s Ian Lee and deals with the Nile as the lifeblood of Egypt’s civilization and concentrates on the ancient capital at Thebes (modern Luxor), has been posted to the Internet at Beginning at about 3:08, the show depicts the Karnak Hypostyle Hall and how it has been used in movies such as James Bond’s “They Spy Who Loved Me” and more recently “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen.” It then speaks about how the University of Memphis is working there, “uncovering the mysteries” of Ancient Egypt, and Mr Shilling is shown doing his work on the scaffolding, beginning at 3:52.

Dr Brand reported today that the field season is going very well and that he will be returning to Memphis on 15 January with most of the students. Another senior doctoral student, Ms Erika Feleg, will continue to work at Karnak along with the project’s photographer until 31 March. 

This season’s field work was made possible by the project’s fifth consecutive grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities and its first grant from the American Research Center in Egypt’s Egyptian Antiquities Fund, which in turn is funded by the US-AID program from the State Department. 

You may find more information about the Karnak Hypostyle Hall Project on its website and on its Facebook page. (The Facebook page has an item about the project’s participating in the celebrations arranged for this year’s solstice at Karnak on 21 December, which it described as "magnificent!")

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Last Updated: 3/3/15