Michele Grigsby Coffey

Michele Grigsby Coffey

Instructor, Scheduling Coordinator

125 Mitchell Hall
Office Hours
Tuesdays and Thursdays 11:30-12:30, 2:30-3:30 and by appointment


Ph.D., History, University of South Carolina, 2010
MA, History, Baylor University, 2002
BA, History, Baylor University, 2000

Fields of interest

African American history; women and gender; American political history; 20th-century US history; American south

I am fascinated by politics, broadly defined, and the intersections between cultural and political history. I am primarily interested in rhetorical constructions of gender and race within the political and legal systems of the twentieth century south. That interest has led me to intriguing projects examining child custody and maternal rights in the early 20th century, African American activism in the Depression era, conservative response against the Equal Rights Amendment and community mobilization during Freedom Summer.

I am very engaged in interdisciplinary work and have collaborated with Jodi Skipper (Anthropology and Southern Studies) at the University of Mississippi as the co-editor of an exciting Southern Studies collection, which was released by the University of Georgia Press this August. This work, Navigating Souths: Transdisciplinary Explorations of a US Region, came out of what was a path-breaking conference which we organized at the Center for the Study of Southern Culture at Oxford in February 2014. The Transforming New South Identities symposium brought together scholars from a wide range of disciplines who are pushing the boundaries of field in various ways. We are now looking forward to seeing the impact of Navigating Souths as other scholars engage the work.

Additionally, I have been fortunate to engage in the field of leadership education through my work in peer mentoring programs and curriculum development. When I am doing my historical research, I study how individuals in the past built community and empowered one another to action in diverse and varied settings. When I am doing leadership work, I focus on helping people in the present to develop the skills necessary to do the same on their terms. The privilege of seeing these processes from both perspectives strengthens my research in each field.

Courses taught

African American History; Civil Rights, the Supreme Court and Legalism; Civil War and Reconstruction; Gender and Sexuality in the 20th Century South; The New South; Politics of Race, Gender in the 20th Century South; Southern Lives; United States Historiography after 1877; United States History from 1877; United States History to 1877; United States History Since 1945

Representative publications

Coffey, Michele Grigsby and Jodi Skipper, eds. Navigating Souths: Transdisciplinary Explorations of a US Region. University of Georgia Press, August 2017.

"Finding Strength in Southern Studies Pedagogy: Cultivating Individual Resilience through a Representative Narrative." Navigating Souths: Transdisciplinary Explorations of a US Region. University of Georgia Press, August 2017.

"The Unselfish Academic," Auntie Bellum Magazine, 3 December 2016.

"Who is Mississippi?: Protest and Belonging in the Lost-Cause, Anti-LGBTQ South," Auntie Bellum Magazine, 10 April 2016.

"The State of Louisiana v. Charles Guerand: Interracial Sexual Mores, Rape Rhetoric, and Respectability in 1930s New Orleans." Louisiana History, Volume LIV, no. 1, (Winter 2013): 47-93. [This article won the 2013 Presidents' Memorial Award from the Louisiana Historical Association for the best article appearing in a volume of Louisiana History.]

"Tillman v. Tillman: Child Custody, Motherhood and the Power of a Populist Demagogue." In South Carolina Women: Their Lives and Times. Marjorie J. Spruill, Valinda Littlefield and Joan Marie Johnson, editors. (University of Georgia Press, January 2010).

Rising to the Challenge: A High School Leadership Curriculum. John Ben Shepperd Public Leadership Institute, 2005. Approved by the Texas Education Agency, 2005-2013.

Representative conference papers

"Legacies of Racial Violence and Distrust in the Civil Rights South." Violence and Memory: Memorializing Historical Traumas, from the Holocaust to the Jim Crow South, United States Holocaust Museum in partnership with the University of Memphis, February 2017.

"Scarred by Freedom: Analyzing the Community Impact of Freedom Summer." American Studies Association, Denver, Colorado, November 2016.

"Growing up Scarred by Freedom: Analyzing the Impact of Freedom Summer on Childhood." Oral History Association, October 2014

"Theresa Hicks vs. 'Politicking on Government Time:' Fighting the Equal Rights Amendment though Opposition to the Commission on the Status of Women." The ERA in the 21st Century: Where Have We Come From, Where Will We Go?, Invitational conference at Roger Williams University, November 2013

"Battling the Sinners 'Politicking on Government Time:' The Legal Challenge against the Commission on the Status of Women in South Carolina." Southern Historical Association, November 2012

"Deviants, Beasts and Ladies: Interracial Sexual Mores, Rape Rhetoric and Respectability in 1930s New Orleans." Popular Culture Association in the South and the American Culture Association in the South, October 2011

"Uniting to Slay the White Beast: Rape Rhetoric and the Prosecution of Charles Guerand." American Historical Association, January 2010

"Defending the Community from the Police: African American Activism and the Prosecution of Police Brutality in 1930s New Orleans." Association for the Study of African American Life and History, October 2009

"Tillman v. Tillman: Child Custody, Motherhood and the Power of a Populist Demagogue." Southern Association for Women Historians, June 2009


Scheduling and Part-time Faculty Coordinator, Department of History, Fall 2017-present

Faculty Advisor, Graduate Association for African American History, Fall 2013-present

Academic Coach, Academic Coaching for Excellence Program, Fall 2015-Spring 2016

Teaching and Mentoring Committee, Department of History, Fall 2015-Spring 2016

Faculty Advisor, Graduate History Association, Fall 2014-Spring 2015

Current Project

I am currently working on an oral history project examining the personal narratives of individuals who were actively involved in supporting or resisting the Freedom Summer project in Meridian, Mississippi. In this city, the three Civil Rights workers who were ultimately murdered during Freedom Summer first lived and labored as did many of their murderers both before and after the "long, hot summer" of 1964. Grounding my own historical research into the lives of these individuals in the findings of criminologists, psychologists and sociologists of the contemporary south, I argue that the complex, violent and often psychologically treacherous interactions of the 1960s furnished the political and legal structures of distrust and discrimination still evident in this typical if infamous southern town's high crime rate, high poverty rate and visible racial divide.