Michele Grigsby Coffey
Assistant Professor of Teaching
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; 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 have been teaching US history at the University of Memphis for almost a decade and have loved getting to know so many online and in-person students in my classes. Starting this fall, I am very excited to start teaching on the Lambuth campus in Jackson. While I will no longer be teaching in-person classes on the main campus, I hope that my Memphis students will keep in touch when they need me, and I will still be teaching a number of courses online regularly.
Undergraduate Courses taught
US History to 1877; US History Since 1877; Tennessee History; African American History; Women’s History; History of American Ideas; Civil War and Reconstruction; US South Since 1865; Civil Rights Movement
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.
“James Chaney,” “Michael Schwerner,” and “Andrew Goodman.” Mississippi Encyclopedia, Center for the Study of Southern Culture, May 2022.
"Womanhood," and “Interracial Intimacies” The World of Jim Crow: A Daily Life, Steven Reich, editor. Greenwood Press, June 2019.
"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
"Teaching Representative Southern Experiences in the Diverse South." Approaching Difficult Topics in the Classroom: A Pedagogy Roundtable, United States Holocaust Museum, Memphis, Tennessee, November 2017
"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
Graduate Awards Committee, Department of History, Fall 2019 - present
Scheduling and Part-time Faculty Coordinator, Department of History, Fall 2017-Spring 2019
Faculty Advisor, Graduate Association for African American History, Fall 2013-Spring 2017
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
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.