This volume gathers personal recollections by fifteen eminent historians of the American South. Coming from distinctive backgrounds, traveling diverse career paths, and practicing different kinds of history, the contributors exemplify the field's richness on many levels. As they reflect on why they joined the profession and chose their particular research specialties, these historians write eloquently of family and upbringing, teachers and mentors, defining events and serendipitous opportunities. The struggle for civil rights was the defining experience for several contributors. Peter H. Wood remembers how black fans of the St. Louis Cardinals erupted in applause for the Dodgers' Jackie Robinson. I realized for the first time, writes Wood, that there must be something even bigger than hometown loyalties dividing Americans. Gender equality is ather frequent concern in the essays. Anne Firor Scott tells of her advisor's ridicule when childbirth twice delayed Scott's dissertation: With great effort I managed to write two chapters, but Professor Handlin was moved to inquire whether I planned to have a baby every chapter. Yet ather prominent theme is the reconciliation of the professional and the personal, as when Bill C. Malone traces his scholarly interests back to the memories of growing up poor on an East Texas cotton farm and finding escape and diversion in the sounds of hillbilly music. Always candid and often witty, each essay is a roadmap through the intellectual terrain of southern history as practiced during the last half of the twentieth century. Having read Shapers of Southern History, anyone familiar with the scholarship of these contributors will draw added nuance and meaning from their work.
John B. Boles is William Pettus Hobby Professor of History at Rice University and managing editor of the Journal of Southern History. His books include The South through Time.