Severe storms at the USF Tampa campus pushed me off campus this afternoon, and I’ve used it in part to catch up on reading, such as Joy Ann Williamson-Lott’s article “The Battle over Power, Control, and Academic Freedom at Southern Institutions of Higher Education, 1955–1965” ($$) in last November’s Journal of Southern History. It’s an important consolidation of and addition to the literature on academic freedom and the modern civil rights movement.
Part of what makes the article so pleasurable is the way Williamson-Lott layers additional dimensions onto what I know about both the history of higher education and the civil-rights movement, from the ways Alabama State’s administrators turned the other way as Jo Ann Robinson and others planned a one-day bus boycott in Montgomery, to the cross-cutting pressures on both administrators and trustees between 1955 and 1965 (and at all sorts of institutions, public and private, HBCU and historically all-white). From the first to the last page, for me this is an intellectual walking tour of a familiar neighborhood, one in which I get to hear someone I know explain more stories of the neighborhood that I know well.
If you are not an historian or otherwise familiar with the material, what you now know is how one professional experienced this article. What does that really tell you?