My current project is to finish a book length study of presidential scandals from Watergate to Trump, and this will hopefully happen if Trump ever pauses from his daily scandals. I am also still working on a study of global reaction to the Kennedy assassination based in part on the thousands of letters Mrs Kennedy received from all over the world. My work has also included historical sociology, attempting to test the proposition that social capital was critical to the success of the civil rights movement. One aspect of this is to see whether donations are occasional and spontaneous or significantly connected to pre-existing networks of association (see my article in The Sixties). Another aspect is about the durable or volatile nature of networks inside social movement organizations (see my essay on the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee). A third consideration is the relationship between social movement organizations (see my essay on Dr King and the NAACP. I completed a biography of John F. Kennedy for Routledge's Historical Biographies series in time for the 50th anniversary of the assassination (2013) and like my earlier biography of Martin Luther King in the same series, this book gives some attention to the commemorative life of its subject--the cultural afterlife. This reflects a continuing interest in memory and cultural representation that also inspired my short piece on Malcolm X and the media. The JFK biography inevitably required me to read some of the veritable library on the assassination. My Kennedy biography is reviewed here http://www.history.ac.uk/reviews/review/1533
My main expertise is Martin Luther King and the Civil Rights Movement. My other research focus has been American political history especially the post-war presidency. I have also commented on contemporary race relations and gun control.
The Civil Rights Movement
American history. Political education in the civil rights movement. North American environmental history. Social capital and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. Social capital refers to the… read more
American history. Political education in the civil rights movement. North American environmental history. Social capital and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. Social capital refers to the networks, norms and sanctions that enable a group to perform more effectively as a group than as individuals. While segregation and discrimination clearly limited the levels of capital held by the African American population, it allowed for the formation of certain forms of social capital that proved basic to the civil rights movement. My research looks at the networks that channeled donations to SCLC and those that enabled grassroots organizing via the Citizenship Schools, using South Carolina and Mississippi as case studies for the latter.. I am writing articles detailing the processes by which SCLC elicited funds in response to media spot-lit events and the role of celebrities in fund-raising.
My biography of John F Kennedy was published by Routledge in October 2013. I have since published an article on the impact of his death on passage of the civil rights act
A new edition of Martin Luther King was published in March 2015. I have a new article pending on the character of his nonviolence in Selma in 1965 and two more: one on his depiction in documentary film and another on lessons from the civil rights movement for present day activists.
Introduction of the automobile. Social capital and the civil rights movement.
I am building on my two biographies to write the first book-length study of Kennedy and King in national and international memory. I am intrigued by the way in which Kennedy who was a cautious politician who preferred to cling to the safe centre- ground where possible is now depicted as a martyr for the cause of peace and a quintessential liberal and progressive. in contrast, Martin Luther King who was challenging US involvement in Vietnam and demanding full employment and a guaranteed income based on human needs in 1968 is presented as a moderate and all-American dreamer. This is the position in the US, however, since the view globally is different and even more intriguing. So the new book will establish the evolving American memory of these two icons of the television age and will then reflect upon their invocation in other cultures.