History Honors Student and Undergraduate Fox Center Fellow Yi Xie (19C) Reflects on Research

Senior History Honors student Yi Xie is currently working on her thesis as an undergraduate fellow at the Fox Center for Humanistic Inquiry. Xie’s thesis is titled “Becoming American in a Multiracial Context: Chinese ‘Sojourners’ and African Americans’ Battle for Inclusion in a White Republic, 1868-1904.” She recently wrote a reflection, “Becoming American: A Historical Parallel between Chinese Immigrants and African Americans, 1868-1904,” about her research and experiences at the Fox Center. Read the full post here along with an excerpt from the abstract of her project below.

“This research aims to develop a clear understanding of the racial dynamics of the second half of the nineteenth century by studying the ‘Chinese Question,’ the ‘Negro Problem,’ and the relations between the two from the perspectives of abolitionists, Caucasian immigrants, African Americans, and the Chinese. She investigates why and how the ‘Chinese Question’ and the ‘Negro Problem’ were conflated and differentiated, and how dynamic and complex were the relations between the two. She also conducts a comparative study of anti-black and anti-Chinese violence on the West Coast. She has visited archives in Northampton, MA and will conduct more archival research in Seattle, WA.”

‘HowStuffWorks’ Features Crespino’s ‘History 385: Right-Wing America’

This spring Jimmy Carter Professor of History and Department Chair Joseph Crespino is teaching a 385 course titled “Right-Wing America.” HowStuffWorks contributing writer John Donovan recently featured Crespino’s course in the article “Bridging the Chasm: Emory Class Delves Into America’s Right-wing History.” HowStuffWorks editorial board describes the website as a “source for unbiased, reliable, easy-to-understand answers and explanations of how the world actually works.” Read the full article here and check out Donovan’s observations from the first day of the spring course below.

“‘Donald Trump really defied what we thought we knew about American politics,’ Crespino tells his class that first day. ‘Trump’s election not only kind of upended what we thought were these iron laws of American politics’ — mainly, that candidates have to run toward the center to get elected — ‘but it also makes the American past look a lot different, you know? Things that we used to take for granted as kind of hiccups along the way all of a sudden look more important. And they look more ominous. And we begin to see that they weren’t just hiccups, but they’re kind of a recurring pattern.’

That pattern is what interests scholars. It’s what Crespino hopes his students will grasp, too; that the ideas and beliefs that drive right-wing America today didn’t begin with Trump. And they won’t disappear when he does, either.”

History Major John Priddy Named Bobby Jones Scholar

Congratulations to John Priddy, a senior History and Political Science double major, for being selected as one of four students to receive Emory’s prestigious Robert T. Jones Jr. Scholarship. Active since 1976, the program supports a year of study at the University of St Andrews in Scotland for students who exhibit academic excellence, character, and integrity. Priddy’s academic and policy interests center on the criminal justice system, particularly the factors that shape public opinion about solitary confinement. Read more about Priddy’s extensive leadership on Emory’s campus as well as this years other Bobby Jones Scholars: “Outstanding students chosen as Bobby Jones Scholars for study in Scotland.”

History Honors Student Junyi Han Presents at Texas A&M Conference on Resistance and the ‘Great Purge’

Junyi Han, an undergraduate and Honors student in the History Department, will present a paper at the 10th Annual Texas A&M History Conference: “Resistance in Retrospect.” Han’s paper asks why the “Great Purge,” or Joseph Stalin’s violent repression of dissenters in the 1930s, did not generate greater resistance in Soviet society. Han has conducted the research under the direction of Dr. Matthew Payne, Associate Professor of History and a specialist in modern Russian and Soviet history. Read more about the conference and check out Han’s abstract below:

The Spread of Terror

This research project examines a lack of resistance against the Great Purge in the Soviet Union. This topic has great historical significance and rich research potential. A thorough examination of the reasons that caused a lack of resistance among Soviet society can provide insights into the dynamics of the Great Purge and facilitates an understanding of mass terror under dictatorial regimes in general.

While the Great Purge was originally targeted at the political elites, it expanded at an unexpected speed and millions of ordinary civilians became its victims. My research uses a bottom-up approach to examine the internal driving forces that dragged people into this political turmoil. The findings are mainly based on primary sources, such as personal letters, diaries, and memoirs. I have also consulted secondary literature to support my argument.

This project suggests that the expansion of terror is in fact largely a matter of individual choice. During the Great Purge, a sense of duty, fear, personal grudges, and opportunism significantly propelled Soviet people to spread terror at a breakneck speed, and therefore caused numberless victims to be devoured in the 1930s. This research provides insights into the dynamics of mass terror and serves as a stepping stone for further research on political repressions in dictatorial regimes.

Undergraduate Tyler Breeden Presents Findings from Fieldwork on American Relief Administration Operations in Russia


Undergraduate Tyler Breeden gave a video presentation describing his research and travel to the Hoover Institution Library and Archives at Stanford University in Palo Alto, CA, in the Summer of 2018. The fieldwork was funded by a Theodore H. Jack Award, which annually supports undergraduate research on a topic of American history in archives beyond Atlanta.  Breeden’s research serves as the basis for his honors thesis on American Relief Administration Operations in Russia. Dr. Matt Payne, Associate Professor of History, is the advisor for the project.

Senior History Major Alexa Palomo Helps Coordinate Volunteer Programs Against Homelessness at Atlanta’s Gateway Center

Alexa Palomo, a senior history and anthropology major, has spent her summer as an engagement coordinator and fundraiser at Atlanta’s Gateway Center. The organization focuses on ending homelessness in Metro Atlanta “through therapeutic programs and community collaboration.” Read more about Palomo in a recent Emory News Center article, “The change agent: Alexa Palomo.”

Undergraduate Honors Students Present Thesis Projects

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Over the last two weeks eight undergraduate honors students presented proposals for their honors theses to faculty, staff, and fellow students in the History Department. Each student has a faculty advisor for the project, and all are enrolled in the Honors Seminar HIST 495A, led by Dr. Matthew J. Payne and Dr. Judith Miller. Above are pictures of the students in action, and below is the full list of student projects.

  • Tyler Breeden (Payne, Director): “Intervention by Force or Food: Origins of American Soft Power”
  • Beatrix Conti (Schainker, Director): “The Sassoon Family: Jewish Engagement with British Imperialism and the Opium Trade”
  • Christina Morgan (Payne, Director): “U.S. Government’s Fear of and Attack on Communist Civil Rights Leaders in the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee”
  • Jarett Rovner (Crespino, Director): “Creating Bucks County: Surburbanization and Political Development in the Greater Philadelphia Area, 1950-1985”
  • Ryan Schacklette (Allitt, Director): “Finding Place: Asian-Americans’ Struggle for Whiteness in the Twentieth Century American South”
  • Will Schoderbek (Crespino, Director): “Turning the Tide in ’65: William F. Buckley, New York and the Resurgence of American Conservatism”
  • Luke White (Evans-Grubbs, Director): “Romanization, Hybrid Societies, and Performances of Identity in Roman Gaul and Britain”
  • Irene Zhang (Payne, Director): “A Tale of Land and Plutonium: Sino-Soviet Relations, 1953-1969”