I am a social and cultural historian of the modern United States, with a particular interest in examining the shifting ideas about race and the boundaries of American citizenship in the long twentieth century. I enjoy teaching courses on those topics as well as classes on the history of the American South, social reform, and eugenics, as well as courses on sexuality, gender, race, and race making. As an instructor, I prioritize students’ ability to interpret primary sources and link evidence to larger contexts–prompting them to understand the past as a contested and complicated process shaped by elites and by everyday people.
My current project is a book tentatively entitled Americanizing Appalachia: Mountain Reform and the Preservation of White Citizenship, 1890-1929. That research explores changing ideas about race and Americanism– as well as the role of eugenics in early-twentieth century social reform– by centering on late-nineteenth and early-twentieth century efforts to salvage and incorporate Appalachian whites into the mainstream American social and political fold.
My work shows that while many Americans embraced the idea of the nation as a racial and cultural “melting pot,” countless others maintained that white Americans had founded the nation and were therefore its rightful heirs. Appalachian mountain whites were of special importance, then, to regional interventionists interested in preserving white supremacy and in salvaging a disappearing “authentic” rural American people and experience. By presenting that attention and process as part of the burgeoning Americanization movement, I show how mountain uplift was a crucial component of efforts to cultivate citizenship and cultural homogeneity across the nation– and was a decisive tool in contemporaries’ efforts to solidify the nation’s racial and civic identity.
Tina A. Irvine
Visiting Assistant Professor, Department of History
Assistant Editor, Journal of American History
Department of History