A Note from the Chair on the Fall 2020 Semester

Photo of Dr. Jeffrey Helgeson

Every semester begins with a sense of possibility, bringing both anxiety and excitement for what will come. This year, our anticipation mixes dramatically with an experience of rupture, a loss of the kind of certainty about habits and continuity that generally provide us with a foundation on which we bring some order to our semesters. This year, then, we are all working harder. We—as students, as teachers, as workers who keep our classrooms and offices running—face exponentially more difficult challenges as we get back to workNonetheless, I return this fall confirmed in my belief that the people in this department face disruption head-on and forge new paths out of difficult days.  

Teaching and learning in the contemporary university are always challenging. Limited resourcesalong with inequities, injustices, anti-intellectualism, and divisions in the society at large—impinge on the classroom. We always have to work to build and maintain the space where we can come together to study. Yet we do create that space.  

We all have known those moments when the university fulfills its promise. We see it in the light of realization in a student’s eyes, we hear it in the laughter of people working together to solve a problem, we can sense it in the air when professors and students are locked in mutual concentration on a difficult question. These satisfactions, and our memories of them, are what make the return to school such a time of promise.  

This year, the obstacles in our path can seem nearly insurmountable. Much of the extra labor we are doing can feel incomplete, frustrating, and even at times distractingly prosaic. A global pandemic, an economic calamitythe exhausting work of anti-racism in a time of surging bigotry and violence—these crises have revealed with painful clarity the structural inequities and divisions that threaten our communities. These challenges also threaten the energy and opportunity to engage in the study of history—even as that work has never seemed more important. 

To help our students enter into the study of history, the department is building on its recent growth. Four new faculty members add to the great energy in our public history and European history offerings. Students can choose from several new courses, including African American and Mexican American history surveys, which count toward core curriculum requirementsa course on creating podcasts that lift up unsung voices in historythe history of 20th-century social movements in the U.S.; and the history of childhood in EuropeStudents can also visit the new library guide for researching #BlackLivesMatter, developed by Dr. Casey Nichols and subject librarian Margaret Vaverek. The department will be collaborating on public programs and courses with people across campus, including the history faculty leading the Center for Texas Music History, the Center for Texas Public History, the Center for the Study of the Southwest, and the Center for International StudiesThe TXST chapter of Phi Alpha Theta and the student-led History Club (open to all Bobcats) are organizing regular events—from film screenings to an academic conference—that will provide opportunities to connect and outlets for graduate and undergraduate student research. There is so much going on…follow it all on the department’s FacebookTwitter, and Instagram feeds. 

 To move through tribulation in a way that seeks not just the familiar but the possible requires persistent support for each other and our studentsWriting in the shadows of Nazism on the risethe historian Walter Benjamin declared that the struggle for a just world “is a fight for the crude and material things without which no refined and spiritual things could exist.” This phrase has been ringing in my ears as I have been working with the faculty, staff, and students in the history department to make Zoom work, to welcome our new faculty and students, to learn how to foster group discussions that are simultaneously inperson and virtualand to figure out how to clear the algae from the fountain in our courtyard and order the coffee that will keep the department running. It can make for days that sometimes seem distressingly fragmented. Yet it is in working with the people in this department that I am reminded of the other half of Benjamin’s point: that the “spiritual things” we win out of the struggle come not as “spoils,” but “as courage, humor, cunning, and fortitude.”  

Dr. Jeff Helgeson

Chair and Associate Professor
Department of History
Texas State University

Congrats to the 2020-21 Awardees of the Margerison Graduate Fellowship in History!

Photos of Margerison Fellowship awardees

The Texas State University Department of History is proud to announce this year’s awardees of the Kenneth and Patricia Margerison Graduate Research Fellowship in History. The Fellowship provides support to full-time graduate students enrolled in the master’s degree program in history. Recipients are awarded funds to fully cover graduate tuition and fees for the spring and fall semesters as well as research support—qualifying for in-state tuition. The Graduate Studies Committee considers all first-year students as well as continuing students who demonstrate great promise as historians. In addition to the fellowship, students may also be offered a graduate Instructional Assistantship (IA), which includes a monthly salary.

Please visit the History Department Scholarships website for specific details and requirements.

Learn more about Railey Tassin (top photo) and Madison Otte (bottom photo), this year’s recipients of this prestigious fellowship:

Railey Tassin is a first-year Texas State graduate student pursuing a Master’s in Public History. Railey graduated summa cum laude from Texas Christian University in May 2020 with a B.A. in History, minor in French, and emphasis in Comparative Race and Ethnic Studies. She has experience interning at the Houston Museum of Natural Science and studying abroad in Toulouse, France. After completing her degree, Railey would love to work in a museum dedicated to documenting diversity and engaging the general public with the history of underrepresented groups. 

How do you see this Margerison Fellowship helping you in your studies?

Railey: The financial aid provided by the Margerison Fellowship guarantees that I will be able to begin my graduate education completely focused on excelling in my personal studies and my duties as an Instructional Assistant. As a first-generation student, I strongly recognize the significance of generous financial support in helping students reach their highest potential. Receiving this fellowship has ensured that I feel supported and valued as a student at Texas State even before having officially entered.

As an undergraduate at Texas Christian University, you studied History, and French with an emphasis in Comparative Race and Ethnic Studies, can you tell us more about your research interests, and what got you interested in it in the first place?

Railey: Since a young age, I have been fascinated by studying the actions and words of those who came before us as a way to better understand the present. I began studying French in high school to feel a closer connection to my ancestry, and I loved the idea of having a wider range of writings/sources available to me in college by knowing a second language. Taking CRES classes gave me additional knowledge in analyzing race and ethnicity and inspired me to focus my historical research on traditionally marginalized/underrepresented groups. My senior History thesis focused on the works of three Black women, Paulette Nardal, Jessie Fauset, and Gwendolyn Bennett, whose France-inspired writings contributed to a rise in race consciousness across the African diaspora throughout the twentieth century. This project allowed me to combine theories learned from CRES, French primary sources, and my historical research interests.

What are you looking forward to the most about your graduate studies at Texas State?

Railey: I am most looking forward to making meaningful connections with professors and fellow students – all of us dedicated to continuous learning and working together to adapt during this abnormal semester. I can already sense that the Texas State community will be fully encouraging and helpful in all of my endeavors and will strive to make each student feel supported. I believe the study of history is meant to be shared with others, and I am eager to have the opportunity to engage in collaborative efforts to do so during my time at Texas State.

Madison Otte is a first-year graduate student, but is not new to the Texas State campus. Madison received her bachelor’s degree in History from Texas State University with a minor in Spanish and single-field teaching certification in History for grades 7-12. Madison is working towards her master’s degree in History, and plans to write a thesis about Early Modern Spanish and Colonial History. Madison is also an Instructional Assistant, and looks forward to merging her love of History and teaching to help students this semester. After finishing her degree, Madison hopes to continue her education and one day become a professor at the university level.

How do you see this Margerison Fellowship helping you in your studies?

Madison: The recognition of my hard work through the Margerison Fellowship makes me feel even more strongly motivated to succeed in my endeavors in graduate school. I am very thankful to be able to focus on my thesis wholeheartedly, without the stress of an extra job to juggle with my courses and research.

You are interested in Early Modern Spanish and Colonial History, can you tell us more about your research interests, and what got you interested in it in the first place?

Madison: I am interested in researching the changes that occurred in the Spanish colonies in Latin America after the start of the Counter-Reformation. I am especially interested in the way this changed interactions between Spanish missionaries and the Native people they wished to convert to Catholicism. I have always been interested in Colonial History because the effects the has Old World on the New World that can still be seen today are fascinating to me. I became particularly interested in the religious effects on colonialism in the Americas during my undergraduate studies here at Texas State.

What are you looking forward to the most about your graduate studies at Texas State?

Madison: I am most looking forward to growing more as a writer as I construct my thesis. I also look forward to working with the professors in the History Department both on my research and as an Instructional Assistant. I really enjoy working with other students and using the skills I gained in my undergraduate degree as a candidate for teaching certification.

Black Lives Matter

Black Lives Matter Image

The Department of History at Texas State University affirms that #BlackLivesMatter. We study, teach, and strive to understand the historical continuum of racisms in this country. We recognize the many ways that racism is intertwined with deep and constantly evolving structures and cultures of inequity, domination, exclusion, and exploitation in the United States and across the globe, throughout the long expanse of modern history. We have learned from this history that, in order to advance the cause of anti-racism, we must identify the many forms of violence that sustain racial injustice and affirm both the dignity of Black lives and the interdependence of all human beings.

We stand in solidarity with our Black students, colleagues, and their families, and we are grieving and committed to act against racial injustice with you.

Dr. Thomas Alter
Dr. Gregory Andrews
Dr. Nancy Berlage
Dr. Elizabeth Bishop
Dr. Ronald Brown
Dr. Victoria Bynum
Adam Clark
Dr. Sarah Coleman
Dr. Sara Damiano
Dr. Peter Dedek
Dr. José Carlos de la Puente
Dr. Shannon Duffy
Trace Etienne
Dr. Bryan Glass
Dr. Dwonna Goldstone
Dr. Jeff Helgeson
Dr. Debra Law
Dr. Deirdre E. Lannon
Dr. Bryan N. Mann
Dr. Kenneth Margerison
Dr. John Mckiernan-González
Dr. James McWilliams
Dr. Jason Mellard
Dr. Margaret Menninger
Dr. Rebecca Montgomery
Dr. Angela Murphy
Dr. Joshua Paddison
Madelyn Patlan
Dr. Jessica Pliley
Dr. Leah Renold
Dr. Caroline Ritter
Dr. Joaquín Rivaya-Martínez
Dr. Allison Robinson
Dr. Anadelia Romo
Roberta Ruiz
Katie Salzmann
Dr. Ellen Tillman
Dan K. Utley
Dr. Louie Dean Valencia-García
Dr. Joseph Yick

Congratulations to the class of 2020!

Congratulations image

The Texas State University Department of History would like to congratulate all of our graduating students this semester. While it wasn’t the type of semester anyone expected, we are all very proud of all of you for graduating in this historic time! We encourage you all to stay in touch!

Students completing a Master of Arts in History:

Karen Johnston-Ashton
Blake Gandy
Rayanna Hoeft
Cheyenne Johnston-Ashton
Lauren Kahre-Campbell
Evan Moore
Amanda Rock
Suzanne Schatz
Travis Smith
Jonathan Wales

Students completing a Bachelor of Arts in History:

Brenda Alba
Kendall Allen
Brooke Anaya
Avery Armstrong
Sarah Arndt
Antonio Barbosa
Natasha Beck-King
Hannah Bertling
Kayla Borak
June Carnahan
Gwendolyn Cunningham
Blu De Vanon
Samuel Dunn
Celestial Edmonson
Katherine Edwards
Dominic Funug
Cody Gonzales
Devin Granado
Ty Hancock
Thomas Harney
Sydney Harrell
Daniel Hogan
Jayson Johnson
William Keenan
Lindy Lantelme
Nathalie Love
Rosemary Lugo
Christopher Luna
Kendall McCumber
Wesley Moore
Philip Mudd
Taylor Neal
Osaetin Omo-Osagie
Madison Otte
Brandon Paez
Ramon Perez
Jordan Pilkenton
Victoria Ramirez
Ashley Reimer
Christopher Reyes
Kristin Reynolds
Paul Saldana
Taylor Schuster
Laura Serrano
Scarlett Smith
Conner Staples
Dillon Tolsma
William Watford
Kaitlyn White

New General Education Offerings in African American History and Mexican American History

Photo of newsboy in Harlem

The History Department is excited to announce new options to students for completing state general education requirements in History!

In the past, History 1310 and 1320 – the general surveys of US History – were our only offerings that fulfilled state general education requirements. Going forward, we will be offering surveys of African American History (HIST 2381 and 2382) and Mexican American History (HIST 2327 and 2328) to our general education offerings. Students interested in those topics can take 2381 or 2327 in lieu of 1310 and/or 2382 or 2328 in lieu of 1320.

The Fall 2020 class schedule includes the following options for those interested in these alternatives:

  • HIST 2381: African American History to 1877 with Dr. Dwight Watson, MW at 2pm (would replace 1310 in general education requirement).
  • HIST 2328: Mexican American History since 1865 with Dr. John Mckiernan-González, MW at 11 am (would replace 1320 in general education requirement).

The Department of History is grateful to be able to build on persistent efforts of Texas State students, faculty, and staff to work for these constructive curricular developments, including groups such as: Pan African Action Committee, Black Women United, Student Community of Progressive Empowerment, Black Students Alliance, and the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board.

Funding Opportunities

Funding opportunities

Check out some of these scholarship opportunities for Texas State University History Scholarships: Apply Here

Texas State Undergraduate and Graduate Level Scholarships

Alton G. Brieger Scholarship $950 Undergraduates History Majors  

3.3 GPA in History

Taylor-Murphy Scholarship $950 Undergraduates History Majors  

3.3 GPA in History

Dennis and Margaret Dunn Scholarship  


Entering Freshmen, Undergraduates,

Graduate students.

History or International Studies Majors 3.5 GPA
FitzPatrick-Clayton-Kissler Scholarship $1700  


Graduate Students


History Major 3.5 GPA

Texas State Departmental Nominations

Outstanding Undergraduate Student In Liberal Arts TBA 30 hrs Completed/

18 in Major

Department will nominate a junior or senior from our Majors for this Liberal Arts College Opportunity 3.75 GPA
Presidential Upper Division Schoalrhsip TBA 60 hrs Completed/

30hrs at TxState

Department will nominate a junior or senior from our Majors for the Univeristy Wide Opportunity

Graduate Level Only History Scholarships

Brunson Family Endowed Scholarship $1000 Graduate Students History Majors 3.5 GPA
Minnie Knispel Scholarship $660 Graduate Students History Majors/Social Studies Teachers

James W. Pohl Scholarship


$1800 Graduate students working on a Thesis in History. History Majors 3.5 GPA

Kenneth and Patricia Margerison Graduate Research Fellowship

The Fellowship is intended for use in recruiting master’s students of the highest quality to Texas State University. It provides support to full-time graduate students enrolled in the master’s degree program who demonstrate great promise as historians. All newly admitted students are automatically considered. Recipients will be awarded funds to fully cover graduate tuition and fees for the spring and fall semesters as well as limited research support. Fellows will also qualify for in-state tuition. In addition to the fellowship, students may also be offered a graduate Instructional Assistantship (IA) to create an attractive financial aid package for top applicants. Recipients who maintain a 3.7 cumulative GPA may have their fellowship renewed for up to three consecutive years.

Learn more about the 2019 inaugural fellows on our Texas State History blog.


“Chasing Slavery”: An Interview with Dr. John Mckiernan-González

Photo of Mckiernan

In preparation for the upcoming symposium, Chasing Slavery: The Persistence of Forced Labor in the Southwest, to be held at Texas State University from 24-26 October, in Flowers  Hall 230, we will be running a series of posts focused on the conference participants and organizers. The conference will bring together dozens of scholars, with a keynote from Ambassador Luis C.deBaca (ret.). See the conference website for more details.

Today, conference co-organizer Dr. Mckiernan-González, Director of the Center for the Study of the Southwest and Associate Professor of History at Texas State University, helps introduce the conference for our readers. He can also be found on Twitter.

Give us your elevator pitch for the conference. What is it about?

Dr. John Mckiernan-González: In a broad way, this conference aims to help us understand why forced labor continued after the 13th amendment banned slavery in the United States, and how people used the constitution to change their situation.  There is a thread in anti-immigrant politics in the United States that uses the rank exploitation of people in a given community to justify the expulsion or restriction of the presence of that community in the United States – rather than treating exploitation as a shared situation and part of a broader economic relationship.  This problem has been explored in depth in the U.S. South for year, from the rise of peonage during Reconstruction to the establishment of Jim Crow, and that deserves continuing exploration. By bringing a variety of perspectives, we can understand the many ways the 13th amendment shaped labor relations in the past and present of our multi-ethnic, indigenous and immigrant Southwest.  I want people to consider the criminal exploitation of workers, when conditions become visible and harsh enough to be considered a crime worth prosecuting.

In another sense, people should consider the way the challenge to forced labor, from peonage to labor trafficking, also involves a transnational response.  Our keynote speaker, Ambassador Luis C. de Baca, worked with the founders of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers to prosecute their contractors and, in the aftermath, the C.I.W workers went on to create one of the more successful migrant labor movements in the country. As historians, we have the disciplinary space to explore what happens before and after a labor conflict becomes a criminal matter, and track what different people do after slavery and human trafficking has been charged. One answer can be: create a labor movement.  Most of all, the conference should help us become more aware of the ways forced labor has shaped the Southwest.

What was the most surprising thing you encountered when researching the conference?

Dr. Mckiernan-González: Putting together the conference and the associated class on forced labor in the Southwest has been deeply educational.  I now tend to see forced labor almost everywhere, either directly or lying in the wings.  Most frustrating, of course, is when you realize key chapters in your work – in my case, my chapters on the (African American) Tlahualilo Colony and Camp Jenner in Eagle Pass would have been vastly improved.[1] I wish I had named the ways the medically detained refugees in Eagle Pass had to explain and challenge the contract they signed with William Ellis and the Tlahualilo corporation to demand help and resources from U.S. federal agencies.  Along with a deeper appreciation of the presence of forced labor, organizing the conference has helped me think more broadly about the labor constraints facing men and women in stigmatized communities – from juvenile inmates in state asylums to deaf migrants in a transnational forced labor key chain ring.

What do you hope people will take away from our conference on trafficking, forced labor and labor exploitation?

Dr. Mckiernan-González: Hope.  People have consistently challenged the constraints they have faced. Hopefully, people will leave the conference aware of the ways institutions maintain and have maintained forced labor in the Southwest and leave with an awareness that these struggles have a long and continuing history.

What challenge(s) raised by your research are you still trying to reconcile?

Dr. Mckiernan-González: Talking about the Chasing Slavery conference with soccer teammates and extended family has highlighted the way solidarity and coercion often coexist, from people sharing stories about adoption, smuggling debts to coyotes, to informal apprenticeships in semi-skilled trades like housecleaning and construction.  As a historian who prefers text, I see a distant connection between what appears on paper and the everyday coercions working-class people face; the challenge lies in tracing these connections.

[1] John Mckiernan-Gonzalez, “’At the Nation’s Edge’: African American Migrants and Smallpox in the Late Nineteenth-Century Mexican American Borderlands,” Martin Summers, Laurie Green and John Mckiernan-Gonzalez, ed. Precarious Prescriptions: Contested Histories of Race and Health in North America (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2015), 67-90

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“Chasing Slavery”: An Interview with Dr. Jessica Pliley

Dr. Pliley photo

In preparation for the upcoming symposium, Chasing Slavery: The Persistence of Forced Labor in the Southwest, to be held at Texas State University from 24-26 October, in Flowers  Hall 230, we will be running a series of posts focused on the conference participants and organizers. The conference will bring together dozens of scholars, with a keynote from Ambassador Luis C.deBaca (ret.). See the conference website for more details.

Today, conference co-organizer Dr. Jessica Pliley, Associate Professor of the History of Women, Genders, and Sexualities at Texas State University, helps introduce the conference for our readers.  She can also be found on Twitter.

Give us your elevator pitch for the conference. What is it about?

Dr. Jessica Pliley: This conference tackles the question of the various ways that forced labor has persisted in the US after emancipation. My interest in this topic was born out the research I conducted for my first book, Policing Sexuality: The Mann Act and the Making of the FBI. While I was deep in the investigative case files of the FBI looking for cases of investigations into violations of the 1910 White Slave Traffic Act, I regularly encountered investigations into cases of peonage in the American South. After my book was published in 2014, I became more involved in international conversations occurring among scholars thinking about trafficking and forced labor, which led me to co-organize the Working Group on Modern Slavery and Trafficking at Yale University. That two-year working group considered the ways that history can and should shape our understandings of the development of liberal political economy that is predicated on unfree labor. Partnering with the Center for the Study of the Southwest allows me to look at the ways that forced labor persisted in a discrete region—the borderlands of the Southwest. This conference aims to being together historians, sociologists, and other scholars to consider the different sites of persistent labor abuse, while attending the ways that race, ethnicity and gender shape that abuse. The other aim of the Chasing Slavery project that excites me is more pedagogical. John Mckiernan-González and I are co-teaching a graduate seminar that features the writings of many of the participants of the conference. By hosting this conference, we are providing our students a unique opportunity to meet the scholars whose ideas they have been substantively engage with in class.

Symposium flyerWhat was the most surprising thing you’ve encountered when considering forced labor?

Dr. Pliley: I am consistently struck by the routine quality of extreme labor exploitation. In many ways it hides in plain view, both historically and now. It is almost impossible to find products with supply chains that are clean of labor exploitation. Everything from the tea we drink to the fast fashion we wear is produced through extreme labor exploitation. Until workers’ voices are more firmly incorporated into accountability schemes, I fear this will remain the case.

What do you hope people will take away from our conference on trafficking, forced labor and labor exploitation?

Dr. Pliley: I hope the conference will prompt attendees to look at work in new ways. I also hope that it will lead to dynamic conversations among the attendees.

What challenge(s) raised by your research are you still trying to reconcile?

Dr. Pliley: I struggle with the dominance of contractual thinking as it pertains to ‘labor’. Often times reformers will argue that the solution to poor working conditions is a better contract. But when you look at the history of contracts it becomes clear that large swaths of people, like women and people of color—the very same people who are most vulnerable to labor exploitation—were excluded from liberal contract theory. And instead the work these people labored at became racialized and gendered to justify unfree, uncompensated or poorly-compensated work. In my own area of expertise of intimate labor, the question revolves around the paradox of intimate labor. In tradition liberal thinking, laboring is a public act that can come under the protections of a contract, yet work that is intimate labor—child care, elder care, domestic labor, wifely labor, sex work—is often done in private domains of the family outside of public view.

Also, I am endlessly vexed and fascinated by the ways that extreme labor exploitation has been conflated with trafficking under the rubric of modern slavery. Like many other scholars, I am deeply critical of the use of the term “slavery,” yet I find myself bound be the term. Again and again, historical actors pulled on the evocative power of the metaphor of “slavery” to describe their own experiences or to agitate for reform. Yet, the term slavery can have a conflating effect, on the one hand, while also dismissing the horrors of chattel slavery, on the other hand. Furthermore, once ideas of trafficking get introduced into the mix, what I find is a general lack of precision about the specific abuses, processes, and choices people have faced and continue to face. I am hoping that our conversations at the conference will help me find a better vocabulary to describe the practices associated with forced and coerced labor.

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New Spring 2020: Queer Youth History

Queer Youth History

Texas State University’s Department of History will be offering its first undergraduate queer history course spring 2020. Taught by Dr. Louie Dean Valencia-García, the course will be offered on Monday/Wednesday from 12:30-1:50pm. Feel free to email Dr. Valencia-García with any questions.

What should students expect?

LDVG: Students will learn about the long history of young queer people beginning in the 16th century through today. The course crosses the Atlantic between the Americas and Europe and beyond.We will read graphic novels, watch films, and learn about what is really a vibrant field. Students will research, create a digital projects, look at primary and secondary sources, and study the ways young queer people have made space for themselves.

Who should take this course?

LDVG: This will be the type of course I wish was offered when I was an undergraduate. I hope it is of interest to all students who are interested in marginalized people. This isn’t a course that is just about the obstacles people face; we also spend a fair amount of the course trying to see how they confronted adversity both politically and in their every day lives.