Introducing Dr. Louis Porter!

Photo of Dr. Louis Porter

We are excited to welcome Dr. Louis Porter to Texas State this semester! He studies studies Russian and Eastern European history.

After getting my PhD in Russian History at the University of North Carolina, I am stoked to be joining the Texas State University Department of History to teach Russian and East European History.

I am often asked why I study Russia and never have a pithy answer. However, my background provides a couple of reasons. In…. West Philadelphia (“born and raised”), I grew up living in a bunch of different worlds, kind of like the Fresh Prince. My parents split so I went to school in the suburbs where my mother lived while visiting my Dad in Philly on the weekends. With a Black father from the Cleveland projects and a white mother from a working-class family in West Virginia, I had to negotiate a range of racial and class settings from as far back as I can remember. This made me eager to learn how hierarchies of class and race structure history and how various people have struggled to overcome these hierarchies.

But, as a bit of a cynic, I decided to study the greatest failed experiment in overcoming these hierarchies––the Soviet Union. I am fascinated by Marxism (in theory and practice) and its historical contexts. I am also passionate about recruiting students of all backgrounds to join me in studying Russian and European history. When not in the classroom, I am writing a book that examines how Soviet citizens reacted to the idea of international organizations.

My courses at Texas State will cover a range of topics in Russian and East European history. If you want to learn about medieval Ukraine, the Russian Revolution, or why Putin…is the way he is, I got you covered! For now, I am teaching surveys of Russian history (HIST 4333 in the Spring and 4334 in the Fall) as well as Western Civ. But I hope in the future to teach classes on the Russian Revolution, Marx and Marxism, and the Cold War.

In my free time, I chase a skedaddling nine-month old, LJ, around my house with my wife. Apart from that, I love swimming, running, hiking with my dog, canoeing, watching basketball (Sixers or whatever team Lebron is on), and listening to music (everything from DaBaby to My Bloody Valentine to Bruce Springsteen). My favorite movie is Disney’s Robin Hood.

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.

History Faculty Recognized by College of Liberal Arts

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Congratulations to our History faculty members who have been recognized by the College of Liberal Arts!

Scholarly/Creative Activity

Dr. José Carlos de la Puente (Achievement Award)
Dr. Louie Dean Valencia-García (Golden Apple)


Dr. Nancy Berlage (Achievement Award)
Dr. Shannon Duffy (Golden Apple)


Dr. Sara Damiano (Golden Apple)
Dr. Jeff Helgeson (Achievement Award)

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

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.

Meet the Chairs: Dr. Murphy and Dr. Helgeson reflect on the History Department and its future

Photo of Drs. Murphy and Helgeson

Dr. Angela Murphy, who has served as chair of the department since 2017, reflects on her time as chair and shares some of her upcoming research. Incoming chair, Dr. Jeffrey Helgeson, gives us a glimpse into his vision of the future of the department.

Join them both on 9 March 2020 from 5:30-6:30 PM in Taylor-Murphy Hall 101 for a discussion sponsored by Phi Alpha Theta History Honors Society.

Murphy and Helgeson FlyerA Note from Dr. Angela Murphy

It has been rewarding serving as chair of the History Department for the past few years. It has given me a chance to get to know students on a different level, beyond the classroom, and to help further the vision of my fellow faculty. Students should know that they are front and center in that vision. I am proud to say that although the department is made up of world-class researchers, student success has remained one of its highest priorities.  This can be seen not only in the way in which faculty interact with students both in and out of the classroom, but also in the type of people we have hired over the past three years, in the efforts that have been put into modernizing the curriculum, and in the accomplishments of our students both while they are enrolled with us and afterwards.

While I am grateful for the experience of serving as chair, I am very much looking forward to stepping back into to my old faculty role in which I get to teach more (hands down my favorite part of my work) and engage more heavily with my research. Next year I will return to teaching the first half of the U.S. history survey and upper level and graduate courses on the history of the United States during the Antebellum, Civil War, and Reconstruction Eras. I also will be able to dedicate more time to writing a monograph that has been long in the making – a biography of 19thcentury African American activist, Jermain Loguen, who was one of the primary Underground Railroad operatives in New York State.

I am excited to pass the torch to Jeff Helgeson, who is a natural leader in the department already and whose dynamism and commitment will surely take the department to new heights!

A Note from Dr. Jeffrey Helgeson

It is an incredible honor to be able to say that in September 2020 I will be beginning my eleventh year here at Texas State in a new role as chair of the department of history. Over the course of the past decade, I have had the great good fortune to learn from, and have the support of, our previous chairs: Dr. Frank de la Teja, Dr. Mary Brennan (now Dean of the College of Liberal Arts), and Dr. Angela Murphy. To a great extent, as leaders of the history department, they have created the foundation for my success here as a scholar and a teacher, and they have helped guide the energy I have put into helping to foster the growth of Texas State as a whole (the kind of work academics label, “service,” that includes not just serving on committees, but, among other things, making decisions about how we will teach our classes, who we will hire, and how the university can live as a community of inclusiveness and student growth in difficult times). I hope to follow in the footsteps of the previous chairs, to support my colleagues in their work.

The history department has a reputation for being a well-run department. This means that the chairs who have come before me have been highly successful at doing the work of managing the department. They lead the way on the work that happens behind the scenes to make sure that students have the classes, advising, and academic support they need. They work to ensure that our faculty has the resources they need to develop their research, as well as coursework and extracurricular programs (study abroad, study in America, student clubs, teacher training programs, etc.) that make the Texas State history department such a vibrant place.

The Department of History is a dynamic living community, the health of which depends upon the dedicated work of dozens of people. Our academic counseling and teacher training leaders are amongst the leaders in Texas and the nation. Our public history program has established itself as a national leader, placing graduates in internships and jobs with institutions like the National Park Service, the Smithsonian, and dozens of museums, archives, and history enterprises nationwide. Our undergraduate major in history prepares students to be leaders in the professional worlds of education, the media, public service, the arts, and much more. Moreover, through our connections with vibrant areas of study across campus—including, but not limited to, the Center for International Studies, the Center for Texas Music History, the Center for the Study of the Southwest, the Center for the Study of Gender and Diversity, and minors in African American and Latino/a Studies—the history department opens doors for students to have a grounding in sophisticated historical thinking while pursuing academic and career paths that could take them literally anywhere in the world. None of this wide-ranging work would be possible if not for the department’s outstanding administrative staff—I know I am going to learn so much from Madelyn Patlan, Roberta Ruiz, Adam Clark, and the student staffers in the office.

As you can see, I am a big believer in the ongoing work of the Department of History. I have seen my colleagues dramatically transform the lives of thousands of students over the years. I want to do nothing that will slow down those achievements. Indeed, one of my goals is to sustain the department’s record of continuous excellence, and to build upon recent gains we have made in funding graduate student research and travel, in creating resources to foster undergraduate research, and to support our faculty in their awe-inspiring research on historical themes that span thousands of years of global history.

In addition to maintaining our ongoing success, I also pledge my energies to the tasks of making the Department of History a place where even more students—undergraduate and graduate, alike—can find a path for themselves, while gaining the kinds of skills and worldview that will give them the power to constantly reinvent themselves in the face of life’s inevitable challenges. This means that I am committed both to the fostering of a community of scholars, even as I show up day in and day out to ensure that the nitty gritty work of making the department run well gets done.

Looking forward, I have to admit that I find my new role to be somewhat daunting. Yet I return to advice I received years ago from none other than my own mom. She said, if you want to take on big challenges in life, be sure to surround yourself with people whom you respect and who are doing interesting things. The Department of History is a complex institution, it is also my academic home—a place where I look forward to learning from, and working alongside, fellow faculty members, deeply competent and friendly staff, as well as curious and profoundly interesting students.


Call for Abstracts—Southwest Historical Quarterly Special Issue “The Persistence of Forced Labor in the Southwest, 1865-2000”


The Southwestern Historical Quarterly is seeking expressions of interest to submit articles to a special issue on coerced labor, forced labor, and slaveries in the Southwest in the period between 1865 and 2000. The Southwest is defined as the border states of the United States west of the Mississippi. Sitting at the crossroads of empires, nation states, and migration streams, the American Southwest has long been a site of labor exploitation, and it continues to be a home to modern slavery. Since the 2000 passage of the Trafficking victims Protection Act and the formation and adoption of the United Nations’ Palermo Protocol, human trafficking and modern slavery has captured the attention of human rights activists, academics, jurists, labor organizers, and many others. Reports that the number of people caught in conditions of modern slavery continue to rise, as do the types of interventions to fight modern slavery. At the same time scholars of contemporary trafficking note that trafficking correlates to immigration restriction. Consequently, the Borderlands of the Southwest provide a fertile ground for interrogating the history of modern slavery. This special issue seeks to take the global phenomenon of modern slavery and trafficking, and ground it in the Southwest, considering the ways that labor migration, immigration restriction, border violence, and economic inequality combine to produce the soil that can give rise to modern slavery.

We are especially interested in work that:

  • Engages critically with the historical production of categories such as “peonage,” “forced labor,” “slavery,” and migratory “illegality” as they have pertained to the Southwest.
  • Examines ways border control regimes produced or exacerbated new vulnerabilities.
  • Explores the historical lived experience of forced labor in public and private institutions (such as reformatories, detention centers, prisons) in the Southwest.
  • Places trafficking and forced labor within a wider discourse of indenture, slavery and un-freedom; as well as imperialism, mobility, and globalization, while showcasing the ways these dynamics played out in the Southwest.
  • Explores how vulnerability, co-ethnic exploitation and solidarity, or disability, age and/or sexuality can serve as catalysing factors in producing forced labor.

All submissions must be historical in focus.

Prospective contributors to this special issue are asked to send an extended abstract of 1,000 words to the issue’s guest editors, John Mckiernan-González ( and Jessica Pliley ( by 15 January 2020. Abstracts should describe the prospective article and how it explicitly engages with the theme of the special issue. Authors should also include a discussion of the sources—archival or published—they will be using in the article.

Selected contributors will be informed within two weeks and asked to submit a complete manuscript by 1 March 2020, which will go through the Southwestern Historical Quarterly’s standard process of peer and editorial review. If the manuscript is accepted for publication at the end of this process, it will be published in the special issue.

2019 Phi Alpha Theta Texas State University History Conference

Conference logo


Registration (Taylor-Murphy Hall, Foyer)

Breakfast and Coffee Service (Taylor-Murphy Hall, Room 110)

  • Assorted breakfast tacos from Taco Cabana
  • Coffee service from Mocha & Java



  • Diplomatic Response to Native and Foreign Powers Panel (Taylor-Murphy Hall, Room 201) Faculty Commentator: Margaret Vaverek, Librarian, Texas State University, and Jason Rivas, Graduate Student, Texas State University

Student Moderator: John Rogers, Undergraduate Student, Texas State University

  • Issac Xaiver Auld, Undergraduate Student, Texas State University
    • “Comparative Analysis of the United States, France, and Spain’s Use of Neutrality in 1776 and 1793’”
  • Christopher Bragdon, Undergraduate Student, Texas State University
    • “The Effects of Cherokee Nationalism and American Public Opinion on Early S. Diplomacy”
  • Kendall Jo Allen, Undergraduate Student, Texas State University
    • “Education as a Diplomatic Tool in Negotiations with Native People”



Transformations in Architecture Panel (Taylor-Murphy Hall, Room 106)

Faculty Commentator: Dr. Peter Dedek, Associate Professor, Texas State University Student Moderator: Kyla Campbell, Graduate Student, Texas State University

  • Kyle Walker, Graduate Student, Texas State University
    • “Spanish Colonial Revival Architecture’s Role in the Preservation Movement in San Antonio”
  • Mary Kahle, Graduate Student, Texas State University
    • “The Architecture of Moral Treatment for the Mentally Ill in Nineteenth Century S.”
  • Nikolas Koetting, Graduate Student, Texas State University
    • “‘A Comparative Analysis of the Architecture of Charleston and New Orleans



Decolonization and the British Empire Panel (Taylor-Murphy Hall, Room 105)

Faculty Commentators: Dr. Nancy Berlage, Director of Public History, Texas State University Student Moderator: Francisco Rodriguez Arroyo, Graduate Student, Texas State University

  • Rayanna Hoeft, Graduate Student, Texas State University
    • “A Collection’s Purpose: Connecting Material Culture to Museum Visitor Experience”
  • Messia Gondorchin, Undergraduate Student, Texas State University
    • “Misunderstood Monuments of a Forgotten War: Commemoration of the Second Boer War throughout England”
  • Desmond Workhoven, Undergraduate Student, Texas State University
    • “The Barton Brothers: Privateers and Founders of the Scottish Navy”



Thomas Jefferson and National Leaders Panel (Taylor-Murphy Hall, Room 201) Faculty Commentator: Dr. Shannon Duffy, Senior Lecturer, Texas State University Student Moderator: John Rogers, Undergraduate Student, Texas State University

  • Christian M. Prado, Undergraduate Student, Texas State University
    • “Nature and Nurture: How Human Tendency and Exterior Influence Affected Early Diplomatic Policy”
  • Samantha S. Cayse, Undergraduate Student, Texas State University
    • “North African Pirates and American International Affairs: Evolution of Jefferson’s Diplomacy with the Barbary States”
  • Asher C. Rogers, Undergraduate Student, Texas State University
    • “Jefferson’s America in the Age of European Colonialism: Western Territories & the Louisiana Purchase”



Gender and Women’s Identity Panel (Taylor-Murphy Hall, Room 106)

Faculty Commentator: Dr. Jessica Pliley, Associate Professor, Texas State University Student Moderator: Messia Gondorchin, Undergraduate Student, Texas State University

  • Jennifer Blackwell, Graduate Student, Texas State University
    • “Two for the Price of One: The First Ladies and American Diplomacy Beyond the Confines of the Women’s Sphere”
  • Lauren Kahre-Campbell, Graduate Student, Texas State University
    • “Gendered Patterns of Inheritance in Early Modern England”



Foreign Policy and War Panel (Taylor-Murphy Hall, Room 105)

Faculty Commentator: Dr. Ellen Tillman, Associate Professor, Texas State University Student Moderator: Desmond Workhoven, Undergraduate Student, Texas State University

  • Evan Moore, Graduate Student, Texas State University
  • “The Continental Army’s Role in Violence at the Battle of King Mountain”
    • Andrew Freeman, Graduate Student, Texas State University
      • “From Tampico to Niagara Falls: How a Perceived Insult Led to Invasion, Occupation, and Mediation”
    • Robert J. Anzenberger, Graduate Student, Texas State University
      • “Herbert Hoover: Finland’s Guardian Angel”



Lunch catered by Mamacita’s (Taylor-Murphy Hall, Room 110)



Keynote Presentation (Taylor-Murphy Hall, Room 101)

  • Dr. Thomas Cauvin, Assistant Professor at Colorado State University and President of the International Federation for Public History



The Continuous Role of Slavery in Revolutions and Diplomacy Panel (Taylor-Murphy Hall, Room 106)

Faculty Commentator: Dr. Dwonna Goldstone, Director of African American Studies Program, Texas State University

Student Moderator: Messia Gondorchin, Undergraduate Student, Texas State University

  • Ana Sofia Hernandez, Undergraduate Student, Texas State University
    • “‘The Impact of the Haitian Revolution on Early American Diplomacy Towards Slavery”
  • Reagan Deona Sekander, Undergraduate Student, Texas State University
    • “The Annexation of Texas and the Issues that Slowed the Process”



Perspectives in Modern History Panel (Taylor-Murphy Hall, Room 105)

Faculty Commentators: Mr. Dan K. Utley, Lecturer, Texas State University and Dr. Jeff Helgeson, Associate Professor, Texas State University

Student Moderator: Desmond Workhoven, Undergraduate Student, Texas State University

  • Suzanne Schatz, Graduate Student, Texas State University
    • “The Fire Burns On: Texas A&M Bonfire, Women, and Tradition”
  • Ethen Peña, Graduate Student, Texas State University
    • “Yellow Stained Tears”: The Effects of Historical Trauma on the American Indian Movement”



The Chains of Early American Diplomacy Panel (Taylor-Murphy Hall, Room 201) Faculty Commentator: Dr. Sara Damiano, Assistant Professor, Texas State University Student Moderator: John Rogers, Undergraduate Student, Texas State University

  • Tobi Omo-Osagie, Undergraduate Student, Texas State University
    • “The Racial Barriers to American Diplomacy”
  • William Joseph Keenan, Undergraduate Student, Texas State University
    • “By Way of the St. Lawrence: The Bond of Slavery in Canada and The United States”
  • Alex J. Humphries, Undergraduate Student, Texas State University
    • “The Faith of the Confederacy Rests on Cotton”



The Beginnings and Impact of the Monroe Doctrine (Taylor-Murphy Hall, Room 201)

Faculty Commentators: Dr. Thomas Alter, Assistant Professor, Texas State University, and Rayanna Hoeft, Graduate Student, Texas State University

Student Moderator: John Rogers, Undergraduate Student, Texas State University

  • Hannah Thompson, Undergraduate Student, Texas State University
    • “Standing on the Shoulders of Giants: How Early American Presidents Paved the Way for the Monroe Doctrine”
  • Sarie Aguirre, Undergraduate Student, Texas State University
    • “The Advancement of American Imperialism through The Monroe Doctrine”
  • Illeane Marquez, Undergraduate Student, Texas State University
    • “The Monroe Doctrine: A Policy of Non-Interference for European Powers for Peace and Safety”



American Imperialism Panel (Taylor-Murphy Hall, Room 106)

Faculty  Commentator:  Dr.  Joshua  Paddison,  Lecturer,  Texas  State  University Student Moderator: Messia Gondorchin, Undergraduate Student, Texas State University

  • Noa Vasquez, Undergraduate Student, Texas State University
    • “Conquest and Growth: The Two Ages of Filibustering”
  • Carlos Fidalgo, Undergraduate Student, Texas State University
    • “The Texas Quagmire: How Failed Diplomacy Sparked the Mexican American War”
  • Jacob Dowdell, Undergraduate Student, Texas State University
    • “The Tempering of US Imperialism: The Cost of an Island Empire”



Military and Government Architecture Panel (Taylor-Murphy Hall, Room 105) Faculty Commentator: Dr. Peter Dedek, Associate Professor, Texas State University

Student Moderator: Desmond Workhoven, Undergraduate Student, Texas State University

  • Kyla Campbell, Graduate Student, Texas State University
    • “From Barracks to Balfour: The Evolution of Base Housing on American Military Bases.””
  • Evan Smith, Graduate Student, Texas State University
    • “Washington D.C.: A Unique Creation of the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries”


“Chasing Slavery” Participant Spotlight: Dr. Robert T. Chase

Photo of Dr. Chase

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 participant Dr. Robert T. Chase, Associate Professor of History at Stony Brook University, shares with us a bit about his forthcoming book. 

We are Not Slaves coverTell me in four sentences why I should read your book.

Dr. Robert T. Chase: We Are Not Slaves will be the first study of the southern prisoners’ rights movement of the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s and the subsequent construction of what many historians now call the era of mass incarceration. By placing the prisoners’ rights movement squarely in the labor organizing and civil rights mobilizing traditions, my work reconceptualizes what constitutes “civil rights” and to whom it applies.  My book shows that this prison-made civil rights rebellion, while mounting a successful legal challenge, was countered by a new prison regime – one that utilized paramilitary practices, gang intelligence units, promoted privatized prisons, endorsed massive prison building programs, and embraced 23-hour cell isolation—that established what I call a “Sunbelt” militarized carceral state approach that became exemplary of national prison trends.  In this two-part narrative of resistance and punitive reconstitution, prison labor is treated as more than work; rather, prison labor constituted a regime of carceral discipline and power that ordered prison society, sexuality, white privilege and racial hierarchy.   By drawing on newly released legal documents and over 80 oral histories with prisoners, this book considers the intersectional nature of prison labor as a cite of power that intersected with spatial control, gender identity, sexuality and sexual violence, and race and racial privileges.  Rather than consider prison rape as an endemic feature of individual prisoner pathology, my study uses legal testimonies to excavate a changing prison society centered on labor division that controlled an internal sex slave trade that amounted to what what I call “state-orchestrated prison rape.”

What was the most surprising thing you encountered when researching your book?

Dr. Chase: The most surprising thing I encountered is the degree to which our criminal justice system relies on prevarication and outright lying to craft false narratives that incarceration offers modernization and rehabilitation, when, in point of fact, incarceration is, at its base, a system of state violence and coerced labor that ultimately eliminates people as citizens and as human beings.  As a civil rights scholar, I expected to find in these civil rights cases the all-too frequent allegation of corporal punishment and physical abuse.  But I never expected to find a system where fellow prisoners operated as guards over other prisoners where these “convict-guards” engaged in torture, maiming, daily abuse, and the sexual assault of other prisoners in a system that was sanctified by state power.   By drawing on legal testimonies and by conducting oral histories with the incarcerated, I learned that prison rape was a system of state-orchestrated sexual assault as a state reward for those prisoners who acted as guards.  As I shifted through personal papers, diaries, letters, and affidavits from the incarcerated, I became astounded at how these people who had so little formal education, learned to educate themselves, to become what are known as “jail house attorneys,” and how deeply these self-taught prisoners read philosophical and political treatises, and how such individual acts of “mind change” lent themselves to inter-racial political organizing in a racially segregated prison system that constituted a twentieth century “prison plantation” system that rendered these prisoners as literal “slaves of the state.”

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

Dr. Chase: I really appreciate the thematic approach of this conference that has taken normally separate fields of study – sexual trafficking, mass incarceration, and coerced labor – to instead put these fields in dialogue with one another to show how taken together these topics all too often operate as overlapping systems of oppression and dehumanization.   Too often we think of “labor” as merely “work,” rather than the more comprehensive role that labor plays as a critically constitutive system that tends to divide society along strictly policed lines of race, ethnicity, class, gender, and sexuality.  When we think about labor as more than work and as a constitutive process of division, we can better reimagine our collective “work” as crossing these socially constructed divides to build bridges and collective communities to combat such societal divisions.

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

Dr. Chase: When I started this research in the early 2000s, there were relatively few historical studies of twentieth-century prisons and almost none of the prisoners’ rights movement. Despite the development of a “long civil rights movement” historiography, I found that the literature simply did not discuss the ways in which what we now call mass incarceration has turned the gains of the civil rights revolution into another age of racial disparity.

My contribution to this rethinking of post-1965 narratives is to demonstrate that the civil rights rebellion reached prisoners as well and that their collective efforts extend the struggle for civil rights into the decades of the 1970s and 1980s.  Moreover, my use of oral histories, legal depositions and affidavits, and courtroom testimony provides an example to students of the ways in which they can uncover the voice and agency of the prisoners themselves.  Despite winning the nation’s largest civil rights victory against unconstitutional prison systems, however, the Texas prisoners’ rights movement found that the ground had shifted underneath their feet and that just as the southern prison plantation fell, the new “Sunbelt” militarized prison arose from its ashes like a carceral phoenix.

When activists, abolitionists, policy makers, and reformers attempt to curb mass incarceration, they must seek redress not only at the federal level through national legislation but perhaps more importantly they must encounter the ways in which policing and mass incarceration are governed at the local and state level where the American state is indeed strong. One suggestion that my book offers is that social justice movements against mass incarceration should continue to focus as much attention on changes in local and state government as the civil rights movement once did when it sought civil rights as a matter of national and federal intervention. To dismantle this encompassing thicket of mass incarceration, we must utilize the spade of history to reveal just how deep we must cut to reach the roots of intertwining carceral states.

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