054: Edward J. Blum, 29

Basic Facts

Teaching Position: Assistant Professor, San Diego State University 2007-present
Area of Research: 19th Century United States History of race and religion
Education: Ph.D., History, University of Kentucky, 2003
Major Publications: Blum is the author of Reforging the White Republic: Race, Religion, and American Nationalism, 1865-1898 (2005), W. E. B. Du Bois, American Prophet (2007), Edward J. Blum JPG and co-editor of Vale of Tears: New Essays on Religion and Reconstruction.
Blum was awarded the C. Vann Woodward Dissertation Prize from the Southern Historical Association for his dissertation: “Gilded Crosses: Race, Religion, and the Reforging of American Nationalism, 1865-1898.” For Reforging the White Republic, Blum was awarded 2006 Peter Seaborg Award for Civil War Scholarship, given by the George Tyler Moore Center for the Study of the Civil War, Shepherd University, and 2005 Gustavus Myers Book Award, given by the Gustavus Myers Center for the Study of Bigotry and Human Rights (Honorable Mention), and was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize (nonfiction and biography), The Bancroft Prize (Columbia University), The Avery O. Craven Award (Organization of American Historians), The Frederick Jackson Turner Award (Organization of American Historians), The Merle Curti Award (Organization of American Historians), Frederick Douglass Book Prize (Gilder Lehrman Center), Charles S. Sydnor Award (Southern Historical Association), Albert J. Beveridge Award (American Historical Association), Best First Book in the History of Religions (American Academy of Religion), among others.
Currently, Blum is co-editing (with Paul Harvey) the Columbia Guide to American Religious History and writing a book on race and depictions of Jesus Christ in American culture, society, and politics, titled Jesus in Red, White, and Black.
Awards: Blum is the recipient of numerous awards and fellowships including among others:
National Endowment for the Humanities, “African American Civil Rights Struggles in the Twentieth Century,” Summer Institute, W. E. B. Du Bois Institute, Harvard University (1 of 20 nationally), 2006;
2006 Peter Seaborg Award for Civil War Scholarship, given by the George Tyler Moore Center for the Study of the Civil War, Shepherd University;
Grant, Students Partnering with Faculty Summer Research Program, Kean University, “‘They Lynched Christ’: Race and Religion in the Early Black Freedom Struggle,” 2006;
Gustavus Myers Book Award, given by the Gustavus Myers Center for the Study of Bigotry and Human Rights (Honorable Mention), 2005;
C. Vann Woodward Dissertation Prize, Southern Historical Association, 2004;
Fellow, W. E. B. Du Bois Center for the Advanced Study of Race and Religion, Notre Dame University;
Best Paper Prize for United States History, Southwestern Historical Association, 2004;
Nominee for “The Arnaldo Momigliano Best Article in History Prize,” sponsored by The Historical Society;
University of Kentucky Association of Emeriti Faculty Endowed Fellowship, 2003;
Provost’s Award for Teaching, University of Kentucky, 2002;
Pew Younger Scholars Fellowship (1 of 30 nationally), 2002;
Commonwealth Research Grant, University of Kentucky, 2002 and 2003;
Presidential Fellowship, University of Kentucky, 2001-2002 and 2002-2003;
George C. Herring Writing Award, presented by the Kentucky Association of Teachers of History (KATH), 2002.
Additional Info:
Blum has been a fellow with the W. E. B. Du Bois Institute at Harvard University and with the National Endowment for the Humanities.
Blum formerly was and Assistant Professor at Kean University 2006-2007.
In the classroom, Blum is interested in helping students engage the past in a variety of ways, whether through music and images or role-playing and historical simulations. His courses include Jacksonian America, the Civil War and Reconstruction, religion in the United States, and African American history.

Personal Anecdote

Email was one of my best friends throughout graduate school. With it, I could laugh with old high school friends, try to broker fantasy football trades, and network with new colleagues. But in the weeks following graduation, after I had defended my dissertation and was pining for a book contract, email almost sunk my ship. Most of us, I would imagine, have drafted quick email notes that make us thankful for the cancel button. You know what I mean, the angry rant at a newspaper article, the frustrated response to a department chair or a book reviewer, the dismissive response to a whinny student. Ninety-nine times out of one hundred, we cancel those messages and the next day breathe a sigh of relief. My email blunder was distinct, but probably not all that uncommon: it was a case of mistaken identity. Or rather, of email haste making a mess. Some email programs have “quick-fills,” where you start to type in a name or address and the computer finishes it for you (like when you type “Jo” and the computer adds “John” and his email). For me, it was a case of two Michaels.

Michael #1 was an editor of a series that I was interested in for my dissertation. Michael #2 was a senior colleague who had guided me through many of graduate school’s ups and downs and who himself had successfully negotiated some great book deals. By now, you can see where this is going. I wrote a long email to Michael #2, asking him for advice about how to negotiate a contract. I was torn between the series edited by Michael #1 and another press that had expressed interest. So I laid it all out for Michael #2. I signed my name (as always “Best, Ed”), and away went the email. That night, I realized, the email for #2 had been sent to #1. Now, I was frantic over what to do: should I contact #1 to explain the situation? Sure, I had been honest with the editors that I was shopping the manuscript, but this looked bad. I just emailed an editor that I wanted to maneuver either his press or the other into a bidding contest. This was bad negotiating, on the one hand, and bad form on the other. If this was Texas Hold ‘Em, I had broken one of the cardinal rules: I had shown my cards with vigor. If this were a basketball game, I had just asked my opponent the best way to beat him. I tossed and turned all night with how to respond. I considered another email to Michael #1 with the subject heading: “DO NOT READ PREVIOUS EMAIL.” But that wouldn’t work. He would probably open it after he read the first message and I would look even worse. I decided, in the end, to explain that I had sent this note to the wrong email address, but that I was still very much interested in publishing my book with him. My guess is that if Michael #2 had received the message, his first piece of advice would have been to keep my plans close to myself. So much for that. Michael #1 understood completely (or at least had the wisdom to cancel any chastising email he had composed in response); and, for his good humor, I decided his was the press for me. So I shot him a quick email.

Quotes

By Edward J. Blum

  • If one looks for religion in W. E. B. Du Bois’s life and times, it seems ubiquitous. It is there in his childhood at the Sunday school he loved so much. It is there in his first written works as he unveiled black souls in a culture that denied their W. E. B. Du Bois, American Prophet JPG existence. It is there in the prayers he wrote for his students, in his attacks on church segregation, in his jeremiads against war and unbridled capitalism, and in his literary creations of black Christs and dark princesses. It is there in his friendships with white ministers, in his lectures in churches and synagogues, and in his conception of Communism. Du Bois never hid his assessments and feelings on religion behind codes or riddles or anagrams. They were too vital then. And they are too vital now. Du Bois was, in his self characterizations and in the hearts of thousands, a prophet with sacred insight. He could see past the myths of the present age and reveal worlds beyond what lies on the surface.
    Du Bois was an American prophet; he was a moral historian, a visionary sociologist, a literary theologian, and a mythological hero with a black face. In a world marked by white supremacy, capitalistic exploitation, grotesque materialism, and wicked militancy, Du Bois became a rogue saint and a dark monk to preach the good news of racial brotherhood, economic cooperation, and peace on earth.” — Edward J. Blum in “W. E. B. Du Bois, American Prophet”
  • About Edward J. Blum

  • “This book is a marvelous probing into the unknown and unexplored dimension of the great W.E.B. Du Bois’s life and work: his self-styled religious and spiritual temperament. Edward Blum is to be congratulated for this grand contribution!” — Cornel West, Princeton University reviewing “W. E. B. Du Bois, American Prophet”
  • “Blum illuminates the entire range of Du Bois’s writings, showing him as a prophetic thinker at times, a deliverer of jeremiads, a composer of creeds, an appreciator of the spirituality of everyday folk, and a visionary who anticipated trends in black theology and womanist theology. A truly valuable contribution to African American and American religious history.” — Paul Harvey, University of Colorado reviewing “W. E. B. Du Bois, American Prophet”
  • “In this eloquent and penetrating book, Edward Blum explores a crucial but neglected aspect of the life and times of W. E. B. Du Bois: the intersection of race and religion. As Blum shows in this rich and revealing book, religion mattered deeply to Du Bois, his readers, and the people with whom he interacted. Blum brilliantly characterizes Du Bois as a prophet and holy seer. He gives us, as no one else has, a new Du Bois. It is a signal accomplishment, and should be required reading for anyone interested in American protest literature and the role of religion in social reform.” — John Stauffer, author of The Black Hearts of Men reviewing “W. E. B. Du Bois, American Prophet”
  • “Edward Blum has offered us a remarkably fresh, provocative, and searching reading of Du Bois, one that places religion and spirituality at the center of his thought and sensibilities. But he has offered us something more as well: an important engagement with religion and the construction of race—of blackness and whiteness—in America.” — Steven Hahn, author of “A Nation under Our Feet: Black Political Struggles in the Rural South from Slavery to the Great Migration” reviewing “W. E. B. Du Bois, American Prophet”
  • “While W. E. B. Du Bois’s many prescient ideas on race and the color line are often quoted, he is rarely characterized in the sacred prophetic sense. In this first comprehensive study of the religious meaning and biblical references in Du Bois’s writings, Edward Blum brilliantly and movingly renders the complex soul of this intellectual giant, who demanded his people’s deliverance from a sin-sick world of racial injustice.” — Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham, author of “Righteous Discontent: The Women’s Movement in the Black Baptist Church, 1880-1920″ reviewing “W. E. B. Du Bois, American Prophet”
  • “Reforging the White Republic is an ambitiously conceived book that does much more than explain how white southerners won the postbellum peace. Blum insists that the failure of Reconstruction should be traced to American religious institutions and values. Situating his work at the interstices of recent scholarship on historical memory, nationalism, and cultural history, he convincingly argues that an amalgam of ‘whiteness, godliness, and American nationalism,’ came to define not only postwar Protestantism but also the United States.” — W. Fitzhugh Brundage, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, reviewing “Reforging the White Republic: Race, Religion, and American Nationalism, 1865-1898.”
  • “This broadly researched and passionately written work signals the arrival of a compelling new voice in the vital field of race and American religion. … Blum’s work stands as one of the most significant books in American religious history published over the last decade precisely because he shows religion as a central actor in the major national dramas of the post-Civil War era.” — Paul Harvey, University of Colorado, Colorado Springs, reviewing “Reforging the White Republic: Race, Religion, and American Nationalism, 1865-1898.”
  • “Imaginative, provocative, and expansively researched, Reforging the White Republic offers an important twist to surveys of Reconstruction-era America. Rather than imagine religious belief as subservient to politics or industrial growth, Blum centers the Christian imagination as critical to the genesis of a national self-image.” — Kathryn Lofton, Indiana University, reviewing “Reforging the White Republic: Race, Religion, and American Nationalism, 1865-1898.”
  • “What the book does so brilliantly is reveal the lasting power and appeal of religious arguments for both sides of the race question but especially for African Americans, who remained the most dedicated disciples of Christian egalitarianism and the most penetrating critics of Christian white supremacy.” — Jane Dailey, University of Chicago, reviewing “Reforging the White Republic: Race, Religion, and American Nationalism, 1865-1898.”
  • “Professor Blum is one of the most enjoyable professors I’ve ever been involved with. He obviously cares about history, and that passion translates. He’s funny and light-hearted and somehow an hour long class flies by. And while you were having this great time you learn a whole lot.”…
    “I normally have no interest in history, but Professor Blum brought out all the juicy details and made this class extremely interesting. On top of the fact that he was super nice and engaging in his teaching methods. This semester has been one of the best that I’ve had. I really enjoyed having Professor Blum as a teacher and I hope to have him again.”…
    “Professor Blum’s drive for teaching history is comparable to the religious fervor of the Prophet Matthias. Rather than teaching about a broad historical concept alone, he used the reading material and lectures to bring us closer to the lives of individuals of the time periods.”…
    “The arrival of Dr. Blum to San Diego State University’s history department marked one of the luckiest days in my life. Dr. Blum’s work ethic, his constant availability, and his concern for others have left an immediate impact on our graduate community.”…
    “Professor Blum’s Civil War and Reconstruction class is easily one of the best I’ve taken yet. I knew the time period itself would be interesting, but Prof. Blum’s knowledge and ability to teach the materials went way beyond my expectations. He has a gift of being able to connect a single event in history with everything else going on at that time, as well as put it in the larger context of history. Too many times in history classes, students learn about events as if they were completely separated and had no relationship with one another, which can be detrimental to a student’s understanding of how history works. But Prof. Blum took extra time in class to explain the other things going on in the late 19th century and how they both contributed to, and were affected by, the Civil War and Reconstruction. He was also able to connect the events of this class to issues that plague today’s society, and even show parallels between other points in history. Plus, he’s just a great teacher that takes time to get to know the class and will always make time to meet and communicate with students” — Anonymous Students
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