Teaching Position: Associate Professor of History, Princeton University
Area of Research: political, social, and urban/suburban history of 20th-century America, with particular interest in the making of modern conservatism. Focused on conflicts over race, rights, and religion, he also studies the postwar South and modern suburbia.
Education: 2000 Ph.D., History, Cornell University
Major Publications: Kruse is the author of White Flight: Atlanta and the Making of Modern Conservatism (Princeton University Press, 2005), a recent selection for the Holiday Book List of The New Republic. He is also co-editor of The New Suburban History (University of Chicago Press, 2006) with Thomas J. Sugrue. He is currently co-editing two additional collections now under review — one on global urban history and another on the impact of the Second World War on the civil rights movement. He is also working on a new research project, titled One Nation Under God: Cold War Christianity and the Origins of the Religious Right.
Awards: Kruse is the recipient of numerous awards and fellowships including:
2006-2008, Behrman Fellowship in the Humanities, Princeton University;
2003-2006, David L. Rike University Preceptorship in History, Princeton University ;
2002, Spencer Foundation, Research Grant;
1999-2000, Andrew Mellon Dissertation Fellowship;
1998, Ihlder Fellowship, Cornell University;
1998, Hughes-Gossett Prize, Supreme Court Historical Society;
1998, John S. Knight Prize for Freshman Writing Seminars, Cornell University;
1998, Industrial and Labor Relations Fellowship, Cornell University;
1997, Andrew Mellon Fellowship;
1994-1995, Henry Sage Fellowship, Cornell University;
1993, Phi Beta Kappa.
Kruse is affiliated with Princeton University’s Program in Law and Public Affairs, a joint venture of the Politics Department, the University Center for Human Values, and the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs.
Manuscript Referee for Bedford/St. Martin’s Press, University of Chicago Press.
Articles Referee for Journal of American History Book Reviewer for “American Historical Review,” “Journal of American History,” “Reviews in American History,” “Journal of Southern History,” “Social History,” “American Journal of Legal History.”
As two years of dissertation research in Atlanta came to a close, I realized that I still hadn’t conducted a single interview. Oral histories were all the rage at the time, and as a result, no matter how much great material I found in manuscript collections and government archives, I still felt I hadn’t done enough.
Now, in my defense, I had always wanted to interview the segregationists at the heart of my story. But they apparently had other plans. A few refused to return my letters and calls, while a disturbingly large number chose death before the dishonor of meeting me. The Grand Dragon of the Ku Klux Klan, most notably, passed away weeks before I moved to Atlanta. In my early research, I’d discovered that, when he wasn’t moonlighting as a racist terrorist, the Grand Dragon ran a dry cleaners. I found the gap between the two identities striking. (There was, I suppose, a perverse sense in a man wearing sheets at night and cleaning them by day.) I’d wanted to see for myself what kind of man could walk that line, but I’d never get the chance.
With my subjects passing away as I reached out to them, I nearly gave up on interviews altogether. I had unearthed an incredible wealth of material in the archives and drawn on transcripts of interviews conducted by other scholars – ones who apparently had the ability to approach their subjects without causing death. I felt I had more than enough material to craft a decent history and an engaging story. So why bother?
But late in my research, I stumbled across a recent newspaper interview with the most significant segregationist in my story – Lester Maddox. Maddox had gained notoriety for chasing civil rights activists away from his fried chicken restaurant with a pistol; his son, meanwhile, was armed with what would become Maddox’s trademark ax-handle. Soon thereafter, Maddox became a martyr for segregationists by closing his business down rather than have it “ruined” by integration. Ultimately, his fierce resistance to integration landed him in the governor’s mansion.
Because of Maddox’s centrality to my story, I knew I had to interview him. Over the telephone, he kindly agreed and arranged for me to drive out to his home in the suburbs. The day before our meeting, however, the 85-year-old called to say his health had taken a turn for the worse and he’d be coming into the city for an emergency visit with his doctor. Here we go again, I thought.
Maddox offered to meet me in my neighborhood to conduct the interview. Trying to find an appropriate place to meet, I suggested a coffee shop around the corner. The last time I’d been there, it was empty, with just a middle-aged couple working the counter and playing soft classical music. It seemed like the perfect place for an interview.
Walking in a few minutes before our meeting, however, I found a somewhat different scene. Behind the register stood a teenager with multiple piercings and bright purple hair pulled up in dreadlocks. And instead of classical music, the speakers were now blaring disco hits from the `70s. Trying to make the best of the situation, I nervously grabbed a coffee and found a table in the corner.
I had barely taken my seat when Maddox walked in. He was wearing a seersucker suit, horn-rimmed glasses, and a lapel pin of the Confederate battle flag. He even wore a wristwatch he once manufactured and sold, with his caricature in the center and a chicken drumstick and ax-handle marking the minute and hour. An editorial cartoonist couldn’t have drawn a more classic image of a Southern segregationist. For a second I sat there, soaking in the sight.
Suddenly, I realized what song was blaring from the coffee shop’s speakers: “Play That Funky Music, White Boy.”
Once I controlled my laughter, the interview was no problem at all.
By Kevin M. Kruse
About Kevin M. Kruse
“Kruse is by far the best lecturer I’ve had at Princeton.”…
“This is the best class I’ve taken at Princeton and maybe ever. The lectures were stimulating, honest, and overall incredible – I was moved to tears once.”…
“Kruse’s lectures are not to be missed. His organization is impeccable, he speaks clearly, and he’s funny too.”…
“Prof. Kruse genuinely cares about his students–he wants them to do well. He makes his lectures engaging, adding variety with different forms of media. I never got bored during his lectures as he has a great presence even in a large lecture hall like McCosh 10. He is extremely well organized and makes his expectations clear to his students from the very beginning of the semester. Nothing comes out of left field. In precept, he encourages debate and makes his precepts about the students, jumping in to clarify difficult concepts. Taking ANY of his courses will greatly add to your academic experience at Princeton!”…
“Prof. Kruse is an excellent and outstanding professor. He is very engaging, a good lecturer, and picks excellent readings. He is also very thoughtful and goes the extra mile in giving feedback and in being responsive to student needs. I would strongly recommend him, even to those who are not inclined to take history classes. He makes the material rich and engaging.” — Anonymous Students