Teaching Position: William B. Umstead Professor of History, Director of Graduate Studies, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (2002- )
Area of Research: Modern U. S. South (since 1865)
Education: Ph.D, Harvard University, 1988
Major Publications: Author of: The Southern Past: A Clash of Race and Memory (Harvard University Press, 2005); A Socialist Utopia in the New South: The Ruskin Colonies in Tennessee and Georgia, 1894-1901 (University of Illinois Press, 1996); Lynching in the New South: Georgia and Virginia, 1880-1930 (University of Illinois Press, 1993).
Editor of: Booker T. Washington and Black Progress: A Centenary of Up From Slavery (University Press of Florida, 2003); Up From Slavery by Booker T. Washington (Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2002); Where These Memories Grow: History, Memory, and Regional Identity in the American South (University of North Carolina Press, 2000); Under Sentence of Death: Essays on Lynching in the South (University of North Carolina Press, 1997).
Awards: Brundage has received several awards for his books including; Choice Outstanding Academic Book of the Year in 1997 for A Socialist Utopia in the New South; the Merle Curti Award for Best Book of Social History awarded by the Organization of American Historians in 1994 and the Elliot Rudwick Award for Best Work on Afro-American History published by the University of Illinois Press in 1992 both for Lynching in the New South.
Additional awards include; Kirk Visiting Scholar, Agnes Scott College, Spring 1997; National Humanities Center Fellow 1995-1997; Whitney Humanities Center Fellowship, Yale University, 1995-1996 (Declined); A.S.U.S. Teaching Excellence Award, Queen’s University (1991).
Additional Info: Formerly Associate Professor of History at Queens University, Canada (1989-1997) and Professor of History at the University of Florida (1997-2002) and Department of History Chair at the U of Florida (1999-2002).
Advisor, exhibit design, Cape Fear Museum, Wilmington, NC, 2003-2004; Advisor, Listening Between the Lines/Reality Works documentary series on racial and ethnic conflict in American history, 2001-; Interviewed by for Shaping America Educational Television Series; consultant and participant in Bill Brummell Productions/A&E documentary on vigilantes and lynching, June 1999.
Like every first-time book author I was anxious when I submitted my revised dissertation to my editor. That my editor was August Meier, a distinguished and remarkably prolific historian of American race relations and African Americans, only added to my anxiety. Meier had a reputation as a stern taskmaster and an irascible critic. In the year and a half that I spent revising my dissertation Meier had proven to be a surprisingly gentle critic. But I did have to get used to receiving phone calls at odd hours (e.g., 7:30 on a Sunday morning) that often included lengthy digressions during which Augie recounted his extraordinary life story from his childhood in leftist summer camps in New Jersey to his participation in the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s. Beyond deepening my respect for Meier, these conversations accentuated my own doubts about the larger significance of my own work. After all, I was revising my dissertation for publication at the same age that Meier, several decades previously, had already worked for President Charles Hamilton, the noted black sociologist and President of Fisk, and had publicly debated Malcolm X.
With mixed emotions, then, I prepared to send my manuscript to Augie. At the time, I was teaching at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario. It was both easier and cheaper to mail the manuscript from upstate New York, so I crossed the border and dropped off my manuscript at the MailBoxes Plus in Watertown, New York. The proprietor of the store generously provided a free recycled box (fewer dead trees and no expense for packaging!), which just so happened to be a box emblazoned with the Subway sub shop logo. I carefully addressed the manuscript and sent it off.
Within a few days I received a letter from Meier’s secretary at Kent State – email was still not the preferred medium of record – thanking me for the package and assuring me that it was safely stored. Apparently, Augie was in India (another fascinating chapter in his life) and would return in a month or so. I was a little puzzled by the stress that Augie’s secretary place on thanking me for the package but I gave it little thought. A month passed without a word from Augie, but I expected as much because he was in India. When a second month passed I began to wonder but a first time author is hardly likely to harass his/her editor after taking too long to read a manuscript. Moreover, by then I was immersed in the business of fall classes.
Finally, almost four months after I sent the package to Augie, I received a terse note from him asking pointedly about the state of my manuscript. I immediately called his secretary, reminding her that I had sent Meier the package more than three months earlier. For perhaps fifteen seconds there was dead silence on the line, and then we simultaneously began to laugh hysterically when he realized what had happened. For whatever reason, she had assumed that I had sent Augie a package from Subway subs, which she had conscientiously stored in his refrigerator for more than three months. She at once retrieved my manuscript, which had been preserved in excellent condition among the other frozen goods in Augie’s freezer. Curiously, Augie never seemed to see the humor in the saga of my manuscript.
That my manuscript ended up in Augie Meier’s freezer, I suggest, is a testament to the charming eccentricities of academia. In what other line of work would a secretary assume that someone would ship a sub sandwich from upstate New York to northern Ohio? But given Augie’s eccentricities (and those of other academics that his secretary almost certainly dealt with), who can blame her? The other lesson I draw from this experience is that it doesn’t pay to cut corners or save pennies when it comes to manuscripts. I willingly pay for packing now.
By W. Fitzhugh Brundage
About W. Fitzhugh Brundage