Public historians have struggled to take a hard line against neo-Confederate groups in theory as well as practice. This article proposes a methodological shift that can clarify the work and obligations of the public historian following the insurrection on January 6, 2021. The frame of action research positions historians as public-facing actors and advocates. The frame of restorative justice clarifies the stakes of, and stakeholders within, historical harm. We apply these frameworks to two contested sites for public history in Florence, Alabama, that revolve around the Confederacy. Finally, we use our experiences from the field to distinguish communities from counter-communities and provide strategies for making cultural institutions inhospitable to cultural insurrectionists.
Public History in the Age of Insurrection: Confronting White Rage in Red States
Brian Murphy (MA, public history) is the curator at Pope’s Tavern Museum and the Florence Indian Mound Museum in Florence, Alabama. He serves as the chairman of the Florence Historic Preservation Commission and as the NW Alabama coordinator for the Thousand Eyes Archeological Stewardship Program. He has published on Confederate monuments and representations of Indigenous sites in Alabama.
Katie Owens-Murphy (PhD, English) is associate professor of English at the University of North Alabama. She is the regional coordinator for the Inside-Out Prison Exchange Program in Alabama and her public humanities work includes collaborating with incarcerated researchers on published writings, exhibitions, and digital archives related to mass incarceration and capital punishment. She trained with the Critical Participatory Action Research Institute at the CUNY Graduate Center in 2019 and completed her graduate certificate in Restorative Practices from the International Institute for Restorative Practices in 2021.
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Brian Murphy, Katie Owens-Murphy; Public History in the Age of Insurrection: Confronting White Rage in Red States. The Public Historian 1 August 2022; 44 (3): 139–163. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/tph.2022.44.3.139
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