Department of History and Geography

SURF Abstracts from History and Geography



J. Patrick Creghan (Dr. Charles Irons) Department of History and Geography

This study aimed to distinguish differences in morale between the generals/general staff and the
rank-and-file soldiers of the Army of Northern Virginia leading up to and directly following the
Gettysburg Campaign. This question also has implications for broader debates about the nature
of Confederate nationalism and the viability of the Confederacy. Some historians, such as Paul
Escott and Drew Faust, have argued that Confederate nationalism began to wane by the end of
1862 and severely undermined the Southern war effort. Others, such as Gary Gallagher and
Aaron Sheehan-Dean, argue instead that Confederate nationalism did not begin to decline until
1864, and only then as a result of battlefield defeats and not issues on the home front. In order to
gauge the depth of commitment to the Confederacy of general officers, I examined their
published correspondence (both military and personal), much of which was accessible in Elon
University’s McLendon Rare Book and Special Collections. To find rank-and-file soldiers’
statements about Confederate nationalism, I examined manuscript collections at the University of
North Carolina (Southern Historical Collection) and Duke University (David M. Rubenstein
Library). I focused only on three North Carolina regiments from the Army of Northern Virginia
(1st, 11th, and 26th) and select generals. For newspapers, I utilized an online database for The
Daily Dispatch, which was located in Richmond, and UNC’s North Carolina Collection for The
Daily Progress, which was located in Raleigh. I utilized these sources to corroborate the themes
discovered in correspondence between the home front and soldiers. The generals, soldiers, and
newspaper editors whose writings I consulted did not lose faith in the Confederacy as a result of
the failure of the Gettysburg Campaign. My documentation of their surprisingly uniform
commitment to the Confederacy is strong evidence in support of Gary Gallagher’s argument for
the strength of Confederate nationalism. My findings show that in the summer of 1863 the
Confederate people still believed strongly in their cause and their ability to be victorious. By showing that white North Carolinians still believed in the cause throughout the summer of 1863,
this research suggests that Confederate nationalism was resilient, indeed.


Zachary B. Fisher (Dr. Nancy Midgette and Dr. Janet Warman) Department of History

In 1862, in the midst of the Civil War, the United States Congress voted to pass the Morrill Act,
which donated federal land and money to each state for the creation of a public college focused
on agricultural and technical knowledge. In 1890, the passage of the Second Morrill Act
mandated equal access to public higher education for black as well as white students. States
could either integrate their original land-grant college or build a separate institution for black
students. Seeking to preserve their highly segregated society, the majority of Southern states
chose the second option. Although historians have long recognized that historically black
colleges and universities were influential in the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 60s, the
importance of the institutions developed from the Second Morrill Act has not been specifically
studied. Through my research, I examined primary resources, including school newspaper
articles and interviews of student leaders, as well as secondary resources to determine the impact
of land-grant HBCUs. My research revealed that students at these institutions, primarily North
Carolina A&T, Florida A&M, and South Carolina State, were crucial to the progression and
success of the civil rights movement. The sit-in movement, which was revitalized by the
Greensboro Four at NC A&T, provided black students across the South with an effective model
for peaceful demonstration. This movement led directly to the formation of the Student
Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, which gave student leaders from land-grant HBCUs the
opportunity to garner national political attention through their efforts. These students also gained
respect from adult leaders in the NAACP and often influenced the strategies of the national civil
rights movement. Florida A&M students were the first activists to use prolonged imprisonment
to their advantage, and NC A&T students popularized the use of appeals to patriotism and
mainstream Christianity. Toward the end of the 1960s, SC State students exemplified the
transition of the civil rights movement toward more aggressive actions. This research reveals that
Southern states’ decisions to segregate public land-grant colleges actually contributed to the end
of legalized segregation more than half a century later.

Jordan B. Greene (Dr. Michael Carignan) Department of History

The primary purpose of the research is to determine a beginning point from which to analyze the
evolution of Voltaire’s philosophies and influences between 1733, when the Letters Concerning
the English Nation were published, and 1764, when he published the Philosophical Dictionary.
In order to establish this basis, the project involves a close reading of Voltaire’s Letters
Concerning the English Nation searching for themes of religious criticism and superstition and
juxtaposing the findings with those from a close reading of the Philosophical Dictionary
searching for the same themes. Initial findings have demonstrated that in the Letters, Voltaire
indicates clear skepticism and criticism of the established Christian order, especially Catholicism
in France. His primary attack on religion is threefold. First, the Christian Church is horribly
corrupt. Second, that it is incompatible with reason, and therefore the ideals of the Enlightenment. And third, that the Church emphasizes doctrine over morality, meaning that it
does not encourage morality in its followers as long as they comply with the rites and rituals.
This three-pronged attack also seems to be the crux of Voltaire’s argument in the Philosophical
Dictionary, indicating that Voltaire stays true to his ideas and beliefs even thirty years later.


David R. Lincoln (Dr. David Crowe) Department of History

It has been suggested by some that during the Holocaust many Jews simply went to their deaths
like "sheep to the slaughter," with the ruthless efficiency of Nazi Germany allowing these killers
to send tens-of-thousands at a time to meet their grisly fate. With the number of murdered Jewish
men, women and children exceeding at least 6 million, it does seem as though resistance must
have been staggeringly slight, but this is simply not the case. From the ghettos, forests and
extermination camps of Eastern Europe Jews fought for the survival of their friends, families and
culture with fierce determination. My research seeks to dispel the notion of Jewish passivity
during the Holocaust for all time, so that we may better understand this greatest of all human
tragedies. As the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising is the best known of the three cases I have studied, I
will not dwell on it during my presentation. Instead I would like to present the audience
primarily with the story of the Treblinka uprising. Its setting and events perfectly illustrate the
obstacles facing Jewish resisters, as well as their determination and desperation in overcoming
these challenges. From the story of Vilna I will tell the fascinating tale of Jacob Gens and Abba
Kovnar, who waged an intellectual battle inside the city’s ghetto for the hearts and minds of its
inhabitants. Gens is a painfully tragic figure, and Kovnar an incredibly eloquent one. The two
combine to offer a narrative that surpasses the very best of fiction. This extensive research
project was made possible in large part by the Yad Vashem archives masive online catalogue of
primary source documents from German and Jewish sources alike, as well as many outstanding
books on the Holocaust.


Claire L. Mayo (Dr. David Crowe) Department of History

In the aftermath of the German conquest of France in 1940, Charles de Gaulle fled his homeland
for Great Britain and entered the public light as the military and political leader of la France
Libre. Le Musée des lettres et manuscripts recently released a large cache of de Gaulle’s official
and personal letters documenting his efforts to establish his legitimacy from 1940-1942 as the
internationally recognized head of la France Libre in London. Until that time, de Gaulle relied
heavily upon British support and worked to sever the Allies’ trust in the Vichy government. The
letters show his festering troubles with American political leaders as seen in the controversy over
the French territories of St. Pierre and Miquelon off the coast of Newfoundland. French
historians are just beginning to interpret the letters, which are largely unexplored by American
scholars. My research is one of the first to use these letters and contextualize them with the
current scholarship on Charles de Gaulle and la France Libre. The top-secret letters were
released in 2011, but since there are no English translations available to the public, I translated a
portion of the collection for use in my Senior Thesis. The principal goal of my thesis is to answer
the question, “How did Charles de Gaulle evolve as a political leader and establish his leadership
of la France Libre as the only legitimate fighting French force while in exile in Great Britain
from 1940-1942?” The conclusions drawn from my extensive research show that de Gaulle’s
insistence on French sovereignty clashed with American expectations for the contribution of St.
Pierre and Miquelon to the Allied war effort. To enhance his authority, de Gaulle unified
experienced French generals under his leadership so that his authority over them strengthened his
credentials. In the end, these top-secret letters underscore Charles de Gaulle’s lack of political
experience and consequential mistakes in his initial years of leadership, but the letters also reveal
his evolution to become one of France’s greatest politicians.

Julia E. Okada (Dr. David Crowe) Department of History

The Nuremberg trials left a lasting legacy and precedent establishing legal procedures to bring
perpetrators of crimes against humanity to justice. Yet flaws in this legacy stemming from the
inconsistency in charges and convictions of such perpetrators have left questions as to how
effective legal outlets for international criminal justice are to the realities of crimes against
humanity and genocide. A case study of the three-decade long saga of the John Demjanjuk legal
cases provides an historical reference point to conclude whether or not past and current domestic
and international legal systems were and are capable of carrying out justice addressing crimes
against humanity to all perpetrators and collaborators. By analyzing the John Demjanjuk legal
cases in the United States, Israel and Germany from 1977 to 2011, and by evaluating
contemporary movements in relation to international criminal justice and crimes against
humanity, it can be said that the John Demjanjuk case was an exception, rather than the rule, to
prosecuting low-level participants in crimes against humanity from a legal standpoint. The
Nuremberg Trials failed to create a historical legacy of forming a modern international criminal
justice system to indict all individuals, regardless of rank and their place of residence, for their
role in crimes against humanity through sufficient legal means. Methodology of this research
consults primary sources such as legal transcripts from these trials, supplementing the research
with peer-reviewed scholarly bodies of work (journal articles, books, etc).


Kathryn J. Osborn (Dr. Mary Jo Festle) Department of History and Geography

Since their inception in the 19th century, debutante balls have been a venue in which traditional
gender roles were celebrated in elaborate rituals amongst the elites in society. This was
especially true in the South, where historians have characterized gender roles as more traditional
and resistant to change. In the 1960s, American feminists criticized traditional gender roles and
demanded more opportunities for women and in some places there was a corresponding decline
in the popularity of debutante balls. The research question for this project asked whether there
was evidence of any changes related to gender in two piedmont North Carolina debutante balls
between the 1960s and the 1980s. Did feminism affect the Terpsichorean Ball and the Durham
Debutante Ball? To answer that question, I examined materials in the archives of the Southern
Historical Collection and the Duke Special Collections, including the Durham Debutante
Programs from 1960-1980, the Terpsichorean Ball Handbook from 1975, photographs from the
balls, and first-hand accounts from Durham residents during the time of the balls. I argue that
there were some subtle changes: by the 1980s the role of marriage, motherhood, and the power structure between males and females that had been prominent within the debutante balls in the
1960s diminished due to women delaying marriage and motherhood for college and a career and
changing cultural values about the roles of men and women. Attitudes towards beauty and
service shifted only slightly due to changing cultural values, however. Although the balls
contained to support some patriarchal values and traditional gender roles, the balls made small
adjustments to afford women more opportunities that feminists desired.



Hollyn K. Geibel (Dr. Rod Clare) Department of History

After the Civil War ended in 1865, North Carolina was considered among the most progressive
of the former Confederate states, due in part to its degree of Union support during the war and
because it was one of the last states to join the Confederacy. Because of this, the federal
government held few reservations about North Carolina accepting the recently freedpeople into
its society and unifying with the Union's ideals. However, during this time period known as
Reconstruction, 1865-1877, this assumption proved false. Over the years, historians have been
increasingly interested in how and why this was the case. Because of this development,
historians have asked questions to try to understand North Carolina‘s unique Reconstruction
experience: What did the newly freed slaves do to try to assert their new role in North Carolina
society? How did white North Carolinians respond to these declarations? Were there sympathetic
whites and if so, did any cross-racial solidarity take place? This research project tries to answer
these questions using primary sources at the Duke University Archives, the Southern Historical
Collection at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and the State Archives of North
Carolina and analytical comparisons of secondary sources. The results indicate that African
Americans in North Carolina tried to gain rights through their involvement in politics and social
issues aided by their white political allies. The main roadblock to these rights proved to be social
and political discrimination and violence by white supremacists, regardless of North Carolina's
initial Union sympathies. Through the Ku Klux Klan and other terrorist groups, whites attacked
African Americans and their white Republican allies. In response, North Carolina governor
started the Kirk-Holden War by building an army to fight against the violence. While this white
supremacist discrimination was prevalent all over the south, it ended in the first ever
impeachment and conviction of a governor in United States history. Because African Americans
were prevented from making significant political advances, they focused on social issues,
forming racially segregated churches and schools, so they would not have to remain racially
inferior in all aspects of post-Civil War life.

Claire L. Mayo (Dr. David Crowe) Department of History

Though almost one hundred years have passed since the outbreak of war in 1914, historians
continue to question and revaluate previous interpretations of the Great War. American
historians either over-emphasize the United State's contribution to the victory or blame the
Treaty of Versailles for the rise of Hitler in an oppressed Germany. This view, however, supports
a US-centric perspective and will therefore limit our understanding of the far-reaching effects of
the Great War upon Europe and the world. To address this concern, the question posed by this study evaluates the French interpretation of the Great War and their understanding of its impact
upon French politics and society. The research was conducted during my semester abroad in
Montpellier, France, where I worked with scholars and French students to answer my question.
The bulk of the research comes from the course Les relations internationals à la première guerre
mondiale de la seconde guerre mondiale (International Relations from the First World War to
the Second World War) taught by Monsieur MURACCIOLE. The scholarship reveals that the
inferior position of France in Europe after immense personal loses during the war created a
strong nationalistic sentiment among French leaders for the preservation of the country. The
resulting peace treaties provided for the suppression of Germany's power as well as the
regulation of peace in Europe. The hopes generated by these clauses quickly deflated during the
1920s and 1930s when the League of Nations broke apart and the modifications of reparations
created an economic crisis throughout Europe. Despite the ineffectiveness of the treaties, France
adhered to a policy of demilitarization that Germany no longer followed. The intricate French
political environment of pacifists, anti-socialists, defeatists, and communists inhibited this policy
from changing in response to German militarization. Against such a backdrop of passivism, it is
remarkable to see the persistent courage of General Charles de Gaulle to defy his superiors in
order to preserve the nation. The Great War of 1914-1919 greatly impacted the French psyche,
and while each leader looked to preserve l'Hexagone, some acted to avoid a fight while others
labored to prevent a war.


Cameron M. Shirley (Dr. Jim Bissett) Department of History

While academic historians like to think that their work shapes the public discourse about
America‘s past, in reality, more Americans‘ understanding about the past is based on visits to
historic sites than on scholarly historical monographs. In light of this fact, it is important to
consider how closely the interpretations given at the historic sites Americans visit on family
vacations match scholars‘ interpretations of American history. Furthermore, while scholarly
historical interpretations constantly evolve, it seems that historic sites are much more static,
portraying the celebratory interpretations of past decades. Through this project, I have explored
the differences between public and scholarly historical interpretations for one important event,
the American Revolution. This project began with an in-depth study of the scholarship of the
American Revolution resulting in a historiographical essay. One key insight of my
historiographical study is that scholarly interpretation is heavily influenced by the time period in
which it was written. The second phase of my project consisted of traveling to Boston and
Philadelphia, visiting the historic sites related to the American Revolution, determining the type
of interpretation they present, and analyzing these interpretations in light of my historiographical
research. Through my travel experiences and historiographical work, I concluded that historic
sites tend to present an interpretation that is less sophisticated than those found in scholarly
sources. Thus, I found that 57% of the historic sites I visited fall into the Neo-Whig interpretive
theme that originated in the 1950s/60s, presenting a celebratory interpretation focused on the
deeds of great white men in history. Even so, several sites demonstrate that it is possible to
achieve interpretive sophistication, providing a dynamic and multi-faceted approach and
examining the American Revolution from the bottom-up. The interpretations at historic sites are
what the majority of Americans experience after high school history, proving the importance of
presenting sophisticated interpretations of the American Revolution.


Christine L. Swanson (Dr. David Crowe) Department of History

Between 18,000-25,000 Jews fled Europe for Shanghai between 1938-1945 to avoid Nazi
persecution after China opened this port city to emigrants. While some were encouraged to leave
by the Nazis, once World War II many fled to avoid growing Nazi terror in Eastern Europe and
the Soviet Union. While some had visas, others did not, which mattered little to the Chinese, who
accepted emigrants with or without official entry documents. Consequently, Shanghai became a
haven for those who were running out of other options. However, refugees would not breathe a
sigh of relief once they reached the city. Jewish refugees were forced into a small and
overcrowded ghetto during the Japanese invasion of China. The ghetto only encompassed one
square mile and housed approximately 20,000 refugees, along with thousands of native
Shanghainese. Food, shelter, and jobs were scarce. Air raids and fighting on the outskirts of the
city exacerbated the abysmal conditions. This project attempts to answer how Jewish refugees
persevered through the tumultuous years of civil war and invasion that devastated Shanghai. A
Jewish community still exists in the modern economic heartland of China, along with the
remains of a Jewish quarter. Using Chinese and English primary and secondary documents to
explain the interactions between Jews, Chinese, and Japanese soldiers, this project will
thoroughly document the lives of Jewish refugees in Shanghai. Beyond that, the project will
connect the legacy of the World War II Shanghai Jewish community to contemporary Jewish
interactions in China. In addition, citing Chinese resources, the project will consider how China‘s
accepting attitude towards Jewish refugees during World War II shaped the contemporary
Chinese perspective of the Holocaust.