Spencer B. King Jr. Center for Southern Studies to Welcome Emory’s Dr. Joseph Crespino for Discussion of Atticus Finch: The Biography

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Dr. Joseph Crespino

Atticus FinchMACON – Mercer University’s Spencer B. King Jr. Center for Southern Studies will welcome Dr. Joseph Crespino, Jimmy Carter Professor of American History at Emory University, March 12 for a guest lecture on his latest book, Atticus Finch: The Biography.

The event, which will take place at 6 p.m. in the Presidents Dining Room inside the University Center, is free and open to the public.

Dr. Crespino is a historian of the 20th century United States and the American South since Reconstruction. He earned his B.A. from Northwestern University, M.Ed. from the University of Mississippi and both his M.A. and Ph.D. from Stanford University.

He has written three books, including Strom Thurmond’s America and In Search of Another Country: Mississippi and the Conservative Counterrevolution, which won the 2008 Lillian Smith Book Award from the Southern Regional Council. He has also co-edited a collection of historical essays, titled The Myth of Southern Exceptionalism.

His most recent book tells the story of Atticus Finch, from his origins in the life and example of Harper Lee’s father, Amasa Coleman (A.C.) Lee, to his evolution in her two novels, his adaptation in the film version of “To Kill a Mockingbird” and his public reception during the critical years of the Southern civil rights struggle.

Dr. Crespino argues that to understand Finch it is necessary to recover the political struggles that preoccupied Lee’s father, a lawyer, state legislator and newspaper editor in Monroeville, Alabama, which were the same struggles that preoccupied Lee herself.

A variety of new or previously unexamined sources make this possible, including letters and documents from the files of Lee’s publisher, privately held letters written by Lee from Monroeville in the 1950s that shed light on her relationship with her father and developments in her hometown that influenced her fiction, and interviews with her oldest living niece and nephews, who offer fresh insights into the life of their grandfather and famous aunt alike. Most important, perhaps, are the hundreds of editorials A.C. Lee wrote during his years as editor of the Monroe Journal.

“Dr. Crespino spoke about Atticus at Mercer University Press’ Author Luncheon in the fall. This spring, the Center wanted to allow Mercer students and Macon residents to hear about this fascinating biography of the man behind one of the most famous characters in 20th-century American fiction,” said Dr. Doug Thompson, associate professor of history and Southern studies and director of the Spencer B. King Jr. Center.

About the Spencer B. King Jr. Center for Southern Studies

The Spencer B. King Jr. Center for Southern Studies fosters critical discussions about the many meanings of the South. As the only center for Southern studies in the United States dedicated to the education and enrichment of undergraduate students, the Center’s primary purpose is to examine the region’s complex history and culture through courses, conversations and events that are open, honest and accessible. In addition to private gifts from donors, the Center is supported by a National Endowment for the Humanities Challenge Grant.

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Kyle Sears