Spotlight: Acclaimed Historian Traces ‘History of White People’

Spotlight: Acclaimed Historian Traces ‘History of White People’

Date Published:
Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Historians often devote countless hours in the pursuit of defining the past for the present. For leading U.S. historian Nell Irvin Painter – one quest has been to explore “whiteness” by tracing 2,000 years of Western civilization.

Painter’s search resulted in the critically acclaimed “The History of White People.” She will discuss the work at 6:00 PM, Thursday, April 14, at the Levine Museum of the New South in Uptown Charlotte. UNC Charlotte’s Center for the Study of the New South is hosting the noted scholar and historian as guest speaker for its annual lecture series.

In “The History of White People,” Painter traces not only the invention of the idea of race but also the frequent worship of “whiteness” for economic, social, scientific and political ends. Who is considered to be “white,” who is not, what such distinctions mean and how notions of whiteness have morphed over time are just a few of the questions the historian explores.

A Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Painter is a prolific writer who has authored seven books. She is the Edwards Professor of American History, Emerita, at Princeton University and has held a number of prestigious fellowships, including the Guggenheim, as well as one from the National Endowment for the Humanities. She earned a doctorate in history from Harvard University.

In “The History of White People,” Painter traces not only the invention of the idea of race but also the frequent worship of “whiteness” for economic, social, scientific and political ends.

Fostering intellectual discourse is an important aspect of the academic life at UNC Charlotte. The Center for the Study of the New South, housed in the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences, promotes dialogue on a rich and diverse constellation of topics and ideas relating to its period namesake. The New South is considered an era of regional history stretching from the end of the Civil War to the present. As such, this period offers a bold tapestry of history, culture social movements and political issues for reflection and study.

Painter’s talk is free and open to the public. A reception and book signing will follow the presentation, cosponsored by the Center for the Study of the New South and the Levine Museum.