Joseph Thompson

Field & Specialties

20th Century United States History
U.S. South
Popular Music


M.A.    United States History, University of Virginia

M.A.    Southern Studies, University of Mississippi

B.A.    American Studies and Anthropology, Phi Beta Kappa, University of Alabama


Book Chapters

“Planes, Pencils, and Politics: How Race and Labor Practices Shaped Postwar Atlanta,” in Reconsidering Southern Labor History: Race, Class, and Power, eds. Matthew Hild and Keri Leigh Merritt (Gainesville: University of Florida Press, 2018).

“‘Home Is Where the Hatred Is’: Gil Scott-Heron’s Toxic Domestic Spaces and the Rhizomatic South” in Ecocriticism and the Future of Southern Studies, ed. Zackary Vernon (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, forthcoming).

Journal Articles

“Nostalgic for Utopia: Anne Romaine’s Folk Music Protest in the New Left South,” Southern Cultures 24, no. 3 (Fall 2018): 45-61.

“DASH-Amerikan: Keeping Up with the Social Media Ecologies of the Kardashians,” co-authored with the Praxis Digital Humanities cohort, American Quarterly 70, no. 3 (September 2018): 609-611.

Book Reviews

Review of Blackface Nation: Race, Reform, and Identity in American Popular Music, 1812-1925, by Brian Roberts. The Journal of African American History (forthcoming).

 “A Polyphonic South: Tyina L. Steptoe on Houston’s Racial and Sonic Fluidity,” South: A Scholarly Journal 49, no. 2 (Spring 2017/2018): 200-202.

Review of Africa in Stereo: Modernism, Music, and Pan-African Solidarity, by Tsitsi Ella Jaji. The Journal of African American History 101, No. 3 (Summer 2016): 380-382.

Review of Battle Hymns: The Power and Popularity of Music in the Civil War, by Christian McWhirter. The Southern Register (Summer 2012): 24-25.

Media Appearances

Stars, Stripes, and Country Music,” interview with PBS’s American Experience (November 8, 2017). 

Crowning Glory: A History of Hair in America,” interview with the podcast BackStory (June 2017).

Internet and Popular Press

The Scripto Strikes: James V. Carmichael and the Labor Struggle in Downtown Atlanta,” Atlanta Studies (September 4, 2018).

Whitey on the Moon,” Enviro-History (March 16, 2018).

Woody Guthrie and the Making of the 'Folk,'We’re History (July 14, 2016).

 “Progressivism in the South,” We’re History (January 26, 2016).

Current Research

My dissertation, "Sounding Southern: Music, Militarism, and the Making of the Sunbelt," traces the economic and symbolic connections between popular music and the US Cold War military. In the 1950s, the Pentagon began investing in Nashville’s country music industry to produce radio and television programs aimed at recruiting the genre’s predominantly white fanbase. Nashville’s recruitment programs continued into the 1980s and helped to market country music as the sound of white allegiance to US militarism. This musical-military relationship taught country music fans, generally considered to be small government conservatives, to accept an unprecedented level of government growth as the military-industrial complex expanded across the Sunbelt. Through archival research and musical analysis, this project compares country music’s military alliance with the ways R&B, soul, and punk musicians articulated messages about Cold War defense strategies. Examining this intersection of popular culture and militarism reveals defense spending’s disproportionate influence on the formation of sonic and political color lines in the late twentieth century.

Awards & Honors


2018    Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowship (2018-2019).

2018    Dean’s Dissertation Completion Fellowship, Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia (declined).

2017    Smithsonian Institution Predoctoral Fellowship, National Museum of American History and the National Museum of African American History and Culture, Washington, D.C. (2017-2018).

2017    Digital Humanities Prototype Fellowship, The Scholars’ Lab, University of Virginia.

2016    Robert J. Huskey Conference & Travel Fellowship, Corcoran Department of History, University of Virginia.

2016    Joel Williamson Visiting Scholar Grant, Southern Historical Collection, University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill.

2016    Reed-Fink Award in Southern Labor History, Southern Labor Archives, Georgia State University.

2016    William and Madeline Welder Smith Research Travel Award, Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin.

2016    Praxis Program in the Digital Humanities Fellowship, The Scholars’ Lab, University of Virginia (2016-2017).

2016    Rose Library Fellowship in Modern Politics and Southern History, Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia.

2015    Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences Summer Research Award, Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia.

2014    Institute for Public History Internship at the Library of Virginia, Richmond, Virginia.

2014    Public Humanities Fellowship in South Atlantic Studies, Virginia Foundation for the Humanities. Charlottesville, Virginia.

2012    Short-term Research Fellowship, Frances S. Summersell Center for the Study of the South, University of Alabama.

2012    Summer Research Assistantship, Graduate School of Arts & Sciences, University of Mississippi.

2011    Chris Fullerton Fellowship, Center for the Study of Southern Culture, University of Mississippi (2011-2013).

2011    Full-time Graduate Assistantship, Center for the Study of Southern Culture, University of Mississippi (2011-2013).


2017    First Prize, Huskey Research Exhibition in the Arts and Humanities, University of Virginia

2016    Graduate Teaching Award, American Studies Program, University of Virginia.

2015    Critoph Award, Southern American Studies Association.

2015    Finalist, Louis Pelzer Memorial Award, Organization of American Historians.

2013    Lucille and Motee Daniels Award, Best Thesis in Southern Studies, University of Mississippi.

2013    Graduate Achievement Award, University of Mississippi.

2012    Lucille and Motee Daniels Award, Best Paper by a First Year Graduate Student, Center for the Study of Southern Culture, University of Mississippi.

2012    Anne Abadie Award, Best Documentary Work, Center for the Study of Southern Culture, University of Mississippi.

Courses Taught

Teaching Assistant for the following courses:

The South in the 20th Century (Spring 2015).

Introduction to American Studies (Fall 2014 and 2015).

From Motown to Hip-Hop: The Evolution of African American Music (Fall 2015).