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The Daily Tar Heel

Q&A with the New Director of the Center for the Study of the American South

Malinda Lowery was appointed as the new director of the Center for the Study of the American South on July 1. She's an associate professor in history and director of the Southern Oral History Program. Staff writer Tallman Boyd asked Lowery about her appointment and her plans for the center. 

Daily Tar Heel: How do you feel about your recent appointment as director of the Center for Study of the American South?   

Malinda Lowery: I'm excited. I think it is a great moment for the center. It's a great moment for us to really play a role in changing or continuing the shape the nature of research at UNC's campus to be not just for the people, but also with the people. (The Blueprint for Next) is kind of strategic vision document that the chancellor is developing. It talks about the University's mission being for the people and of the people and I inquire to incorporate with the people. I think this is a great opportunity to shape the nature of research on UNC's campus to being with the people. I think it's also a great chance for us to reach people who are outside the campus, people who are more interested in the South for personal reasons or recreational reasons. So, to become the hub of information of information of the South, I am grateful and I feel very supported for this role, and I feel enthusiastic of the staff of this center. It is some of the best people that I have worked with and I am excited.

DTH: What is the goal for the Center for the Study of the American South?   

ML: At UNC, we have a particular opportunity because of our incredible strengths across the University. We think of the Southern Historical Collection at Wilson Library, you think about the southern studies program that is with American studies, the departments sociology, history, public health and on and on. All of these units at UNC have faculty and students that are working hard to work with communities in this state and the region to address the issues that are facing them in the present day. Sometimes we understand through the lens of particular types of research such as public health. Other times, and this is where the center is particularly strong, is that we understand it through the arts and humanities. So whereas most research that we like to relate — to use that label for — it is seen as the compilations, or number of data or information that addresses the population at a rather personal way, we at the center are really focused on telling stories and that's what Southern Oral History Program does. It what's the southern cultures does and it's what all the center's work does, is to tell the stories through arts, humanities and social sciences to try to address these issues that are relevant to Americans everywhere and relevance to people in the South.     

DTH: I know you have done a lot of research on the Lumbee Tribe and Native Americans in the Jim Crow South. Are you hoping to continue that research?

ML: Yes, I have a book that I am just trying to finish this week and it's a manuscript that is about Lumbee history for a general audience. It's a book that covers three centuries of Lumbee history and really sort of explains how the Lumbee people's quest for justice and self-determination relates to that of the South and the United States. So the way everyone at the center, not just me, in what we think about the South is that we don't think about in isolation from anything else. So similarly, with American Indian history that does not operate in isolation over American populations. Some of the work that the center has done with lectures, research, programs and publications on American Indians kind of demonstrates that over the years. I was stepping into a long history with the center's engagement with American Indian issues, but I do try to bring a focus to it. I hope that it will play a role in our work, but it certainly won't dominate our work.     

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