I am a Professor and former Department Head in Geography, University of Tennessee. My interests are cultural and historical geography with a specific focus on landscapes of public memory, race, heritage tourism, social/spatial justice, critical place name studies, and politics of geographic mobility and travel–all with the goal of advancing our understanding of the African American Freedom Struggle and the southeastern United States.
Much of my work focuses on the histories, memory-work, commemorative activism, and place-making efforts of African Americans as they assert and claim civil rights, their right to belong with public spaces, and the power to remember the past and shape the American landscape on their own terms.
My work has spanned many aspects of the southern experience, including Civil Rights memorials (esp. streets named for Dr. King), slavery and plantation museum tourism sites, NASCAR, Graceland and Memphis, Mayberry and film tourism, Hurricane Katrina tattoos, BBQ tourism, and even the cultural geography of kudzu.
In August of 2012, I joined the faculty at Univ. of Tennessee-Knoxville after serving at East Carolina University since 2000. I also held a tenure-track position at Georgia College (1998-2000), a visiting position at Georgia Southern University (1995-1996), and temporary faculty/graduate teaching positions at the University of Georgia (1990-1998).
I am a devoted scholar-teacher who enjoys working and publishing with students, both at the undergraduate and graduate levels. I am also committed to conducting critical public scholarship that engages, informs, and helps the news media, government officials, community activists and organizations, and the broader citizenry.
I founded and co-coordinate the RESET (Race, Ethnicity, and Social Equity in Tourism) Initiative, which analyzes and challenges the historical and contemporary inequalities that have characterized travel, tourism, and hospitality–with special attention to the African American freedom struggle and the southeastern US.
I am part of team of scholar-teachers from six other universities that has recently completed a large NSF-funded project that describes and explains the manner and extent to which southern tourist plantations are moving toward an incorporation of the history of the enslaved into their guided tours, exhibits, and preserved landscapes.
Dr. Josh Inwood (Penn State) and I are working on a NSF-funded project that examines how SNCC leaders and workers used geospatial data and techniques to calculate, map, and analyze the spatial and social dimensions of segregation and discrimination in the US South during the 1960s Civil Rights Movement.
My attention is also focused on a new initiative called I-NAME (Interventions in Naming America and Mobilizing for Equality). I-NAME is a research and public outreach project that makes intellectual, policy, and educational interventions in highly charged debates over race, memory, and social justice in place naming. I am capitalizing on many years of work in the area of critical place name studies to fashion a workspace that can bring scholars and public leaders and activists together to carry out commemorative landscape reform.
I recently completed my term as President of the American Association of Geographers (AAG). Previously, I served on the Council of the AAG as Regional Councillor (representing the Southeast) and Chair of the Association’s Publications Committee. I am also a former President of the Southeastern Division of the AAG and a former co-editor of the peer-reviewed journal Southeastern Geographer.
On Twitter: @MLKStreet