Assistant professors see works published

Jason Clevenger

Three history faculty author books about race, class, Zimbabwe

The history department at Kent State is buzzing with excitement this academic year as respected university presses across the country have published three books by Kent State assistant professors.

Elizabeth Smith-Pryor, Kevin Adams and Timothy Scarnecchia, assistant professors of history, have recently met with publishing success.

“I’m not sure it’s ever happened before,” Smith-Pryor said. “Getting published is an achievement these days because so many university presses are cutting back.”

The three assistant professors all worked individually to write their books, but were well aware that others were being written at the same time.

“It’s the nature of our discipline,” Scarnecchia said. “Especially for research books – it’s an individual effort.”

But that’s not to say the educators don’t encourage each other.

Finding time to write a book isn’t easy when each assistant professor is also teaching classes and doing research.

“It’s hard, under such a teaching burden, to publish a book,” Adams said. “But it’s a sign of a very productive department.

“There is a good mix of geographic specialties and topics in the books written in this department this year,” he added.

Smith-Pryor’s book, “Property Rites,” is about a divorce trial in the 1920s between a white man and his wife, who he discovered to have been the daughter of a black man.

“I’m interested in taking a look at issues of race and identity,” Smith-Pryor said. “I think my book is very relevant today because of our current president.”

“Class and Race in the Frontier Army,” a book by Adams, is about the class division between the officers and the soldiers in the Frontier Army after the Civil War.

In this army, the officers were mostly college-educated, wealthy members of society, and the soldiers were mostly unskilled, working-class immigrants. The officers wanted the soldiers to act more as servants than soldiers, which caused tension between the ranks and an astounding desertion rate among the soldiers – one-third of enlisted men between 1865 and 1892.

“The Urban Roots of Democracy and Political Violence in Zimbabwe,” a book by Scarnecchia, is about the history of Zimbabwe between the 1940s and 1960s. It is also about the democratic traditions in Zimbabwe being replaced by violence, and the role of the United States in supporting African nationalists such as Robert Mugabe.

The history department plans on continuing its success. Scarnecchia said there were “at least two more (books) in the pipeline.”

Contact College of Arts and Sciences reporter Jason Clevenger at [email protected].