I began my scholarly career as a historian of the Civil War Era and the nineteenth and twentieth century American South particularly of politics and culture, but over time I have followed my interests and branched out into methodologies including oral history, documentary filmmaking, digital media and foodways. Moreover, over time the interpretive areas such as economic analysis and the history of technology have crept into my work, fields that I have found interesting but had not written about until the publication of Creole Italian. While I’m not an “American generalist” in the strictest sense, I consider myself to be a “methodological generalist” who considers no avenue of investigation or interpretation off limits.
Creole Italian: Sicilian Immigrants and the Shaping of New Orleans Food Culture was released by the University of Georgia Press in 2018 as part of their Southern Foodways Alliance Studies in Culture, People, and Place series.
Creole Italian chronicles how the business of food, broadly conceived, dictated the reasoning, means, and outcomes for a large portion of the nearly forty thousand Sicilian immigrants who entered America through the port of New Orleans in the nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries and how their actions and those of their descendants helped shape the food town we know today.
I’m currently doing a series of signings and speaking engagements related to its publication.
My first book, New Orleans after the Civil War: Race, Politics, and a New Birth of Freedom appeared in 2010 (and in paperback in 2015) with Johns Hopkins University Press. In it I track eight men and their interactions in New Orleans across four decades after the Civil War. I argue that personal challenges often subverted ideological aims, and that American historians should reconsider the power of the “Narrative of American Progress” when writing about politics. This work has also received significant attention for its contributions to the scholarship on the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution as well as the history of civil rights case law.