Forum to focus on noted Southern historian
Nov. 6, 2012

A native of LaGrange, Dr. Ulrich Bonnell Phillips (1877-1934) was considered to be the first major historian of the South, particularly on the subject of slavery.

His life and legacy will be the topic of a panel discussion at 6 p.m. Nov. 8 at Callaway Auditorium. The event is co-sponsored by LaGrange College, the Historic Chattahoochee Commission and Troup County Historical Society.

The featured speaker will be Dr. John David Smith, Distinguished Professor of American History at the University of North Carolina-Charlotte. The program, "Dr. U.B. Phillips: A LaGrange Native Shapes America's Understanding of Slavery," is free and open to the public.

During his career, Phillips taught at the University of Wisconsin, Tulane University, the University of Michigan and Yale University. His work exploring the institution of slavery and its influence on the development of Southern society spurred a new examination of the institution that influenced generations of scholars and framed public understanding of that part of the nation's past.

Dr. Lisa Crutchfield, Assistant Professor of History, will be one of the panelists at the forum. She said Phillips' work continues to inspire debate.

"His groundbreaking work on Southern slavery was controversial in a variety of ways and set up the discussion of the institution that continues today," she said. "He focused on the large plantations, initiating the methodical examination of plantation records, and argued that the system was based on a type of unequal co-dependency.

"Even those who disagreed with him were forced to engage his ideas and directly confront them," she said. "He not only shaped Americans' early understanding of slavery but set the parameters for later discussion that continues to this day."

Phillips' doctoral dissertation, "Georgia and State Rights," was named the winner of the Justin Winsor prize in 1901 and was published by the American Historical Association. His classic work, "Life and Labor in the Old South," was published in 1929 after almost 30 years of research on the social and economic systems of the antebellum South. It received the Little, Brown and Co. prize that year.

Other symposium panelists will include Troup County historian Clark Johnson, TCHS director Kaye Minchew, HCC director Mike Bunn and LaGrange College professor Dr. Lisa Crutchfield.

"The Troup County Historical Society is delighted to be part of this special lecture," said Minchew. "U. B. Phillips was born and grew up right here in the area around LaGrange College. He went on to become the foremost historian of his day and one of the first to use original documents to look at slavery and other issues. Dr. John David Smith is the foremost expert on Phillips so we are delighted to have him visit the area and share with us his thoughts about Phillips and his legacy."

For more information, call the historical society at (706) 884-1828.

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