Dr. Lauren Pearlman joined the history department this fall as an assistant professor. She has a joint appointment with African American Studies. Before coming to UF, she taught at the U.S. Military Academy, Rowan University, and Yale University, where she completed the PhD in 2013. Her teaching and research interests focus on the civil rights movement, emphasizing a long view of the movement and post-era race relations. At West Point, she developed a digital-media primary-document-based reader on the long civil rights movement. Her book Democracy’s Capital: Local Protest, National Politics, and the Struggle for Civil Rights in Washington, D.C., is forthcoming with the University of North Carolina Press.
Recently, she agreed to answer some questions for the blog so our history community can get to know her better.
How are you finding life in Gainesville outside the university? Have you discovered a favorite place to spend your time?
Moving to Gainesville from Brooklyn, NY,
was a bigger change than I expected! The pace of life is definitely slower, but I’m actually surprised by how much there is to do around here. Every weekend, my husband, son, and I find ourselves having to pick and choose what to do–from UF sporting events to street festivals and art fairs. People have also been really friendly (another difference from New York!), which has gone a long way to making us feel welcome here.
Now that you are well into your first semester at UF, how are you finding the students compared with other institutions where you taught?
Well no one wears a uniform or calls class to attention, so there are some obvious differences from West Point, where I taught last year! I find students here to be enthusiastic, excited to learn, and willing to take risks. Overall I’ve been very impressed.
Do you have any particular expectations of students or yourself in your relationship as teacher and mentor with them?
I’m working with a senior thesis writer now and I hope he would agree that my role is to help him succeed without telling him what to do (except when I tell him what to do, but usually that is about keeping him on task, lol). In all seriousness, I do have high expectations for the students I mentor, but only because I trust they can meet them. And as the students in my Civil Rights Movement class know, when you put in the work, there’s also a lot of fun to be had!
What type of graduate students in terms of research interests would you like to attract to UF?
I’m excited to work with students who are already attracted to our faculty’s strengths and expertise in 20th century American history. But I would be especially excited to see students come work on projects related to modern African American history, mass incarceration, and/or the long civil rights movement. Florida has a rich and fairly under-explored history in both civil rights and law and order that is begging to be told.
Can you tell us something about a current research project?
Sure–I’m currently revising my manuscript for publication with UNC Press and have been looking at how some of Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society programs were both implemented and received locally in Washington, D.C. Specifically, there was a controversial community policing program that the Office of Economic Opportunity funded in the city, and I’m trying to figure out how different segments of black Washington reacted to it. There’s a new body of scholarship that argues that middle class African Americans–not just whites–fought for more punitive crime programs, and I’m curious if black Washingtonians were the exception or not during the late 1960s and early 1970s.
What sort of undergraduate and graduate courses do you plan to offer in the future?
I plan on teaching a variety of courses for undergraduate and graduate students broadly related to African American history, post-1945 American history, social movements, and law and order in American cities.
Do you have in new ones you are currently developing?
Next year I’ll be teaching a post-1945 U.S. history class along with a class on race and the criminal justice system. I’m toying with developing a class on the militarization of U.S. cities, a class about domestic war and society (i.e. the war on poverty, the war on drugs, etc), and a class about veterans in America.
What courses will you be teaching in the spring (or fall if you are on leave in the spring)?
I’ll be teaching the second half of the U.S. history survey and a class called Race in the Post-Civil Rights Era next fall.
Do you have anything in particular about yourself that you would like to share with the UF history community? Hobbies? Past-time interests? Family life?
Well I’m having a baby at the end of the semester, so I’m about to lose any free time I had! But I do love running and hiking and am looking forward to doing these activities outside since I’m used to having to be cooped up indoors for most of November-March.