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Episode 34: Keri Leigh Merritt: We live in a time when race and class have smashed together in ways that threaten to tear about the social fabric. Historian and author Keri Leigh Merritt has written one of the best books on how we got here. Her book Masterless Men: Poor Whites and Slavery in the Antebellum South explains the how the social and economic fabric of the “white working class” came to be—and what it means for America. In our interview, she talks about what we need to do to get out of the mess we’re in today.
About Keri Leigh Merritt
Keri Leigh Merritt works as a historian and writer in Atlanta, Georgia. She earned her B.A. from Emory University and her M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of Georgia. Her first book, Masterless Men: Poor Whites and Slavery in the Antebellum South (Cambridge University Press, 2017). It won both the Bennett Wall Award from the Southern Historical Association, honoring the best book in Southern economic or business history published in the previous two years, as well as the President’s Book Award from the Social Science History Association.
Merritt is also co-editor, with Matthew Hild, of Reconsidering Southern Labor History: Race, Class, and Power (University Press of Florida, 2018). She is currently conducting research for two additional book-length projects. One is on radical black resistance in the still understudied Reconstruction era. The second project examines the changing role of law enforcement in the mid-nineteenth century South. It will ultimately link the rise of professional police forces in the Deep South to the end of slavery. Merritt also writes historical pieces for the public, and has had letters and essays published in Aeon, Bill Moyers, The Bitter Southerner, Salon, The Washington Post, and The New York Times.