Francis Butler Simkins

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Francis B. Simkins (c. 1963)

Francis Butler Simkins (December 14, 1897 – February 8, 1966) was a historian and president of the Southern Historical Association. He is best known for his widely used textbook The South, Old and New (1947) and his monographs on South Carolina history. He was a colorful if eccentric professor at a small college in Virginia. He was a racial progressive in the 1920s and 1930s regarding race relations, but became more conservative in the 1950s and 1960s.[1]

Career[edit]

Born in Edgefield, South Carolina, Simkins received his B.A. from the University of South Carolina in 1918 and his M.A. (1921) and Ph.D. (1926) from Columbia University.[2] He spent most of his academic career as a professor of History at Longwood College in Farmville, Virginia.

Simkins also taught at LSU where he was a mentor of Charles P. Roland, another historian of the South and the Civil War who spent the majority of his academic career at Tulane University and the University of Kentucky.[3]

Scholarship[edit]

He published eight history books, numerous scholarly articles and an abundance of miscellaneous work including book reviews and encyclopedia articles. His obituary in The Journal of America History [4] in 1966 said that Simkins was "an emancipated critic of the old order" and that "he came to stress the distinctive characteristics of 'the everlasting South,' and to question the validity of much that passed for progress in the modern South."

Simkins' most famous work covers South Carolina history. In South Carolina During Reconstruction (with Robert Hilliard Woody) (1931) he broke with the Dunning School and gave a well-balanced history. Howard K. Beale praised it: "With refreshing freedom from prejudice and special pleading, the authors picture honest, unselfish carpetbaggers, respectable, well-meaning scalawags, and Negroes with intelligence and political ability."[5]

In Pitchfork Ben Tillman he covered the highly controversial politician, Benjamin Tillman, who served as the violently anti-black governor of South Carolina from 1890 to 1894 and as a United States Senator from 1895 until his death in 1918.

Simkins in the 1920s could cross racial lines in his scholarship, and challenge the "Lost Cause" theme in the 1930s, Yet when desegregation began in the 1950s Simkins discovered much he thought should be preserved, and he became a spokesman for tradition. By 1964 David Potter says he was, "almost the only practicing historian of the South who defends the major and historic Southern institution of segregation."[6]

Major works[edit]

The contributions of Simkins in the field of southern history were extensive:

  • 1926 - The Tillman Movement in South Carolina, a thesis published by Duke University, online
  • 1926 - "The Tillman Movement in South Carolina," Journal of Negro History (1926) 11#3 pp. 538–539 in JSTOR
  • 1927 - "The Ku Klux Klan in South Carolina, 1868-1871," Journal of Negro History (1927) 12#4 pp. 606–647 in JSTOR
  • 1931 - South Carolina During Reconstruction (with Robert Woody) won the Dunning Prize of 1931 as the first revisionist work on Reconstruction [7]
  • 1936 - The Women of the Confederacy (with James Welch Patton) — one of the first serious scholarly studies of women in southern history. Reprinted: Scholarly Press (1971), ISBN 0-403-01212-0
  • 1937 - "Ben Tillman's View of the Negro," Journal of Southern History (1937) 3#2 pp. 161–174 in JSTOR
  • "New Viewpoints of Southern Reconstruction," Journal of Southern History (1939) 5#1 pp 49–61 in JSTOR
  • 1944 - Pitchfork Ben Tillman: South Carolina. University of South Carolina Press (reprinted 2002), ISBN 1-57003-477-X.
  • 1947 - "The Everlasting South," Journal of Southern History 13 (Aug 1947), 307-22.
  • 1947 - The South Old and New: 1820-1947 - later (1957) revised: A History of the South, Publisher: Random House; 4th edition (1972), ISBN 0-394-31646-0.
  • 1955 - "Tolerating the South's Past," Journal of Southern History (1955) 21#1 pp. 3–16 in JSTOR, his presidential address to the Southern Historical Association
  • 1957 - Virginia: History, Government, Geography - a textbook which Simkins said bureaucrats made him remove some of the more damning features like the filth of the towns. OCLC 3512462
  • 1963 - The Everlasting South - a group of essays emphasizing the region's deep-rooted conservativism, OCLC 487841

Honors[edit]

"The Francis B. Simkins Award" is given by the Southern Historical Association every third year for best and first (for that author) book about the South.[8]

In addition to the Dunning Prize, Simkins held research fellowships at the Social Science Research Council and the John Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, delivered the Fleming Lectures at LSU and the Centennial Lectures at the University of Mississippi. He was president of the Southern Historical Association in 1953-1954.

References[edit]

  1. ^ James S. Humphreys, Francis Butler Simkins: A Life (2008)
  2. ^ Pitchfork Ben Tillman
  3. ^ "Roland, My Odyssey Through History". lsu.edu. Retrieved February 3, 2011. 
  4. ^ The Journal of American History
  5. ^ Howard K. Beale in The American Historical Review (1933) 38#2 p 345 in JSTOR
  6. ^ Potter (1964) p 458
  7. ^ Dunning Prize - Book Help Web
  8. ^ Southern Historical Association | Awards

Further reading[edit]

  • Humphreys, James S. Francis Butler Simkins: A Life (2008)
  • Parker, David. "Beyond Surrender: Marian Sims, Francis B. Simkins, and Revisionism in Reconstruction South Carolina," Journal of the Georgia Association of Historians (2005/2006), Vol. 26, p17-38.
  • Potter, David. "On Understanding the South: A Review Article," Journal of Southern History (1964) 30#4 pp. 451–462 in JSTOR (on Simkins, The Everlasting South and others)

External links[edit]