Michael Phillips (historian)

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Michael Phillips (born June 17, 1960) is a scholar of Texas race relations and the author of White Metropolis: Race, Ethnicity and Religion in Dallas, 1841-2001 which chronicles white domination of Dallas, Texas, during the first 150 years of its history.

Early life[edit]

Phillips grew up in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

After an award-winning career as a reporter and columnist for the University of Texas at Arlington student newspaper, The Shorthorn, Phillips received a journalism degree in 1983


From 1984 to 1990, he wrote for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, starting at its suburban affiliate, The Arlington Citizen-Journal. Phillips graduated with a Ph.D. in history from the University of Texas at Austin in 2002. His dissertation, The Fire This Time: The Battle Over Racial, Regional and Religious Identities in Dallas, Texas, 1860-1990, won the University of Texas’ Outstanding Dissertation Award. Phillips’ first book, White Metropolis, published by the University of Texas Press in January 2006, represents an update of his dissertation. White Metropolis won the 2007 Texas Historical Commission's 2007 T. R. Fehrenbach Award for best book on Texas history.

Academic career[edit]

Michael Phillips is a former researcher at the Center for American History at the University of Texas at Austin, where he earned his Ph.D. in 2002. He began teaching at Collin County Community College in Plano, Texas in 2007. He was formerly a reporter for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Deeply influenced by his University of Texas mentor Neil Foley, author of The White Scourge: Mexicans, Blacks, and Poor Whites in Texas Cotton Culture, Phillips argued that in the mid-19th century Dallas leaders attempted to conceal class conflict within the infant city by convincing lower class whites that the only important social division was the line drawn between African Americans and Anglos. Phillips wrote that after the American Civil War, following waves of immigration to Dallas that included Jews, Mexicans and other cultural minorities, elites re-defined white racial identity. Whiteness became contingent upon not just European ancestry, but conformity to a number of political beliefs, including acceptance of elite rule, as well as belief in free market capitalism and in black inferiority. As Phillips suggested, in Dallas “whiteness was most clearly defined by what it was not: it was not black, communal, or socialist”. Those accepted as white were rewarded with higher incomes, life in better neighborhoods, increased health, and access to superior schools. Phillips said, however, that whiteness gained can become whiteness lost. The fear of racial demotion kept the poor and struggling in Dallas loyal to a political system that primarily served elite interests.

Phillips’ book received a number of positive reviews, including from the Dallas Morning News, D Magazine, the Journal of Southern Religion, the Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Legacies and the East Texas Historical Journal. Based on extensive oral history interviews with former speakers, speakers' relatives, capitol staffers, and members of the Austin press corps, Phillips and Dr. Patrick Cox ( author of Ralph Yarborough: The People’s Senator), wrote The House Will Come To Order: How The Texas Speaker Became A Power in State and National Politics, published by the University of Texas Press in 2010.

Since then, Phillips contributed the essay “Why Is Big Tex Still a White Cowboy? Race, Gender, and the ‘Other Texans’” in Beyond Texas Through Time: Breaking Away From Past Interpretations (edited by Walter Buenger and Arnoldo de León and published by Texas A&M University Press in 2011), and “The Current is Stronger’: Images of Racial Oppression and Resistance in North Texas Black Art During the 1920s and 1930s ” in The Harlem Renaissance in the West: The New Negroes' Western Experience (edited by Bruce Glasrud and Cary Wintz and published by Routledge, Taylor and Francis Group the same year). In 2013, he co-authored Imperial Presidents: The Rise of Executive Power From Roosevelt to Obama and the American history textbook The American Challenge: A New History of the United States. He is currently collaborating with longtime Fort Worth Star-Telegram reporter and editor Betsy Friauf, on God Carved In Night: Black Intellectuals in Texas, The World They Lived In and the World They Made. He has a son, Dominic Phillips.


  • Flournoy, Craig, “Remembering what our city would rather forget,” Dallas Morning News, March 1, 2006.
  • “In Your Face,” D Magazine, July 2006
  • Phillips, Michael. The Fire This Time: The Battle Over Racial, Regional and Religious Identities in Dallas, Texas, 1860-1990 (Ph.D. dissertation, The University of Texas at Austin, 2002)
  • Phillips, Michael, White Metropolis: Race, Ethnicity and Religion in Dallas, 1841-2001 (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2006) (ISBN 0-292-71274-X)
  • White Metropolis website
  • http://www.baylor.edu/oralhistory/index.php?id=81949