Woodward, C. Vann
Woodward, C. Vann(Comer Vann Woodward), 1908–99, American historian, b. Vanndale, Ark. He graduated from Emory Univ. (1930), received his Ph.D. in history from the Univ. of North Carolina (1937), and taught at several schools, most notably Johns Hopkins (1946–61) and Yale (1961–77). An outstanding historian of the American South and of race relations in the United States, he is noted for the graceful literary style that enhanced his superb scholarship in such works as Tom Watson, Agrarian Rebel (1938, repr. 1955), Origins of the New South, 1877–1913 (1951), Reunion and Reaction: The Compromise of 1877 and the End of Reconstruction (1951, rev. ed. 1956), The Strange Career of Jim Crow (1955, rev. ed. 1974), The Burden of Southern History (1960), and American Counterpoint (1971). He edited Mary Chestnut's Civil War (1981; Pulitzer Prize, 1982), The Oxford History of the United States (1982–99), and, with Elisabeth Muhlenfeld, The Private Mary Chestnut (1984).
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Woodward, C. (Comer) Vann(1908– ) historian; born in Vanndale, Ark. Educated at Emory (B.A. 1930), Columbia University (M.A. 1932) and the University of North Carolina (Ph.D. 1937), he taught at several universities before serving in the navy during World War II (1943–46). After the war he taught at Johns Hopkins (1946–61) and then at Yale (1961–77; emeritus, 1977) while occasionally serving as visiting professor at various institutions. His half-century of scholarship and publications, focusing on the American South since the Civil War and race relations in the broader sphere, established him as one of the country's most eminent interpreters of the American experience. Tom Watson: Agrarian Rebel (1938) and Origins of the New South, 1877–1913 (1951) set the tone for his career by challenging the entrenched notion that post-Civil War political struggles in the South raged between agrarian landowners and Northern industrial-capitalistic forces; his contention that the struggle was primarily internal, fueled by Southern industrialists, and that economic recovery never really occurred in the post-Reconstruction "New South," set the agenda for Southern historiography for decades. The Strange Career of Jim Crow (1955) showed that legal racial segregation was a 20th-century phenomenon and that Southern discrimination against African-Americans was less a result of immutable "folkways" than of political and economic expediency. He received a Pulitzer Prize for his edition of Mary Chesnut's Civil War (1981) and he served as general editor of the multivolume Oxford History of the United States (1982). As a historian who believed that accurate knowledge of the past can contribute to social change, in later years he increasingly brought his authority and knowledge to expressing his views about contemporary issues.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.