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Kiffmeyer presents at Southern Historical Association

Dr. Thomas Kiffmeyer, associate professor of history at Morehead State University, recently presented at the 85th Annual Meeting of the Southern Historical Association (SHA), which took place from Nov. 7 through Nov. 10 in Louisville. Kiffmeyer, who has presented at the SHA on multiple occasions, presented “The Road from Resurrection City: Race, Class, Region, and the Poor People’s Campaign of 1968 and the Meaning of Justice” as part of the meeting’s section on Evaluating the Poor People’s Campaign from a Grassroots Perspective.  

“The SHA is the major organization for historians that study, as the name states, the South. Both its conference and its journal are among the most academically rigorous in the country,” he said. “Being accepted to present at such a forum is always a thrilling experience no matter how many times I get to do it. Those that present and attend are usually the best people working in southern history.”  

Kiffmeyer said he and two emerging historians submitted a session proposal to the SHA program committee that focused on the “Poor People’s Campaign,” which was Martin Luther King Jr.’s attempt to “reinvigorate” the War on Poverty and draw attention to the connections between poverty and civil rights. King was assassinated just a month before the campaign’s start. However, demonstrators still assembled in Washington, D.C. and camped out on the National Mall in the summer of 1968 to call the nation’s attention to issues about poverty and civil rights. Kiffmeyer’s paper focused on that campaign and a parallel demonstration/campout that occurred in Charleston, West Virginia, highlighting the role of citizens of Appalachia while calling attention to these more local but lesser-known local efforts.   

Kiffmeyer grew up in Cincinnati and said what sparked his passion for history may have been the stories his grandfather told him about the area as a child. He went on to graduate with a bachelor’s degree in both political science and history from nearby Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, in 1985 before heading to the Bluegrass State to earn a master’s degree from EKU in 1987 and a Ph.D. in history from the University of Kentucky in 1998.   

As an author, Kiffmeyer’s published work primarily focuses on capturing the history of Appalachia and, more specifically, areas of Eastern Kentucky. His 1998 article “From Self-Help to Sedition: The Appalachian Volunteers in Eastern Kentucky, 1964-1970” published in “The Journal of Southern History” was the first published work to write a local history on the War on Poverty. He has authored several articles, reviews and the 2008 book “Reformers to Radicals: The Appalachian Volunteers and the War on Poverty.”  

Dr. Thomas Kiffmeyer can be reached at 606-783-5162 or t.kiffmeyer@moreheadstate.edu

For more information on MSU’s Department of History, Philosophy, Politics, Global Studies and Legal Studies, call 606-783-2655, email hpil@moreheadstate.edu or visit www.moreheadstate.edu/hpil

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