Raymond O. Arsenault, Ph.D.
John Hope Franklin Professor of Southern History
Florida Studies Program Cofounder and Senior Scholar
Raymond Arsenault is the John Hope Franklin Professor of Southern History and Chairman of the Department of History and Politics at the University of South Florida, St. Petersburg, where he has taught since 1980. A specialist in the political, social, environmental, and civil rights history of the American South, he has also taught at the University of Minnesota, Brandeis University, the University of Chicago, the Florida State University Study Abroad Center in London, and the Universite d’Angers, in France, where he was a Fulbright Lecturer in 1984-85. A native of Cape Cod, he was educated at Princeton University and Brandeis University, where he received his Ph.D. in 1981.
Active in international education, Arsenault served as Associate Director of the Fulbright Commission Summer Institute in American Studies (held at the University of Minnesota) from 1980 to 1988, and he has lectured on American history and culture in a number of countries, including France, Great Britain, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Germany, Greece, Norway, Iceland, Russia, Turkey, Tunisia, and Jordan. A long-time community activist and public historian, he has consulted for a number of national and regional historical museums and organizations, including St. Petersburg’s own Carter G. Woodson African-American History Museum, which he helped to found; St. Petersburg Preservation, Inc,; the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Florida Humanities Council; the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History; the Lincoln Bicentennial Commission; the Southern Christian Leadership Conference; the Rosa Parks Museum; the National Civil Rights Museum; the International Civil Rights Museum in Greensboro, North Carolina; the National Park Service; and PBS’s American Experience. Since 2004 he has served as an Organization of American Historians Distinguished Lecturer, and he also recently served on the jury for the Pulitzer Prize in History.
From 1998 to 2000, he served as president of the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida, and he is currently the chairman of the Organization of American Historians’ Committee on Academic Freedom. He is the recipient of numerous civil rights and social justice awards, including the 2003 Nelson Poynter Civil Liberties Award, the 2009 Studio@620 Social Justice Pioneer Award; the 2010 WMNF Peace, Love, and Understanding Award; the St. Petersburg Bar Association’s 2010 Liberty Bell Award; the 2011 Hillsborough Human Rights Council’s Human Rights Award; the 2012 Martin Luther King, Jr. Humanitarian Award given by the St. Petersburg branch of the National Council of Negro Women; and the Suncoast Tiger Bay Club’s 2014 Thomas Paine Common Sense Award. In 2012, the Florida Historical Society presented him with the Dorothy Dodd Lifetime Achievement Award.
Arsenault is the author or editor of eight books: The Wild Ass of the Ozarks: Jeff Davis and the Social Bases of Southern Politics (1984); St. Petersburg and the Florida Dream, 188-1950 (1988, Pbk. 1996); Crucible of Liberty: 200 Years of the Bill of Rights (1991); The Changing South of Gene Patterson: Journalism and Civil Rights, 1960-1968 (2002), co-edited with Roy Peter Clark; Paradise Lost? The Environmental History of Florida (2005), co-edited with Jack E. Davis; Freedom Riders: 1961 and the Struggle for Racial Justice (2006; abridged ed. 2011); and The Sound of Freedom: Marian Anderson, the Lincoln Memorial, and the Concert That Awakened America (2009). His most recent book, co-edited with Orville Vernon Burton, is Dixie Redux: Essays in Honor of Sheldon Hackney (2013), a tribute to his late mentor, a noted academic leader and champion of civil rights. Arsenault has won several best book awards, and in 1985 his article “The End of the Long Hot Summer: The Air Conditioner and Southern Culture,” Journal of Southern History (November 1984), won the Green – Ramsdell Prize awarded by the Southern Historical Association.
Freedom Riders, published by Oxford University Press as part of the Pivotal Moments in American History series, was named a New York Times Editor’s Choice, selected as one of the Washington Post BookWorld’s Best Books of the Year, and awarded the 2007 Frank L. and Harriet C. Owsley Prize of the Southern Historical Association, as the most important book published in the field of Southern history in 2006. The abridged version of Freedom Riders, published in 2011, is the companion volume to the acclaimed American Experience documentary film Freedom Riders, which won three Emmys for writing, editing, and documentary excellence, and a 2012 George Peabody Award. Arsenault is currently writing a biography of the legendary African-American tennis star and public intellectual Arthur Ashe.