On the writings of the late Jack Kirby

Historians in the News

Jack Temple Kirby, a historian who decried stereotypes of the American South and traced the ways its people and landscapes have shaped one another, died Aug. 6 in St. Augustine, Fla. He was 70...

In 2007, Dr. Kirby was one of two recipients of the Bancroft Prize, which is awarded annually by Columbia University to the authors of books “of exceptional merit” in American history, biography and diplomacy.

The Bancroft jurors cited Dr. Kirby’s 2006 book, “Mockingbird Song: Ecological Landscapes of the South” (North Carolina University Press), a passionate recounting of the history of human settlement. It discusses how the land sustained and shaped people’s lives but also how humans damaged the land.

Calling the book “elegantly conceived and beautifully written,” the jurors said that “although ‘Mockingbird Song’ is set in the South, it is about more than the South.”

“Kirby reflects profoundly on the relationships of Americans — and of humankind — to the natural world,” the jurors said.

Dr. Kirby, who in recent years was president of the Southern Historical Association, edited or wrote seven books. Before “Mockingbird Song,” he was best known for “Media-Made Dixie” (Louisiana State University Press, 1978), which traced the South’s role in the nation’s imagination. In movies, for example, he said, the South has been trapped by clichés of racists, graceful landed gentry, poverty, homespun rural values, stock-car racers and moonshiners.

“We need some new tropes,” Dr. Kirby told The New York Times in 1997. “I think what we’re doing is making Northern white folks feel good about themselves by telling the same story over and over again about the South.”
Read entire article at NYT

comments powered by Disqus