George Fredrickson: 73, authority on history of racism (LAT obit.)

Historians in the News

George Marsh Fredrickson, an authority on the history of racism whose work comparing the histories of South Africa and America helped spawn a new field of study, died Feb. 25 at his home on the Stanford University campus, where he taught for nearly two decades. He was 73.

The cause was heart failure, said his daughter Caroline.

Fredrickson, who was Edgar E. Robinson professor of U.S. history at Stanford when he retired in 2002, wrote several highly regarded books, including "White Supremacy: A Comparative Study in American and South African History" (1981).

A finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, "White Supremacy" examined crucial similarities and differences in the development of apartheid in South Africa and the Jim Crow system of segregation in the American South. It was considered a model of comparative history, "one of the most brilliant and successful . . . ever written," Yale historian David Brion Davis wrote in the New York Times in 1981.

"He was a pioneer," Ariela Gross, a professor of law and history at USC who studied for her doctorate under Fredrickson, said this week. "He published 'White Supremacy' at a time when most people studying slavery in the United States were doing groundbreaking work but very locally focused, looking at the social history of the U.S. . . . Now everybody is writing about slavery from an Atlantic perspective. Everyone is doing comparative and transnational work, 25 years later."...
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