Civil Rights History Expert Joins AR University
LITTLE ROCK — Dr. John Kirk, noted Little Rock Central High historian and author of “Beyond Little Rock: The Origins and Legacies of the Central High Crisis” has joined the UALR -- University of Arkansas at Little Rock -- faculty as the Donaghey Professor of History and chair of the department.
Kirk, who previously taught at Royal Holloway, University of London, is the author of several books on the American civil rights movement, including “Redefining the Color Line: Black Activism in Little Rock, Arkansas.” and “Martin Luther King Jr.” He also edited a collection on Martin Luther King, Jr. and the civil rights movement.
“My research on Little Rock, Arkansas, and civil rights made the history faculty at UALR the perfect place to be, especially as the University is actively seeking to address issues of race, ethnicity and social justice,” Kirk said.
UALR Chancellor Joel Anderson said UALR’s newest Donaghey professor will bring a long and excellent record as an historian of the American civil rights movement.
“Dr. Kirk will be a scholar-leader for colleagues and students alike,” said Anderson, who has made the topic of racial attitude and reconciliation a hallmark issue of his tenure. “Dr. Kirk brings a record recognized by persons outside of the University, including historians and other luminaries in other professions.”
Kirk’s next book is a co-edited volume on “Arsnick: The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee in Arkansas, 1962-1967” to be published in 2011. He will also be featured in the documentary In the “In the Shadow of Little Rock: The Life of Daisy Bates” due to air on PBS next year.
“I became interested in the South and race while an undergraduate in American Studies at the University of Nottingham in the United Kingdom where I wrote my senior honors thesis on William Faulkner and race,” Kirk said. “My Ph.D. supervisor had bought the Arkansas Gazette on microfilm and was looking for a graduate student to work with the material in a different way. A number of community studies had been recently published at the time, and Little Rock was one of the main civil rights flashpoints that had not been covered.”
In 1992, Kirk moved to Little Rock.
“I spent a year living in Little Rock conducting research, just as Bill Clinton was running for president, which made the city an exciting place to be,” he said. While in the states, Kirk got the opportunity to meet the 42nd President at Clinton’s first inauguration.
Later, Kirk was a presenter at the international conference “The Little Rock Desegregation Crisis: Fifty Years Later,” which was co-sponsored by UALR in 2007.
Kirk’s other distinctions include serving as a Rockefeller Archive Center Fellow and a John F. Kennedy Presidential Library Fellow. He has received notable commendations such as the Lucille Westbrook Award and the J.G. Ragsdale Book Award, both from the Arkansas Historical Association, for his research.
In January 2008, he served on a panel for VoxAfrica, a London-based, Panafrican television channel, during the inauguration of President Barack Obama.
“The expertise Dr. Kirk brings to our college, combined with the knowledge of our other faculty members, will create a unique, competitive resource for historical studies in the state,” said Dr. Deborah Baldwin, dean of the UALR College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences. “I look forward to what’s in store for our history department.”