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History Peeps: Angela Hudson, Professor and Associate Department Head

Dr. Hudson addressing the Southern American Studies Association in 2017.

When Dr. Angela Hudson was about nine years old, her family took her to a used book sale at the Spartanburg, S.C., community library. As she rummaged through the messy piles, she became enthralled by the glamorous images sprawled across the glossy pages of Life magazines from the 1940s. Her parents, hoping to nurture her curiosity, loaded the magazines into paper sacks and drove home. Dr. Hudson spent hours combing through her midcentury treasures of a glamorous and bygone era. “I would just sit and look at them,” she recalls. “I just thought they were really, really neat.” She delighted in surprising her family with trivia. After seeing an advertisement that featured a doctor smoking a cigarette alongside the caption, I always recommend Marlboro to my patients, Dr. Hudson reminisces, “I’d come in and say, ‘Did you know that doctors used to smoke in the examining room?’” These primary source documents lured Dr. Hudson down the path of history.

Dr. Hudson encourages students to think about what’s at stake when they study history. She urges them to peel back the layers of simplistic myths to reveal the interconnected messiness of the past. A scholar of American Indian history, Dr. Hudson highlights marginalized voices in her research in the hope that readers will learn to “sit with the discomfort” that comes with American history. She states, “I think that’s really part of living in a more equitable and ethical society is embracing complexity—embracing contradiction—and seeing it as part of the human condition.”

Dr. Hudson’s favorite aspect of teaching is learning when her classes have had a lasting impact. It “makes it all worthwhile” whenever she receives unexpected notes from former students who tell her they view history in a new light.

To what historical figure would Dr. Hudson like to say “howdy” if given a chance? Dr. Hudson would love to meet W.E.B. DuBois. Although historians often divide DuBois’s scholarship and ideas into fragments based on their own disciplinary interests, she suspects that the pathbreaking American writer and reformer was a big-picture thinker. She muses, “I think he was probably one of those people who saw things as all connected.” She would want to ask, “Do you think we’re headed toward a more equitable society?”