Moye, J. Todd

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Moye, J. Todd


Education: University of North Carolina, B.A., 1992; University of Texas, M.A., 1995, Ph.D., 1999.


Office—Department of History, University of North Texas, Wooten Hall 257, P.O. Box 310650, Denton, TX 76203. E-mail—[email protected]


University of Texas, Austin, 1998-2000, became adjunct professor of history; National Park Service, Atlanta, GA, director of the Tuskegee Airmen Oral History Project, 2000-05; University of North Texas, Denton, assistant professor of history, 2005—, director of the Oral History Program.


John E. O'Connor Award, American Historical Association, 2004; Research and Professional Development Grants, University of Texas, 1995, 1997-98; Patterson-Banister Fellowship, University of Texas History Department, 1997-98; postdoctoral fellow, Avery Research Center for African American History, and College of Charleston, 1999-2000; Save America's Treasures grant, National Endowment for the Humanities, 2002, for Tuskegee Airmen Oral History Project Recordings; Elizabeth B. Mason Project Award, Oral History Association, 2005-06; University of North Texas Faculty Research Grant, 2006-07, for Tuskegee Airmen archival research; University of North Texas Hispanic and Global Studies Initiative Fund grant, 2007, for the North Texas Immigrant Rights Movement Digital Archive.


Let the People Decide: Black Freedom and White Resistance Movements in Sunflower County, Mississippi, 1945-1986, University of North Carolina Press (Chapel Hill, NC), 2004.

Contributor to reference books, including The New Encyclopedia of Southern Culture, The Oxford American National Biography, The Oxford African-American National Biography, The Encyclopedia of Multiculturalism in America, The Encyclopedia of Civil Rights in America, The Sixties, The New Georgia Encyclopedia, and The Encyclopedia of Historians and Historical Writing. Contributor to journals, including the Journal of American History, Mississippi Folklife, and Heritage Matters; reviewer for journals, including the Journal of Southern History, Southern Cultures, and Southern Changes.


Historian and educator J. Todd Moye's focus is on oral history. As a postdoctoral fellow at the Avery Research Center for African American History and Culture at the College of Charleston, he created the South Carolina Black Legislators Oral History Project, which involved recording oral history interviews, teaching methods of oral history to graduate students, and editing a scholarly journal. Moye has also been director of the Tuskegee Airmen Oral History Project of the National Park Service. In this capacity he recorded more than eight hundred interviews with Tuskegee servicemen in formulating and developing programs and archives for the Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site in Tuskegee, Alabama. The project was awarded the Elizabeth B. Mason Project Award for outstanding contributions to the field of oral history. At the University of North Texas, Moye became an assistant professor of history and director of the Oral History Program, a project that has collected the largest number of oral interviews of any public university in Texas. The interviews fall into various categories, including North Texas regional history, Texas political and business history, and civil rights history.

Let the People Decide: Black Freedom and White Resistance Movements in Sunflower County, Mississippi, 1945-1986 is based on Moye's doctoral dissertation. A central figure in this study is James O. Eastland, a multimillionaire planter who owned nearly six thousand acres in Sunflower County near Doddsville, and who in the 1950s spoke out against the decision of the Warren Supreme Court in Brown v. The Board of Education, which ruled for desegregation. When speaking before Southern segregationist groups, Eastland, who served in the U.S. Senate for thirty-five years, phrased his rhetoric in such a way as to imply that those who opposed desegregation had a constitutional right to do so. Flyers distributed for these appearances advocated the killing of blacks. As chair of the Civil Rights subcommittee, he refused to hold meetings.

The main title of this book was the motto of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), which concentrated its efforts in Sunflower County, where conditions were deplorable because of Eastland. Michael T. Bertrand noted on H-Net: Humanities and Social Sciences Online that Moye's selection of this county, "a district comprised of isolated, dependent, unskilled, unneeded, and unwanted people, underscores that the black freedom movement involved issues of class as well as those of race." Bertrand commented that Moye shows "that his appreciation for the region was heightened when he discovered that Eastland and civil rights heroine Fannie Lou Hamer had "lived within spitting distance of one another"…. That two individuals could inhabit virtually the same space yet live in two very dissimilar and separate worlds establishes the tone for Moye's book. For it addresses how one group, in seeking to become full citizens in a country renowned for freedom, met resistance from another group bent on denying civil rights to neighbors whom a segregationist system (with a heavy assist from institutionalized sharecropping) had thoroughly dehumanized."

In addition to Hamer, Moye profiles familiar civil rights pioneers, including Martin Luther King, Jr., Medgar Evers, Stokely Carmichael, Bob Moses, and Diane Nash, and organizations such as the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), SNCC, and the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party. He also credits lesser-known individuals who worked to bring economic equality, education, and democracy to the poor of Sunflower County. These include Amzi Moore, Charles McLaurin, Clinton Battle, Lawrence Guyot, Charles Cobb, Aaron Robert Merritt, and Willie Spurlock, as well as organizations such as Freedom Schools and the Mississippi Freedom Labor Union.

Moye also discusses institutions of resistance to civil rights, including the Citizens' Council of Indianola. Organized by Robert Patterson, a plantation manager and former Mississippi State football player and veteran of World War II, it was a less violent version of the Ku Klux Klan that intimidated black residents of Sunflower County and discouraged the integration of schools and voter registration, particularly through economic control. Because members of this group worked at all levels of business and government, fair representation for blacks was impossible. The group even formed a whites-only private school while doing nothing to improve the public system. Moye concludes by writing that it was not until the 1980s that any real civil rights advances were made in Sunflower County, and division has continued because black workers have historically been forced to accept lower pay.

"This book will provide students and scholars alike with a thorough representation of a community central to the Civil Rights Movement in Mississippi," asserted Tiyi Morris in a Journal of African American History review. "It provides an invaluable contribution to the recent scholarship that enhances our understanding of ‘local movement centers’ in the civil rights era."



Journal of African American History, summer, 2007, Tiyi Morris, review of Let the People Decide: Black Freedom and White Resistance Movements in Sunflower County, Mississippi, 1945-1986, p. 445.

Journal of American History, December, 2005, Mark Newman, review of Let the People Decide, p. 1059.

Journal of Social History, winter, 2006, Gilles Vandal, review of Let the People Decide, p. 533.

Journal of Southern History, February, 2007, Nan Elizabeth Woodruff, review of Let the People Decide, p. 221.

Labor History, November, 2005, Jonathan Rosenberg, review of Let the People Decide, p. 553.


H-Net: Humanities and Social Sciences Online, (August, 2005), Michael T. Bertrand, review of Let the People Decide.

University of North Texas History Department Web site, (February 13, 2008), faculty profile of J. Todd Moye.