Dr. Curtis Austin is a native of Yazoo City, Mississippi. In 1988, he enrolled at the University of Southern Mississippi (USM) in Hattiesburg, where he majored in History and minored in Spanish. During this period, he also became a member of the service organization Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Incorporated. In 1991, after spending a portion of his last year of college in Mexico studying Spanish and South American History, Dr. Austin completed his Master of Arts degree at USM, concentrating in United States and Latin American History.
In 1993, he received a Doctoral Fellowship from the Graduate School at Mississippi State University. There, he concentrated his studies in U.S. Social History and Race Relations with an emphasis in Black Protest History. He minored in Quantitative Statistics and Latin American and Caribbean History. After completing his Ph.D. in 1998, Austin moved to Orlando, Florida and began work in the History Department at the University of Central Florida (UCF). While at UCF, he began writing a book entitled Up Against the Wall: Violence in the Making and Unmaking of the Black Panther Party. The book was published in October 2006 by the University of Arkansas Press and has received wide acclaim from students, lay people, activists, and scholars in the field. In 2007, Austin’s book received critical acclaim when the Choice Library Journal honored it with its the Outstanding Academic Title Award. Dr. Austin is also the author of articles, book chapters, and book reviews covering topics in black history. From 2001- 2006, Dr. Austin served as Director of the Center for Oral History and Cultural Heritage. In 2007, Dr. Austin became the founding Director the University of Southern Mississippi’s Center for Black Studies. He is currently an Associate Professor in the Department of African American and African Studies and serves as Director of the Young Scholars Program at The Ohio State University.
Dr. Austin is currently conducting research on two major projects. The first is a history of the Black Power movement. The other is a biography of Clyde Kennard, a veteran of the Korean War and the first African American to attempt to enroll at the University of Southern Mississippi. Kennard died from mistreatment and over-work after having been framed by state and local authorities and sentenced to seven years in prison for allegedly stealing two bags of chicken feed. Kennard’s story predates James Meredith’s of Ole Miss fame by more than half a decade. Austin recently completed a short documentary on the life and times of Clyde Kennard and hopes to expand it into a made-for-TV docudrama.
- Modern U.S. History & African American History
- Civil Rights and Black Power Movement History
- Ph.D., United States History, minor in Latin American and Caribbean History, Mississippi State University
- M.A., United States History, minor in Latin American History 1993, University of Southern Mississippi
- B.S., United States History, minor in Spanish 1991, University of Southern Mississippi