Ellen Spears

Ellen Griffith Spears

Associate Professor

(205) 348-8410


208 Lloyd Hall

Office Hours

Wednesdays 1:00-3:00 pm and by appointment

Undergraduate Education

BA, College of William and Mary

Graduate Education

MA, PhD, Emory University


Southern Spaces, editorial board

University of Alabama Press Editorial Board, Chair

Teaching Interests

NEW 407/AMS 407/507: Landscapes of the South

NEW 416/AMS 416/516: American Environmental Thought in a Global Context

NEW 439/AMS 439/539: Urban Spaces

NEW 442: Environmental Ethics

NEW 446/AMS 446/546: Gender and Environment

NEW 490: Global Ecologies

AMS 592: Race, Health, and Environment in Modern America

NEW/PSC 365: Introduction to Environmental Policy

Representative Publications


Baptized in PCBs: Race, Pollution, and Justice in an All-American Town, University of North Carolina Press, 2014. Winner of the 2015 Francis B. Simkins Prize from the Southern Historical Association, the 2014 Arthur J. Viseltear Award for Outstanding Contribution to the History of Public Health from the Medical Care Section of the American Public Health Association, and the 2015 Reed Environmental Writing Award from the Southern Environmental Law Center.

The Newtown Story: One Community’s Fight for Environmental Justice, photographs by Michael Schwarz, Atlanta: Center for Democratic Renewal, 1998, a collaborative documentary project.

Journal Articles and Book Chapters:

“(Re)Writing Histories of Environmentalism in Alabama.” The Alabama Review 70, no. 2, (April 2017): 171-188.

“Interpreting the Scottsboro Boys Trials Historic Route,” in collaboration with Shelia Washington. In Interpreting African American Culture and History at Museums and Historic Sites, edited by Max van Balgooy, Lanham, Md.: Rowman & Littlefield, 2014.

“Landscapes and Ecologies of the U.S. South: Essays in Eco-Cultural History.” Introduction to an edited series. Southern Spaces: An online peer-reviewed interdisciplinary journal about the regions, places, and cultures of the American South, February 2013, http://southernspaces.org/2013/landscapes-and-ecologies-us-south-essays-eco-cultural-history

“Memorializing the Freedom Riders,” Southern Spaces: an interdisciplinary online peer-reviewed journal, http://www.southernspaces.org/contents/2009/spears/1a.html, July 2009.

“Reducing Environmental Burdens: A Southern Agenda,” in American Crisis: Southern Solutions, ed., Anthony Dunbar, Montgomery: New South Press, 2008.

Contributing writer, “The Case for Extending and Amending the Voting Rights Act, Voting Rights Litigation 1982-2006,” Laughlin McDonald, Daniel Levitas, et al., prepared for the U.S. Congress, House Committee on the Judiciary. Atlanta: American Civil Liberties Union, 2006.

“Civil Rights, Immigration, and the Prospects for Social Justice Collaboration,” in The American South in a Global World, eds. James L. Peacock, Harry L. Watson, Carrie R. Matthews, Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2005, 235-243.

“Making Illnesses Visible: The Newtown Florist Club and the Quest for Environmental Justice in Gainesville, Georgia,” in Emerging Illnesses and Society: Negotiating the Public Health Agenda, eds. Randall M. Packard, Peter J. Brown, Ruth L. Berkelman,  Howard Frumkin, Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2004, 171-190.

“Voting Disparities in Georgia Counties: A Report on Election 2000,” co-author, Southern Regional Council, February, 2001.

“South Africa vote mixes hope, tension,” The Atlanta-Journal Constitution, June 3, 1999.

“Will the Circle Be Unbroken? Using Oral History to Tell the Story of the Civil Rights Movement,” with Marcia Klenbort, Social Education: The Official Journal of the National Council for Social  Studies, Vol. 63, No. 4, May/June 1999.



Formerly associate director of the Southern Regional Council, the Atlanta-based civil rights research institute, Dr. Spears served as managing editor of the SRC’s quarterly journal, Southern Changes, for more than a decade. Spears was as a contributing writer for “The Case for Extending and Amending the Voting Rights Act,” with Laughlin McDonald and Daniel Levitas, on a report prepared for Congress and presented to the House Committee on the Judiciary in March 2006, during reauthorization of key provisions of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.