Dr. Ellen Griffith Spears (University of Alabama) was our Fall Roosevelt Visiting Professor in October 2022.

Ellen Griffith Spears is a professor of Environmental History at the University of Alabama, in the New College interdisciplinary studies program and the Department of American Studies. Her month-long residency at the RIAS provides an opportunity to develop her next book project on the history of environmental and environmental justice activism in the US South in a transnational/translocal context. 

Professor Spears’ most recent book, Rethinking the American Environmental Movement post-1945 (Routledge, 2019) explores the history of conservation and environmental activism in the U.S. as a “field of movements” rooted in broader social justice advocacy. Spears’ 2014 bookBaptized in PCBs: Race, Pollution, and Justice in an All-American Town (University of North Carolina Press), chronicles the legal battle against the agrochemical company Monsanto over the dumping of PCBs in Anniston, Alabama’s historically African American and white working-class neighborhoods. The book won several awards, including the 2015 Francis B. Simkins Award from the Southern Historical Association. 

Spears is active with the Task Force on the History of Race, Slavery, and Civil Rights at the University of Alabama. She worked with other UA faculty and students on the successful campaign led by the Scottsboro Boys Museum and Cultural Center that in 2013 resulted in the Alabama State Legislature exonerating the nine young Scottsboro defendants falsely accused of rape in the 1930s Jim Crow South.  

 A member of the editorial boards of Environmental History, the journal of the American Society for Environmental History, and the interdisciplinary digital journal, Southern Spaces, Spears also works on digital ecologies and data justice with the Environmental History Action Collaborative (EHAC), which partners with the Environmental Data and Governance Initiative (EDGI).  

 Spears was seen around Middelburg with her camera taking in the sights and history of Zeeland.