History Professor Awarded Ryan Professorship

This spring Michael Trotti, associate professor in the history department, was awarded the Robert Ryan Professorship in the Humanities. This professorship provides a faculty member an opportunity over a period of three years to complete a scholarly, pedagogical, or creative project that demonstrates distinctive connections among humanities disciplines. This award honors the legacy of Professor Robert Ryan, whose 40-year career in the history department was distinguished by his dedication to students, his integrative vision of the humanities, and his continuing commitment to intellectual renewal.

Since joining the faculty at Ithaca College in 1999, Trotti has taught a range of courses that examine ethnicity, working-class culture, and popular culture in U.S. history. His previous publications and presentations have explored such topics as sensationalism and murder in the South and 19th-century recreational life in Virginia. Trotti received the professorship to complete his project, entitled "Race, Lynching, and Executions in the Jim Crow South." This project explores the connections between lynching and capital punishment in the U.S. South from the multiple perspectives of legal, social, and cultural history.

Trotti notes, "I'm interested in why the South retained public execution into the late 19th century, which is when public lynching was also prominent. This is a subject that hasn't been studied before, and it's nice to be more path breaking versus just putting the puzzle pieces together in a different way." Trotti observes that there are many connections between public execution and lynching: "Public executions, generally hangings, took place in fields outside of cities. Thousands would gather and watch. It was a very theatrical experience. The minister would give a brief prayer. The condemned might say a few words. The crowd might say something back. Lynching was very similar in terms of the theatrics. The big difference is that lynching was largely of blacks and that it was always done without a trial." Supported by the Ryan professorship, Trotti expects to complete a major journal article on the history and origins of these connections, as well as make significant progress on a book-length manuscript exploring this interdisciplinary topic.