I write and teach about race, gender, and culture in the United States. My book, Houston Bound: Culture and Color in a Jim Crow City, received the Kenneth Jackson Award for Best Book of 2016 (North American) from the Urban History Association, the 2017 W. Jackson Turrentine Book Prize from the Western History Association, and the 2017 Julia Ideson Award from the Friends of the Texas Room (Houston Metropolitan Research Center). Houston Bound shows how, despite the existence of Jim Crow laws that created a black/white racial binary, converging migrations to Houston—particularly those of ethnic Mexicans and Creoles of color—complicated ideas of blackness and whiteness and introduced different understandings about race between the 1920s and 1960s. The book also uses music to examine these racial complexities, tracing the emergence of Houston's blues and jazz scenes as well as the hybrid forms of these genres that arose when migrants forged shared social space and carved out new communities and politics.
My latest project explores the history of sexuality and gender in popular music. An article on Willie Mae "Big Mama" Thornton and Little Richard appeared in the March 2018 issue of the American Quarterly.
I am also committed to academic work that reaches beyond the walls of the university. I served as a historical advisor on the television show Who Do You Think You Are, appearing on a 2016 episode that featured TV personality Aisha Tyler. While in graduate school at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, I helped organize a special summer course, “The Santa Fe Trail: In Search of the Multiracial West,” that took thirty-five undergraduate and graduate students on a two-week bus trip from Wisconsin to the Southwest in 2005.
I host a weekly radio program called “Soul Stories” on 91.3 KXCI Tucson on Mondays, 10:00 pm - midnight. “Soul Stories” explores the roots and branches of rhythm and blues music.