KATH-online turns the spotlight on Dr. Andrea S. Watkins of Northern Kentucky University, the 2013-14 KATH Board representative for public comprehensive universities. Dr. Watkins has also recently been accepted as the H-Net Book Review Editor for our own H-Kentucky network – best wishes and we hope her H-Net book review editor training starts soon!
Current school and alma mater/s:
Associate Professor of History at Northern Kentucky University
PhD (1999), MA (1993), and BA (1991) from University of Kentucky
Fields of interest:
Antebellum South, Kentucky History, United States Slavery, Family and Community History
When did you first develop an interest in history?
As the daughter of a historian, I grew up visiting museums, historic homes, and battlefields throughout my childhood. I remember the 1982 miniseries on George Washington (based on James Thomas Flexner’s Washington: The Indispensible Man) as starting my lifelong interest in our first president, but history really came alive for me at my first visit to Gettysburg in 1986.
How have your interests changed since graduate school?
I still study family relationships in the antebellum south, but my interests now extend more toward the institution of slavery and its impact on families, both white and black. I also spend a great deal more time researching Kentucky history than I ever imagined I would when in graduate school.
What projects are you working on currently?
I am working on writing a monograph on Robert Wickliffe and his family from Lexington. The Old Duke played a key role in many of the key issues of the antebellum period in Kentucky. I am also reading and researching the lives of Kentucky women during the Civil War. The several diaries and memoirs of these women provide an insight into the divided nature of Kentucky citizens during the war.
Is there an article, book, movie, blog, etc., that you could recommend to fellow KATH members?
I have read two recent books about Kentucky that I highly recommend for both the information and their new interpretations of history. They are Matthew Salafia’s Slavery’s Borderland: Freedom and Bondage Along the Ohio River (2013) and T.R.C. Hutton’s Bloody Breathitt: Politics and Violence in the Appalachian South (2013).
I follow the Twitter feed of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History (@amhistorymuseum) because they provide wonderful links to objects, photographs, etc. within their collection. I find great items that easily capture the interest of students that I can use as a jumping off point for discussions of larger themes.
I also highly recommend the Mount Vernon website (http://www.mountvernon.org/). There are wonderful short educational pages and videos by historians that I use successfully in online courses and in the classroom when studying George Washington and the eighteenth century. Students particularly love the six minute video on Washington’s dentures! (http://www.mountvernon.org/georgewashington/teeth/dentures)
Other than history, what are you passionate about?
I like to spend time with my husband, Steve, and our daughter, Rachel. I enjoy reading mysteries and biographies, and watching television in the evening to unwind. I enjoy movies and have especially enjoyed the recent Hobbit and Hunger Games movies with my daughter.
Any final thoughts?
I am proud to be a part of KATH and to spend time with other teachers who enjoy history as much as I do. The humanities as a whole have taken a hit in recent years, but as history teachers we know the value of studying the past to inform and enlighten our present. I hope I am able to pass on some of the joy and excitement I find in the profession to all those I meet in the classroom and community.