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College of Arts and Humanities

Orville Vernon Burton

Orville Vernon Burton

Professor of History; Director of the Clemson Cyberinstitute

Department of History
Office: Hardin Hall 120
Phone: 217-649-0608

Ph.D., Princeton University (1976)

Curriculum Vitae


American History, Southern History, Digital History

Research Interests
U.S. History; U.S. South; African American history; legal and political history; quantitative methods; digital methods

Orville Vernon Burton is the inaugural Judge Matthew J. Perry Distinguished Chair of History and Professor of Pan-African Studies, Sociology and Anthropology, and Computer Science at Clemson University. He directed the Clemson CyberInstitute from 2010 to 2016. In 2022 Burton received the Clemson University Alumni Award for Outstanding Achievements in Research; in 2018, he was part of the initial University Research, Scholarship and Artistic Achievement Award group of scholars. In 2016 Burton received the College of Architecture, Art, and Humanities Dean’s Award for “Excellence in Research” and in 2019 the College’s award for “Outstanding Achievement in Service.” From 2008-2010, he was the Burroughs Distinguished Professor of Southern History and Culture at Coastal Carolina University. He was the founding Director of the Institute for Computing in Humanities, Arts, and Social Science at the University of Illinois, where he is emeritus University Distinguished Teacher/Scholar, and Professor of History, African American Studies, and Sociology. At the University of Illinois, he continues as a Senior Research Scientist at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications where he served as Associate Director for Humanities and Social Sciences from 2002-2010. He serves as Executive Director of the College of Charleston’s Low Country and Atlantic World Program; in 2022 the program honored Burton by designating the best conference paper given annually, the Vernon Burton Research Award. Burton served as interim chair, and then vice-chair of the Board of Directors of the Congressional National Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Foundation, 2009-2017. In 2007 the Illinois State legislature honored him with a special resolution for his contributions as a scholar, teacher, and citizen of Illinois. A recognized authority on race relations, Burton is often called upon as an expert witness in discrimination and voting rights cases throughout the United States.

Burton is a prolific author and scholar (more than twenty authored or edited books and nearly three hundred articles) and author or director of numerous digital humanities projects. The Age of Lincoln (2007) won the Chicago Tribune Heartland Literary Award for Nonfiction and was selected for Book of the Month Club, History Book Club, and Military Book Club. One reviewer proclaimed, “If the Civil War era was America's ‘Iliad,’ then historian Orville Vernon Burton is our latest Homer.” The book was featured at sessions of the annual meetings of the Association for the Study of African American Life and History, the Social Science History Association, and the Southern Intellectual History Circle; the latter was the basis for a forum published in The Journal of the Historical Society. His most recent book, Justice Deferred: Race and the Supreme Court (Belknap Press of Harvard University, 2021), co-authored with Armand Derfner, was deemed “authoritative and highly readable” by reviewer Randall Kennedy of Harvard University Law School in The Nation. The book has been featured at sessions of the 2021 Social Science History Association and the 2022 Midwestern Political Science Association, and is scheduled for the upcoming meetings of the Association for the Study of African American Life and History, the American Historical Association, and the Organization of American Historians. In My Father’s House Are Many Mansions: Family and Community in Edgefield, South Carolina (1985) was featured at sessions of the Southern Historical Association and the Social Science History Association annual meetings. C. Vann Woodward in the New York Review of Books pronounced In My Father’s House “A highly quantified, computerized, and methodologically sophisticated study. For thoroughness and comprehensiveness, it rivals, if it does not exceed, any historical investigation of an American community.” Justice Deferred, The Age of Lincoln, and In My Father’s House were nominated for Pulitzers.

Recognized for his teaching, Burton was selected nationwide as the 1999 U.S. Research and Doctoral University Professor of the Year (presented by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and the Council for Advancement and Support of Education). In 2004 he received the American Historical Association’s Eugene Asher Distinguished Teaching Prize. At the University of Illinois, he won teaching awards at the department, school, college, and campus levels. He was the recipient of the 2001-2002 Graduate College Outstanding Mentor Award and received the 2006 Campus Award for Excellence in Public Engagement. He was initially appointed an Organization of American Historians Distinguished Lecturer in 2004, and has been reappointed every term, now till 2027.

He has served as president of the Southern Historical Association and of the Agricultural History Society. He was elected to honorary life membership in BrANCH (British American Nineteenth-Century Historians). Among his honors are fellowships and grants from the Rockefeller Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Pew Foundation, the National Science Foundation, the American Council of Learned Societies, the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, the National Humanities Center, the U.S. Department of Education, National Park Service, and the Carnegie Foundation. He was a Pew National Fellow Carnegie Scholar for 2000-2001. He was elected to the Society of American Historians and was one of ten historians selected to contribute to the Presidential Inaugural Portfolio (January 21, 2013) by the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies. Burton was elected into the S.C. Academy of Authors in 2015, and in 2017 he received the Governor’s Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Humanities from the South Carolina Humanities Council, and in 2021 he was awarded the Benjamin E. Mays Legacy Award. In 2022 he was appointed to the South Carolina African American Heritage Commission and inducted into the Martin Luther King Jr. Collegium of Scholars at Morehouse College.


Selected Professional Works

Books (Published)

Justice Deferred: Race and the Supreme Court. Cambridge: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2021. Coauthor, Armand Derfner.

The Age of Lincoln NY: Hill and Wang, 2007.

In My Father's House Are Many Mansions: Family and Community in Edgefield, South Carolina. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1985.

Books (Edited)

Lincoln’s Unfinished Work: The New Birth of Freedom from Generation to Generation. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2022, with Peter Eisenstadt.

Becoming Southern Writers: Essays in Honor of Charles Joyner. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 2016.

Dixie Redux: Essays in Honor of F. Sheldon Hackney. Montgomery, AL: New South Books, 2013, with Ray Arsenault.

The Struggle for Equality: Essays on Sectional Conflict, the Civil War, and the Long Reconstruction in Honor of James M. McPherson. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2011, with et al.

College of Arts and Humanities
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