Dr. Chris Laws, Assistant Teaching Professor in the History Department at NC State, teaches courses in American and North Carolina History. His research interests include historic preservation, collective memory and identity, civil religion, commemoration and memorialization, museology, North Carolina, and Southern US History.
Dr. Laws joined the History Department at North Carolina Central University in the Fall of 2015 in pursuit of an MA in History. Under the direction of Dr. Charles Johnson, he wrote a thesis titled, “The Rich Man’s Memory that the Poor Man Buys: Analysis of Confederate Monuments in the Piedmont Region of North Carolina, 1868-1914.” He finished his MA in the Spring of 2017, concentrating in Public History with a minor in Public Administration.
His doctoral dissertation, titled, “The Millennium of Their Glory: North Carolina War Commemoration, 1867-1929,” was completed in 2022 under the direction of Dr. Craig Thompson Friend. “The Millennium of Their Glory” considers how memory-making is a process rather than a product, and explores the culture war that emerged over North Carolina’s Civil War memory, which saw wartime anti-Confederate sentiments and vernacular memories obliterated in favor of a consensus, White reconciliation official memory. In addition to a thorough examination of Confederate monumentalism during the era, “The Millennium of Their Glory” analyzes non-Confederate Civil War commemoration and memory-making. Union monuments placed in the state exemplified a meshing of Confederate and American values into a new White American identity. This process seamlessly blended the Lost Cause ideology of the defeated South with the Cause Victorious ideology of the North, shaping the war’s memory in ways that minimized the causes of the war and eliminated Black Americans’ contributions, voices, and memories. At the turn of the twentieth century, North Carolina Confederate memorialists even managed to assimilate new American heroes such as Worth Bagley, who died in the Spanish-American War in the 1890s, into Confederate lore. In this respect, southerners were not simply defending and protecting old Confederate ideals but were actively asserting new expectations upon American culture, giving birth to new forms of White nationalism that many northerners endorsed and shared in the name of reconciliation.
Dr. Laws has long been involved in North Carolina public history, and currently serves as vice-president of the Duke Homestead Education and History Corporation. He also serves as executive director of Preservation Durham, a non-profit dedicated to protecting Durham’s culturally diverse historic assets through education, action, and advocacy.
BA History East Carolina University 2006
BS Social Studies Education North Carolina State University 2008
MA History North Carolina Central University 2017
PhD Public History North Carolina State University 2022