Susan Spellman

Susan Spellman
Dr. Susan Spellman

“History Goes Hollywood”

Susan Spellman, Associate Professor of History, recently lent her scholarly expertise to TLC’s hit show Who Do You Think You Are? for an episode featuring actor Noah Wyle. Spellman was part of a team of historical experts that helped the actor search his maternal family line back generations into the American past to an ancestor, John Henry Mills, who had fought for the Confederacy in the Civil War. Along with the shocking family connections to the Deep South, Spellman helped Wyle to explore his ancestor’s rise to prominence as a businessman in Summit, Mississippi before financial woes led to tragedy.

Her role in Wyle’s discovery of his family history stemmed in part from her research for her book Cornering the Market: Independent Grocers and Innovation in American Small Business (Oxford University Press, 2016). Well received by historians interested in consumer culture and business history, a review in the Journal of Social History praised the book for recovering the importance of small grocers and other independent businessmen as “innovative pioneers of many of the business practices we have heretofore attributed to chain store organizations.” (Tolbert, p. 3)

This fall Dr. Spellman is teaching HST 111 Survey of American History, a course covering the colonization of the Western Hemisphere by Europeans on up through the American Revolution, Civil War, and Era of Reconstruction (1865-1877). Additionally, she is currently the interim chair of the Department of Justice and Community Studies.

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