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Matthew O'Neal

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Graduate alumnus

Matt researches race, labor, and migration in Appalachia. He is interested in why some places became all-white sundown towns in the midst of the first phase of the Great Migration, while others went on to foster strong Black communities. His dissertation focuses on the relationship between work and social life under industrial capitalism in Appalachia, with an eye towards the long-term effects of racial violence.

Matt has presented his research at the Southern Historical Society and several other conferences. He is featured on a recent documentary produced by the Black in Appalachia project as well as public conversations on the topic. His research has been supported by the Graduate School, the Hagley Museum and Library, and the Kentucky History Center. In 2022, he received the Robert H. Zieger Prize from the Southern Labor Studies Association. He is currently completing revisions on an article to be published in The Journal of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era. He has reviewed books for Civil War History, The Southern HistorianRegister of the Kentucky Historical Society, and the Georgia Historical Quarterly. For an interview with Matt, see this Hagley History Hangout episode.

Matt has extensive experience as a teaching assistant as well as other related fields. After receiving an M.A. from Auburn University, he worked at the Tuskegee History Center, interpreting the rich history of Macon County for visitors, students, and groups of educators. While at UGA, he has conducted research for digital history projects, apprenticed for the UGA Press, and worked for the New Georgia Encyclopedia (NGE). He has contributed several articles to online encyclopedias, including a forthcoming piece on the Great Migration for the NGE. 

Dissertation/Thesis Title:
Home and Hell: The Great Migration and the Making of Sundown Towns in Appalachia"
Degree Completion Date:

PHD History, University of Georgia, 2023; Major Professor: Dr. Scott Reynolds Nelson.

MA, Auburn University, 2016.

BA, University of Kentucky, 2013

Of note:

Robert H. Zieger Prize, Southern Labor Studies Association, Fall 2022

Henry Belin Du Pont Research Grant, Center for the History of Business, Technology, and Society, Hagley Library, Spring 2021

Research Grant, West Virginia and Regional History Center, West Virginia University, Spring/Summer 2021

Research Fellow, Kentucky Historical Society, Summer 2020

Graduate School Travel Award, University of Georgia, 2019

Distinguished Master’s Thesis Award, Auburn University Graduate School, 2016

Events featuring Matthew O'Neal
201 Conference room, LeConte Hall

Matthew O'Neal will defend his doctoral dissertation, "Home and Hell: The Great Migration and the Making of Sundown Towns in Appalachia" in the Conference Room, LeConte Hall. The major professor is Dr. Scott Nelson. Members of the university community are invited to attend. Please contact the graduate program at…

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