“I’ve always been curious, intrigued and passionately interested in the past,” said Dr. Bernadette Pruitt, assistant professor of history.
Pruitt has been at SHSU since spring 1996. In addition to teaching United States History and an independent study class on the Civil Rights Movement, she is currently working on a book based on her dissertation.
Pruitt earned her bachelor and master’s degrees at Texas Southern University and completed her doctorate in May 2001 at University of Houston. She is the first African-American women to earn a doctorate in history at the University of Houston.
She said she had an interest in history at a very young age.
“I remember as a little girl listening to my grandmother talk about her childhood and young adult life during the Great Depression,” Pruitt said. “I was fascinated and intrigued.”
Students said her fascination and passion for history is shown in her teaching style in the classroom.
“It’s easy to pay attention and learn because she brings the class into her discussions,” sophomore Daniel Reeves said. “She is exciting in the classroom.”
“I love teaching because I love students,” Pruitt said.
Pruitt said her goal is to “remind students of the important and essential value history teaches.”
She said she believes it is imperative for everyone to know about the history of his or her ancestry.
“U.S. History is amazing, passionate, exciting and sometimes frustrating,” Pruitt said. “My responsibility as a historian is to encourage students who have an interest in history to go into history as a profession.”
Pruitt’s areas of specialization include African-American history since 1865, internal migration, race relations and ethnicity and African-American studies.
“I love teaching African-American history, even with the intensity and controversy it can bring,” she said.
Pruitt teaches a course in African-American history during the fall semester.
Her dissertation, “For the Advancement of the Race: African-American Migration and Community Building in Houston, 1914-1945”, examined the movement of black people into Texas’ largest metropolitan center from surrounding farms and small towns in eastern Texas and Louisiana.
“Most people think that the Great Migration was the movement of African-Americans out of the south,” Pruitt said. “My work shows that large numbers of African-Americans stayed in the south and moved into cities like Houston.
“I am working on getting articles published for my book that will be based on my dissertation.”
Pruitt anticipates that her Houston area research will be complete this summer. The following summer she plans conduct research at the National Archives, looking into the Department of Labor and the Department of Housing and Development records relating to the time period around World War II.
Pruitt’s project is the first scholarly attempt since the Civil Rights Movement to address the significance of the Great Migration in Texas.
Pruitt is a past recipient of the University of Houston African-American Studies Graduate Fellowship, Organization of American Historians Huggins-Quarles Award, Who’s Who Among American Teachers and Who’s Who Among American Women, to name a few.
In addition to her teaching and on-going research, she is scheduled to speak at the Texas State Historical Meeting, and is participating in a workshop at University of Houston next month.