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WVU history professors' book recognized by the Organization of American Historians

Elizabeth Fones-Wolf and Ken Fones-Wolf, professors in the  Eberly College of Arts and Sciences  Department of History at  West Virginia University, have won an award from the Organization of American Historians for their book, “Struggle for the Soul of the Postwar South: White Evangelical Protestants and Operation Dixie.” 

Fones-Wolf book

The Fones-Wolfs received the 2016 David Montgomery Award, which is a national award given annually to the best book on a topic in American labor and working-class history.

“Struggle for the Soul of the Postwar South: White Evangelical Protestants and Operation Dixie” (University of Illinois Press, 2015) chronicles the important role of evangelical Protestantism in the battle for and against union membership.

Operation Dixie was a campaign launched by the Congress of Industrial Organizations, a large labor federation that had successfully unionized the steel, auto and electrical industries in the North, to bring organized labor to the industrializing South. In their book, the two professors explore how union officials and sympathizers – as well as those seeking to halt union expansion – used religion to try and win the hearts and minds of southern workers.


Elizabeth Fones-Wolf’s research focuses on the struggle between organized labor and business to shape the ideas and images that constituted America’s political culture. Ken Fones-Wolf, the Stuart and Joyce Robbins Professor of History at WVU, is currently interested in how African-American religion shaped the contest for economic justice in the years before Brown v. Board of Education. This is their first co-authored book.

Louis C. Martin, a former student of Ken Fones-Wolf, was named the runner-up for the award for his book, Smokestacks in the Hills: Rural-Industrial Workers in West Virginia. Martin received his Ph.D. in history from WVU in 2008. He also earned his B.A. and M.A. at WVU.

The Fones-Wolfs were presented the award on April 8 at the Plenary Session of the 2016OAH Annual Meeting in Providence, Rhode Island.

The David Montgomery Award is given in recognition of former OAH president David Montgomery’s crucial role in pioneering new approaches to the study of working people and their history. The Labor and Working-Class History Association co-sponsors the award.