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Elizabeth Gritter Ph.D.

Social Sciences Division

Crestview Hall 133
Phone: (812) 941-2292


Elizabeth Gritter, Ph.D., is a historian who specializes in U.S. history since 1865 with a focus on the Black freedom struggle. She is an associate professor of history at Indiana University Southeast. Her book, River of Hope: Black Politics and the Memphis Freedom Movement, 1865-1954, was published by the University Press of Kentucky in February 2014. 

For her research, she has conducted thirty-three oral histories of Memphians, including of the late Maxine Smith, the most recognized civil rights advocate in the city, and the late H. T. Lockard, the first Black cabinet member in Tennessee. The oral history of Lockard was published in Southern Cultures (Fall 2008).  To access Dr. Gritter's approved versions of the Memphis oral history transcripts, go to this link:  In addition to her Memphis interviews, her oral histories of civil rights icon Julian Bond and documentary photographer Billy E. Barnes are housed at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and also were published as articles in Southern Cultures. Her other publications include "Maxine Smith: Early Civil Rights Activism in Memphis and Tennessee's Tent Cities," West Tennessee Historical Society Papers (2022), "A Matter of Black and White: Edmund Orgill, J. E. Walker, and the John Gaston Hospital Controversy in Memphis, Tennessee, in 1956,” Tennessee Historical Quarterly (Fall 2019); “New Frontiers for Black Memphians: The Shelby County Democratic Club, the Kennedy Administration, and the Quest for Black Political Power, 1959-1964,” in An Unseen Light: Black Freedom Struggles in Memphis, Tennessee, edited by Aram Goudsouzian and Charles McKinney (University Press of Kentucky, March 2018); and "'Women Did Everything Except Run': Black Women's Participation in the 1959 Volunteer Ticket Campaign in Memphis, Tennessee," in Entering the Fray: Gender, Politics, and Culture in the New South (Univ. of Missouri Press, 2010).

Dr. Gritter directed IU Southeast’s Institute for Local and Oral History from 2014 to 2022. She also served as the campus historian for Indiana University Southeast and participated in the planning of Indiana University’s bicentennial from late 2015 to 2020.  For her efforts for the bicentennial, she was awarded the prestigious Indiana University Bicentennial Medal.  She co-directed the Floyd County Oral History Bicentennial Project and directed the IU Southeast division of the IU Bicentennial Oral History Project. She received her training in oral history as a research assistant for the Southern Oral History Program of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.  She went on to work as a research associate for the Congressionally mandated Civil Rights History Project, which was carried out by the Library of Congress, Smithsonian Institution, and American Folklore Society. She was one of four researchers charged with conducting a nationwide survey of archival collections containing oral histories and interviews related to the civil rights movement. 

Dr. Gritter has reviewed books for the Journal of American History, Journal of Southern History, and H-SAWH (the online book review service sponsored by the Southern Association for Women Historians) as well as other journals. She has presented her research at a number of conferences, including ones in New York, New York; Baltimore, Maryland; Honolulu, Hawaii; and Nashville, Tennessee. In addition, she was invited to speak at the Little Rock School Desegregation Crisis 50th Anniversary International Conference in Little Rock, Arkansas.

The winner of numerous grants in support of her research, Dr. Gritter received the Kennedy Research Grant from the John F. Kennedy Library and Museum in Boston, Massachusetts. She was awarded the nationally competitive Harry S. Truman Scholarship in 2000.

Before starting work as a professor at Indiana University Southeast, Dr. Gritter served as visiting assistant professor of U.S. history at Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro, Tennessee.

Dr. Gritter is a member of the American Historical Association, Organization of American Historians, Southern Association for Women Historians, and National Council on Public History.

Academic Background

  • Doctorate

    • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC, United States
    • Doctor of Philosophy, Major in History, Minor in Women and Gender Studies
  • Masters

    • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC, United States
    • Master of Arts, Major in History
  • Bachelors

    • American University, Washington, D.C., United States
    • Bachelors of Arts, Major in Political Science, Minor in History and Communication

Professional Interests


U.S. History; Civil Rights Movement History; Historical Research, Writing, and Methods; Documentary Film


Modern U.S. History, African American History, Civil Rights Movement History, Oral History, Cultural History



  • Elizabeth Gritter. (2014). River of Hope: Black Politics and the Memphis Freedom Movement, 1865-1954. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky.

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