Judith A. Ridner

Judith A. Ridner

Judith A. Ridner

Associate Professor

118 Presidents Circle

Early and Frontier America, Immigration and Ethnicity, Oral History, Public History




I am an historian of early America, with additional research and teaching interests in the American frontier, ethnicity and immigration, oral and public history. To date, my research has focused mostly on the eighteenth-century Pennsylvania frontier and the Scots-Irish, but is broadening over time to include my newer interests African-American oral history, the Civil Rights Movement, and public and digital history.


My first book, A Town In-Between: Carlisle Pennsylvania and the Early Mid-Atlantic Interior, published as part of the Early American Studies series at University of Pennsylvania Press (2010), reconsiders the role early American towns--and Scots-Irish colonists--played in the development of the early American West; it won the Philip S. Klein book prize from the Pennsylvania Historical Association.  Two current early American history projects build upon my interests in the mid-Atlantic.  I'm finishing up work on a short book, The Scots-Irish in Early Pennsylvania, for the Pennsylvania Historical Association, and my article, "Unmasking the Paxton Boys: The Material Culture of the Pamphlet War," will be appearing in Early American Studies.  Both of these will come out in 2016.


In addition to my work in early America, I have been especially excited to be involved in two collaborative, community-based oral and public history projects.  The first of these researched the stories of 20th-century African American life and culture in the northeastern Pennsylvania cities of Allentown, Bethlehem, and Easton.  My recent, co-authored article in Oral History Review highlights the original play that was staged from these interviews.  My second and current project, "A Shaky Truce: Civil Rights Struggles in Starkville, MS, 1960-1980," which I am working on with two MSU librarians and a dedicated group of MSU graduate and undergraduate students, is a digital oral history project examining the local expressions of the black freedom struggle, particularly the fight for school desegregation.  We plan to launch the website for our project, http://www.starkvillecivilrights.msstate.edu in the fall 2015.


  • College of William and Mary, Ph.D., 1994; M.A., 1988
  • Dickinson College, B.A., 1986, Phi Beta Kappa, Magna Cum Laude

Research Interests

for my latest project, please click here   /files/oral.pdf



  • "A Town In-Between: Carlisle, Pennsylvania, and the Early Mid-Atlantic Interior, Early American Studies Series," University Pennsylvania Press (2010).

Articles and Essays

  • (co-authored with Susan Clemens-Bruder) "Taking Their Place Among the Giants: Performing Oral Histories of Pennsylvania's Black Freedom Struggle," The Oral History Review (Summer 2014).
  • "Using the Historical Society of Pennsylvania's "Irish Immigrant Letters Home" to Teach Nineteenth-Century Irish Immigrant History," Journal of American Ethnic History (Summer 2014).
  • "Building Urban Spaces for the Interior: Thomas Penn and the Colonization of Eighteenth-Century Pennsylvania" in Early American Cartographies, ed. Martin Brueckner (Chapel Hill: published for the Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture by UNC Press, 2011).
  • "Relying on the 'Saucy' Men of the Backcountry: Middlemen and the Fur Trade in Pennsylvania" The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography (April 2005): 133-162.

Paper Presentations

  • "Destruction or Opportunity?: Debating Fair Housing, Racial Justice, and Community in Pennsylvania," International Oral History Association Conference, Barcelona, Spain (July 2013) 
  • "Baskets & Brooms, Hatchets, Naked Quakers, and that Infamous 'Looking Glass for Presbyterians': The Material Culture of the Paxton Boys' Uprising," ASECS, Williamsburg (March 2014) 
  • "Baskets & Brooms, Hatchets, Naked Quakers, and that Infamous 'Looking Glass for Presbyterians': Using Material Culture to Deconstruct the Literature (and Prints) of the Paxton Boys" for "The Paxton Boys and the "Conestoga Massacre" 250 Years Later" Conference (December 2013). 
  • "Why Tell Sensational Stories of Barbarous Indians and Innocent White Settlers? Reconsidering Loudon's Indian Narratives as Text on Race, Ethnicity, and Frontier Violence" American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies Conference (ASECS), Cleveland (April 2013). 
  • "The Wonders, Curiosities, and Rarities of America's Violent Frontier Past: Hugh Henry Brackenridge, Archibald Loudon, and The Most Interesting Narratives of 1808-1811" South Central Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies (SCSECS), Austin, TX (March 2013). 
  • (With Susan Clemens-Bruder) "Seeking a Just Price for Her Home: How One African-American Woman Spearheaded Resistance to Urban Renewal in Allentown, PA," Urban History Conference, New York (October 2012). 
  • (With Susan Clemens-Bruder) "Evolving Memories and the Changing Nature of Cultural Voices in Allentown's African-American Community," Oral History Association Conference Cleveland (October 2012). 
  • (With Susan Clemens-Bruder) "'He's My Color, But He's Not my Kind': Constructing Class from Within the African-American Community in Allentown", How Class Works Conference, SUNY Stony Brook (Summer 2012). 
  • ""'The Lehigh Valley Isn't New York, or Philadelphia': Urban Renewal and Racial Politics in1960s Allentown, Pennsylvania" Society for American City and Regional Planning History, Baltimore (November 2011). 
  • "Hugh Henry Brackenridge and Archibald Loudon Comment on the Many Nature[s] of the Mid Atlantic Frontier" American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies Conference, Vancouver (April 2011). 

Honors & Awards

  • 2014 William Parrish Teaching Award, Department of History, MSU
  • 2012 Philip S. Klein Book Prize for Best Book on Pennsylvania History, awarded by the Pennsylvania Historical Association.
  • Local History Grant -- Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission. Local History Grant for collaborative oral history project documenting the African-American community of the Lehigh Valley (2007-2008). 
  • Andrew H. Mellon Foundation Fellow, Library Company/Historical Society of Pennsylvania (Fall 2005).
  • NEH Summer Institute, British and Indigenous Cultural Encounters in Native North America, John Carter Brown Library (Summer 2005).

<< Return to Faculty Page