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William (Robert) BillupsGraduate Student

Robert Billups is a sixth-year PhD candidate and the Jefferson Scholars Foundation’s 2023–2024 Ambrose Monell Foundation Funded National Fellow in Technology and Democracy. Before beginning his PhD at Emory University, Robert earned a Bachelor's degree in history from the University of Notre Dame and a Master's degree in American history from the University of Cambridge. He grew up in Lauderdale County, Mississippi, and currently resides in Charlottesville, Virginia. 

Robert Billups is finalizing his dissertation, “‘Reign of Terror’: Anti–Civil Rights Terrorism in the United States, 1954–1976,” the first comprehensive study of bombings and arsons against the civil rights movement between the mid-1950s and mid-1970s. He analyzes those attacks with digital maps, charts, and graphs to illuminate patterns of white supremacist violence done primarily against African Americans. Though concentrated in the US South, anti–civil rights violence was a national phenomenon with international dimensions. It was also deeply rooted in local contexts. To account for that localism, his dissertation and related articles employ case studies to analyze how individuals, businesses, and communities experienced anti–civil rights terrorism, resisted it, remembered it, and rebuilt in its wake. He also assesses how anti–civil rights attacks led Congress to reshape the criminal code and law enforcement agencies to form bomb squads and other specialized police units.

Robert has published peer-reviewed articles in the Journal of American History and the Journal of Southern History and public-facing scholarship in the Washington Post. His work has been funded by over a dozen competitive fellowships and grants, and he is grateful to the Ambrose Monell Foundation, Baylor University’s Texas Collection and Wardlaw Fellowship Fund, the Bentley Historical Library, Duke University’s John Hope Franklin Research Center for African and African American History and Culture, the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Foundation, the Jacob Rader Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives, the Jefferson Scholars Foundation, the LBJ Foundation, the Southern Baptist Historical Library & Archives, the University of Alabama’s Frances J. Summersell Center for the Study of the South, the University of North Texas Libraries, and Emory University’s Bill & Carol Fox Center for Humanistic Inquiry, Center for Digital Scholarship, and Tam Institute for Jewish Studies for supporting his scholarly agenda.

Peer-Reviewed Articles:

  • “Martyred Women and White Power since the Civil Rights Era: From Kathy Ainsworth to Vicki
    Weaver,” Journal of American History 109, no. 4 (March 2023): 804–827.
  • “The Cost of Civil Rights: White Supremacist Violence and Economic Resistance against
    Koinonia Farm during the Civil Rights Era,” Journal of Southern History 89, no. 1 (Feb. 2023): 89–130.


  • B.A. University of Norte Dame
  • O.M. University of Cambridge

Research Interests

Twentieth-Century US History
African American History
Civil Rights History
Digital History
Southern History
International White Supremacist Movements


"'Reign of Terror': Anti–Civil Rights Terrorism in the United States, 1954–1976"

Faculty Advisors

Joseph Crespino
Allen Tullos