Historian, educator. A meticulous scholar, eloquent writer, and engaging teacher, Tindall is one of the nation’s most distinguished historians. Born in Greenville on February 26, 1921, Tindall developed a love of writing and current events at an early age. A self-described “newspaper junkie and current events buff,” he graduated from Greenville High School in 1938. As an undergraduate at Furman University, Tindall coedited the Echo, the student literary magazine, and he also authored a column on world events that appeared in the school newspaper. After graduating from Furman in 1942 with a degree in English, Tindall enlisted in the U.S. Air Force, where he served in the Pacific theater.
On June 29, 1946, Tindall married a Furman classmate, Blossom McGarrity of Charleston. The marriage produced two children. Soon after his marriage, he enrolled as a graduate student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He received a doctoral degree in history in 1951. During a teaching career that would span more than forty years, Tindall served on the faculties at Eastern Kentucky State College, the University of Mississippi, and Louisiana State University. He joined the history department at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1958 and remained there until retiring in 1990.
Tindall’s first book, South Carolina Negroes, 1877–1900, was published in 1952 by the University of South Carolina Press. It details the living conditions among South Carolina blacks after Reconstruction. The book served as an important source for C. Vann Woodward’s pathbreaking study The Strange Career of Jim Crow (1955). In 1957 he was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship. He was a member of the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton in 1963–1964, a Fulbright Guest Professor at the University of Vienna in 1967–1968, and a fellow at the Institute for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford in 1979–1980.
The Emergence of the New South, 1913–1945, published in 1967 by Louisiana State University Press, is Tindall’s signature work. A magisterial study more than seven hundred pages in length, the book analyzes the South’s struggle to adapt to a rapidly changing world during the years between the two world wars. The Emergence of the New South is remarkable for its balance, grace, and objectivity. It was awarded the first Lillian Smith Book Award, named for the Georgia writer known for her outspoken views against segregation, and it received the Charles Sydnor Award from the Southern Historical Association. Tindall’s growing stature led the Southern Historical Association to elect him as its president in 1973.
Throughout the 1970s Tindall lectured widely and authored several important books, including The Disruption of the Solid South (1972), The Persistent Tradition in New South Politics (1975), and The Ethnic Southerner, a collection of essays published in 1976. In 1984 he completed America: A Narrative History, a distinctive survey textbook featuring a seamless narrative written by a single author. America quickly became one of the most popular American history textbooks. Tindall lives in Chapel Hill and remains active as a visiting lecturer and a lucid writer.
Ashmore, Susan Youngblood. “Continuity and Change: George Brown Tindall and the Post-Reconstruction South.” In Reading Southern History: Essays on Interpreters and Interpretations, edited by Glenn Feldman. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 2001.
Carter, Dan T. “Introduction: The Adaptable South.” In The Adaptable South: Essays in Honor of George Brown Tindall, edited by Elizabeth Jacoway et al. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1991.