March 26, 2019  

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Expert on History of Cotton Industry to Present at University Forum

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Gene Dattel

An historian whose compelling book on how the cotton industry shaped America’s economy and culture will be the guest presenter at the next University of Southern MississippiUniversity Forum Tuesday, March 1 at 6:30 p.m. in Stout Hall B.  Admission is free.

Gene Dattel, a native of Ruleville, Miss. and the author “Cotton and Race in the Making of America: The Human Costs of Economic Power” will present the lecture “Today's Legacies: Cotton and Race in the Making of America.” His background includes 20 years of work in the financial world, 15 of which were overseas including in London, Hong Kong, and Tokyo.

Dattel argues that cotton was the single most important determinate of American history in the 19th century. He says that the “economic tornado” that was cotton prolonged slavery and slave-produced cotton caused the American Civil War.

“We live with the myths and realities of the legacy of cotton,” Dattel said. “As important, the treatment of free blacks in the antebellum North is the key to understanding the destiny of African Americans after emancipation up to the present.”

“This is a story about America, not just the South; it is a story about race, not just slavery. The power of cotton was comparable to the power of oil today.”

According to Dattel, cotton was the first sophisticated global business. As such, the cotton world provides a great case study of international business, politics, and social consequences. He believes his knowledge of cotton was the platform for his successful career as an international banker and author.

As an independent scholar, he maintains an involvement with scholarly pursuits outside the university.
"Gene expands the tragic implications of cotton and race to reveal that the evils attendant upon racial oppression constitute the tragic price that not just the South or even America, but the whole of Western society paid, and continues to pay, for its remarkable economical development," said Dr. Bo Morgan, Southern Miss University Historian.

The University Forum series is presented each fall and spring semester by the Southern Miss Honors College. For more information, call the Honors College at 601.266.4533.