History PhD student Justin Randolph examines mass incarceration in rural South during 1960s civil rights movement

March 22, 2018

When Justin Randolph transferred from an Alabama community college to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, he thought he knew exactly what he would do with his life and his education.

I was going to become a physician,” he said with a chuckle. “Because that’s what you do when you’re a first-generation college student!”

A deep and abiding interest in history intervened, however. Randolph had always liked studying history, and he felt like he couldn’t avoid it in college. He fell in love especially with African-American history and the history of the civil rights movement.

Randolph knew he wanted to go on to graduate school and continue studying Southern history. He also knew, however, that he didn’t want to go straight on to graduate school without some experience outside of a university setting. He did a year of service with the AmeriCorps program City Year in Philadelphia, working with students at a public middle school.

For someone who struggled through school in his own way, it was great to be able to assist these students,” Randolph said. “And of course, working in a segregated, urban public school is its own dose of reality.”

Once at Yale, Randolph had the support of a strong American history program and began to undertake his own research in earnest. While doing archival research at the University of Southern Mississippi, he discovered a cache of documents relating to the activities of the Mississippi highway patrol during the civil rights movement.

Read the full article at Yale GSAS.