Professor Brought Atlanta History to Life
By Kimber Williams
Longtime Emory educator and acclaimed Atlanta historian Dana F. White, Goodrich C. White Professor Emeritus in the Institute for the Liberal Arts (ILA), died November 24, 2016, following a pedestrian-automobile accident.
An urban historian and professor of American studies, White, eighty-two, worked at Emory for nearly fifty years as a teacher, scholar, and administrator. Though he retired from the classroom in 2011, he continued to serve as consulting curator with the Stuart A. Rose Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library.
Much of his scholarship focused on Atlanta’s cultural and civic evolution throughout the twentieth century. White was widely known for his work as cocreator—along with Tim Crimmins—of the award-winning eight-part documentary series The Making of Modern Atlanta, which examined the city from 1940 to 1990.
White is remembered as a caring and influential teacher and mentor and an impassioned interdisciplinary scholar. A New York City native, White earned a bachelor’s degree from Fordham University, a master’s degree from the University of Wyoming, and a doctorate from George Washington University. He became recognized as a leading authority on Atlanta history, writing extensively about the city and often using it as a laboratory for his graduate and undergraduate courses.
While at Emory, White twice served as director of the Graduate Institute for the Liberal Arts, now the ILA. At the time of his death, he was working with Emory film historian and professor Matthew H. Bernstein on the history of movie culture and cinema in segregated Atlanta.
“Dana was an extraordinarily unique person. He was keenly interested in everything and everyone,” says Bernstein, adding that White was always concerned with how students were doing both academically and personally. “Dana wanted to know their stories and their struggles. And he was always very generous with them, very understanding.”
After retiring from the classroom, White remained involved with the Rose Library. “Dana helped us understand that Atlanta has a deep, rich, and diverse history, that there were stories behind every neighborhood, every gathering,” says Director Rosemary M. Magee 82PhD. “He brought those stories to a new level of visibility to us, which is the mission of the archive—to take historic documents and moments and give them meaning and texture in our lives.”