Dr. Joseph Pearson

Assistant Professor: History

Contact Info

(606) 546-1461
3103 Sharp Academic Center
Campus PO Box
CPO 890


Ph.D – University of Alabama, 2015
MA – University of Alabama, 2010
BA – University of Kentucky, 2008

After six years of honorable service with the United States Marines, Joseph W. Pearson got his Baccalaureate degree (History, with a Political Science Minor) from the University of Kentucky, and his graduate degrees in History from the University of Alabama. Teaching and research are his twin professional passions. Before coming to Union College, Dr. Pearson taught a variety of adjunct courses at Alabama covering American history, the ancient world, the American South, and the intersection of morality and science in modern life. And in 2015 he won Union’s Excellence in Research Award. Dr. Pearson is a huge fan of bluegrass music and southern rock, the outdoors, and the Cincinnati Reds. He adores his lovely wife and four children.


  • HUMN 213 – Roots of Modernity (Every semester)


  • HIST 301 – Readings in American History
  • HIST 311 – American History to 1848
  • HIST 431 – American Revolutionary Era, 1769-1789 (Alternating)
  • HIST 441 – Civil War and Reconstruction (Alternating)


  • HIST 475 – Special Topics*
  • HIST 312 – American History, 1848-1919 (Alternating)
  • HIST 313 – Twentieth-Century America (Alternating)
  • HIST 408 – American Religion and Society (Alternating)
  • HIST 433 – History of Appalachia (Alternating)

* Recent and upcoming topics of study in HIST 475: American History: The Life of Abraham Lincoln, America and WWII, American Individualism, Tocqueville’s America, Cold War Era, Reconstruction and Jim Crow.       

He is also developing a 200-level course on Kentucky history to be offered every term beginning in the Fall of 2016.

Dr. Pearson is deeply committed to Union College’s community outreach efforts. He embraces service-learning projects in his classes and is on the coordinating committee for Union’s new Center for Civic Engagement. Dr. Pearson is also part of the Appalachian Studies Program, the planning committee for the Redbud Festival, the Appalachian Book Club at the Knox County Public Library, and is a faculty mentor for Union College Experience.


Prof. Pearson’s research is interdisciplinary, focusing on antebellum frontier communities and the construction of society through institutions such as the family, churches, schools, voluntary associations, and the state. His dissertation, “The Whig Promise: The Rise of Antebellum Middle-Class Political Culture” (University of Alabama, 2015) argued that antebellum American Whigs shared an observable middle-class worldview, and this perspective informed their politics, as well as their wider lives. “The Whig Promise” demonstrates that Whig political thought was built on middle-class values, geared toward the future, not the past, and that Whigs believed the state should support individuals’ and broader groups’ efforts to work together to achieve material prosperity, promote intellectual development, and prevent public disorder. While revising his dissertation for publication, Dr. Pearson is currently working on a book-length study of Kentucky’s Frontier and Antebellum Eras, applying many of the themes first explored in his dissertation to the context of community life on the ground in the Bluegrass State.

Spotlight on Student Research
Under Dr. Pearson’s direction, Union College Senior Heather Faith Welch (Class of 2016) is conducting an original research project on antebellum nativism and anti-Catholic rhetoric for presentation at a professional conference and possible eventual publication.


Select Publications and Recent Public Lectures

Peer-Reviewed Articles:

  • “Through a Glass, Darkly: Antebellum Whiggery, Catholicism, and the Ideological Roots of Nativism,” American and British Studies Annual, Vol. 7, 2014, pp. 108-19.
  • “The Dilemma of Dissent: Kentucky’s Whigs and the Mexican War,” Ohio Valley History, Vol. 12, No. 2 Summer 2012, pp. 24-47.
  • “William Gaston, the Borough Controversy, and North Carolina’s Changing Political Culture in the 1835 Constitutional Convention,” North Carolina Historical Review, Vol. LXXXVIII. October 2011, pp. 399-425.

Periodicals & Minor Papers:

  • “A Conversation With Dr. J. Mills Thornton,” Southern Historian Vol. 34 (Spring 2013), pp. 7-25.
  • “Becoming Alabama: Creek War” – Alabama Heritage, (Quarterly Column) 2010-2015, Tuscaloosa, AL.

Recent Public Lectures:

  • “The Bloody Monday Riots,” Local History Potluck, Clark County Public Library, Winchester, KY, July 23, 2015
  • “The Literary Discovery of Appalachia: Confession and Critique,” Corbin Rotary Club, Corbin, KY, December 11, 2014
  • “The Palladium of our Civil Liberty:" Common Schools, Education, and the Ideological Roots of American Whiggery,” at the Consortium on the Revolutionary Era, University of Mississippi, Oxford, MS, February 22, 2014
  • “Catholicism, Whiggery, and the Defense of Order in the Age of Individualism,” at the American Catholic Historical Association’s Spring Meeting, Stonehill College, North Easton, MA, April 5, 2013

Office Hours
Monday: 1-3 pm, Tuesday: 1:30-4:20 pm, Wednesday: 1-3 pm, Thursday: 1:30-4:20 pm, Friday: 8:30-9 am & 1-3 pm, Or by Appointment