Professor Stephen O'Neill

Stephen O'Neill '84

Professor, History

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Steve O’Neill is a native of Charleston, South Carolina. He studied with scholar and activist Paul Gaston at the University of Virginia. O’Neill’s scholarly focus is the American South, South Carolina history, and public history. He has served as a consultant in fields of museum and exhibit design, organized conferences designed for the general public, and is interested in how ordinary southerners make sense of their past. He has worked to help his students and the public understand the Civil Rights Movement in South Carolina and the way that the weight of the past is borne by the present generation, whether the present generation realizes it or not. He led a committee at Furman to commemorate the 50th anniversary of desegregation at the university, and has been appointed the lead writer on the Abraham Project.


  • Summer Research Fellow, Institute for Southern Studies, University of South Carolina, 1995.
  • Faculty Invitation Award for Teaching (selected by the Student League for Black Culture), 1991-1992.
  • Mayo Prize (for best work in American history published in Essays in History), 1987.
  • Governor's Fellowship, University of Virginia, 1985-86, 1986-87.
  • National Merit Scholar, 1982.


  • Ph.D., University of Virginia
  • M.A., University of Virginia
  • B.A., Furman University


Selected Publications

  • "The Never-Ending Conflict: The 150th Anniversary of the Civil War," Furman Magazine, 2011.
  • "Memory, History, and the Desegregation of Greenville, South Carolina" in Toward 'The Meeting of the Waters': Currents in the History of the Civil Rights Movement in South Carolina during the Twentieth Century, edited by Winfred B. Moore and Orville Vernon Burton, 286-299 (University of South Carolina Press, 2008).
  • "To Endure, But Not Accept: The News and Courier and School Desegregation," Proceedings of the South Carolina Historical Association(1990): 87-94
  • "The Road to Reaction: White Charlestonians' Attitudes Toward Slavery, 1776-1806," Essays in History (1987).
  • "The Struggle for Black Equality Comes to Charleston: The Hospital Strike of 1969," Proceedings of the South Carolina Historical Association (1986): 30-40.

Selected Presentations and Public History Activities

  • "Freedom-of-Choice, Grace and Style, and other Misnomers in Greenville's Long Ordeal of School Desegregation," History After Dark Address, Upcountry History Museum, 2014.
  • Chair and commentator, "Southern Student Activism Mediated," at the conference Student Activism, Southern Style: Organizing and Protest and the 1960s and 70s, University of South Carolina, Columbia, 2010.
  • Co-director, "Our Past before Us: The Search for the South Carolina Upcountry," an interdisciplinary scholarly conference aimed at a general audience, co-sponsored by Clemson and Furman Universities, 2007, funded by a South Carolina Humanities Council Grant.
  • Moderator for "The Civil Rights Years in Greenville: A Retrospective through the Eyes of Participants," a panel discussion among leaders in the Greenville Civil Rights Movement, Greenville County Library, 2007.
  • Historian for the Design of the Upcountry History Museum permanent exhibits, Greenville, SC, 2004-2007.
  • "Redeeming the Reedy River: Then and Now," opening address for "From Floodplains to Greenways" symposium on creating parks along river corridors, Younts Center, 2006.
  • "The North American Dilemma: The Civil Rights Movement and the Liberal Tradition," public lecture, National University of El Salvador, San Salvador, 2005.
  • "Arteries of Industry: A History of the Reedy and the Saluda Rivers," plenary address, South Carolina Humanities Festival, 2005
  • "Soil Erosion in the South Carolina Piedmont," presentation at Dealing With Dirt Conference, 2004.
  • "Facing Facts: The 'Voluntary' Desegregation of Greenville, S.C.", a paper delivered at the Citadel Conference on Civil Rights, 2003.
  • Panel discussant, "Internships and the Making of a Museum," National Association of Experiential Education Conference, Las Vegas, NV, 2002.
  • Designer and Fabricator of "Civil Rights in Greenville," an exhibition at the Greenville Cultural Exchange Center, 1999-2001.
  • "Civil Rights and Municipal Politics in Charleston, South Carolina," invited talk delivered at University of South Carolina's Institute for Southern Studies, 1996.
  • Chair and commentator, "The Civil Rights Movement and National Institutions in the South" at meeting of Association for the Study of Afro-American Life and History, Charleston, S.C., 1996.
  • "Beneath But Beyond the NAACP: Grass Roots Organizing in the Civil Rights Movement," Convocation at Tusculum College for Black History Month, 1995.
  • "Martin Luther King: The Man Behind the Myth," Convocation at Furman University, 1994.