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Charles Irons - Elon University. Elon, NC, US

Charles Irons Charles Irons

Professor and Chair of the Department of History and Geography | Elon University


Charles Irons writes about race and religion in the 19th century United States and leads the Committee on Elon History and Memory.


In his scholarship, Charles Irons explores questions surrounding religion, race, and citizenship in the 19th century United States. For instance, he delved into the changing theological arguments that whites used to justify slavery in his book, "The Origins of Proslavery Christianity: White and Black Evangelicals in Colonial and Antebellum Virginia." He is currently studying the segregation of black and white churches in the South in the post-Civil War era and the ways in which white Protestants enshrined white supremacy in their faith and practice.

At Elon, Irons leads the Committee on Elon History and Memory. He and other members of the group hope to examine the institution's history in a transparent, participatory and intellectually rigorous manner, and to try to tell Elon’s story in a manner consistent with its values.

Areas of Expertise (5)

Race Culture and Ethnicity

Race and Religion

Nineteenth Century US History

Race, History, and Memory

Racial Justice Through History



Charles Irons Publication



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Elon Talks: Charles Irons Stuff Happens... Stories of Change, Transition, and Transformation | Charles Irons Faith and Modern Politics - Religion and Politics in 21st Century America


Education (3)

University of Virginia: Ph.D., American History

University of Virginia: M.A., American History

University of Virginia: B.A., American History

Media Appearances (6)

Wake Forest, Elon reviewed old yearbooks for racist images. Here’s what they found

The News & Observer  online


Charles Irons, chair of the committee, said “a possible redemptive storyline in the barrage of shocking images we have seen this week ... is that they may strengthen the community’s resolve to address enduring patterns of anti-black racism and other forms of discrimination,” according to the post.

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In North Carolina County, Strong Support for Confederate Statue

Reuters  online


"The Alamance County statue appears to be fairly archetypal," said Charles Irons, a history professor at Elon University. "To pretend that this monument erected by private, white-only dollars actually represented the sentiments of all citizens of the county is self evidently not true."

But many local residents in the county, which is 75 percent white, favor keeping such statues. That is in line with national polling on the issue.

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Forum examines race relations in Alamance County

The Burlington Times-News  online


ABOUT ONE-THIRD of the families in Alamance County owned about 3,400 slaves before the Civil War, Elon University Professor Charles Irons said.

“That’s a pretty deep distribution of slave ownership,” Irons said.

There is debate about how united people in Alamance County were regarding the Confederate war effort. Resistance groups opposed the effort, and residents voted to oppose succession, he said. Yet two-thirds of eligible men served in the Confederate Army.

“Slavery was absolutely central to the Confederate war effort,” he said.

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Kathryn Lofton: 'But I’m Not Religious: Goldman Sachs, Oprah's Favorite Things & Other Resistant Subjects'

Elon University  online


Professor Charles Irons, chair of Elon University Department of History and Geography, calls Lofton a “peerless intellect” who, in addition to being a great scholar and writer, is a celebrated teacher.

Lofton won one of Yale’s top teaching awards in 2013.

“She is both brilliant, funny, and brilliantly funny,” Pennington said. “You won’t want to miss this.”

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Elon University professor Charles Irons looks to answer history’s critical questions

Joshua Markowitz  online


For Irons, the importance he places on Southern history comes from one particular place. “Most earnest white children from the South at some point ask themselves how can a deeply Christian area have participated in the systemic discrimination of people of color,” he said.

The social problems evident in the South’s past are what attracted him to the subject. As with most history that is deeply political in nature, the history of the South is filled with power struggles and Irons wanted to understand those struggles. However, the conflicts of race, both before and after the Civil War, have such an importance behind them that they came to dominate his study.

“Most earnest white children from the South at some point ask themselves how can a deeply Christian area have participated in the systemic discrimination of people of color.”

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Acclaimed historian advocates for the liberal arts

Elon University  online


“He has an amazing capacity to harness the power of technology to ask questions we care about,” Associate Professor Charles Irons, who studied under Ayers while a doctoral candidate at the University of Virginia, said in his introductory remarks. “He is inspirational and collaborative ... and he excels in every theater of life in which he is engaged.”

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