Emeritus professor wins statewide book award

Kenneth Barnes ’77, a University of Central Arkansas emeritus professor of history, recently won the 2022 J.G. Ragsdale Book Award from the Arkansas Historical Association.

Kenneth Barnes receives the J.G. Ragsdale Book Award from UCA associate professor Story Matkin-Rawn

Dr. Story Matkin-Rawn (right), associate professor of history at UCA and president of the Arkansas Historical Association, presents the 2022 J.G. Ragsdale Book Award to Dr. Kenneth Barnes, UCA emeritus professor of history and a UCA alumnus.

Barnes earned the award for his book “The Ku Klux Klan in 1920s Arkansas: How Protestant White Nationalism Came to Rule a State.” The award is given each year to the best book about Arkansas history.

“I am very grateful to have won the award, for there were a number of really good books published on Arkansas history this last year by some fine historians and other authors,” Barnes said. “It was a pretty grim experience to write about racism, religious hatred and prejudice against immigrants in my home state in the 1920s. Hopefully the book can encourage readers to reflect on similar language that we hear today.”

This year marked Barnes’ third Ragsdale win, having claimed the honor in both 2005 and 2017. In 2017, he was recognized for his book “Anti-Catholicism in Arkansas: How Politicians, the Press, the Klan, and Religious Leaders Imagined an Enemy, 1910–1960.” In 2005, he was chosen as a co-winner of the award for his book “Journey of Hope: Black Migration From Arkansas to Liberia in the Late 1800s.”

Barnes also picked up the Lucille Westbrook Award from the AHA in 2017, which is given to the best article on a subject of local Arkansas history. And in 2021, he was presented with the Arkansas Historical Association’s Lifetime Achievement Award for his “extraordinary contribution to scholarship.”

Barnes earned Professor Emeritus status in 2021 after retiring with almost 30 years of service to UCA. He joined the UCA faculty as an assistant professor in 1992 before eventually serving as chair of the Department of History from 2006 to 2014. He won the UCA Teaching Excellence Award in 1999 and earned the Outstanding Faculty Award for the College of Liberal Arts in 2001.

Barnes received an undergraduate degree in history from UCA in 1977 before completing his master’s degree in European history at the University of East Anglia in 1978. He earned his Ph.D. in history from Duke University in 1985.

By Philip Allison