Saint Xavier University Chicago Campus

History and Political Science Faculty

Karen Benjamin

benjaminAssociate Professor of History, Social Science Education Coordinator


Areas of Specialization

U.S. History; U.S. South; Race; Education; Urban/Suburban Development


The past is never dead. It's not even past.
-William Faulkner

Karen Benjamin is an associate professor of history and the coordinator of the social science education program at Saint Xavier University. She graduated with a Ph.D. in History and in Educational Policy Studies from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in the spring of 2007. Her research and teaching interests include twentieth-century U.S. history, the historical construction of race, the history of American education, and the history of the U.S. South. She received a National Academy of Education/Spencer Postdoctoral Fellowship in 2010 and Spencer Foundation Small Research Grants in 2013 and 2017 to support her current book project, Segregation Built to Last: Schools and the Construction of Segregated Housing Patterns in the New South.

Her research analyzes the relationship between the school construction boom of the 1920s and the development of residential segregation in southern cities, with a focus on Atlanta, Houston, and Raleigh. She argues that during the early twentieth century, southern school boards and local planning commissions used school site selection to create residential segregation in cities where mixed-race housing patterns had been prevalent. This research project developed from a case study of a 1920s school building program in Raleigh, North Carolina, which continues to influence residential patterns in that city. Her article on this topic appeared in a special issue of the Journal of Urban History (Spring 2012) that examines the broader connections between schooling and suburbanization in the United States. Her chapter "Authority, Race and District-Level Reform: Curriculum Experimentation in the Segregated South, 1925-1935," will appear in the forthcoming book The Shifting Landscape of the American School District (Peter Lang, 2018).

Courses Taught

Selected Honors

Selected Publications

"Authority, Race and District-Level Reform: Curriculum Experimentation in the Segregated South, 1925-1935," in The Shifting Landscape of the American School District, edited by David Gamson. New York: Peter Lang, forthcoming in 2018.

"Suburbanizing Jim Crow: The Impact of School Policy on Residential Segregation in Raleigh" Journal of Urban History 30, no. 2 (March 2012): 225-246.