U.S. Historian Woodward Dies

C. Vann Woodward, a Pulitzer Prize-winning historian who chronicled the South and America's attitudes about race, has died. He was 91.

Woodward, who retired in 1977 from a distinguished professorship at Yale University, died Friday at his home in Camden, said Tom Conroy, a spokesman at the university.

Conroy said Saturday he did not know the cause of death.

Woodward's work reflected his belief that history was colored by the people writing it and by their beliefs, prejudices, viewpoints and special purposes.

"The past is alterable to conform with present convenience, with party line, with mass prejudice, or with the ambitions of powerful popular leaders," he wrote in a paper titled "American Attitudes Toward History."

One of his most widely read books was The Strange Career of Jim Crow, in which he marshaled evidence that the segregated lifestyle he knew as a youth was then only a few decades old dating only from the 1880s.

Publication of that book in 1955, a year after the Supreme Court's ruling that required desegregation of schools, helped counter arguments that the ruling would destroy a way of life in the South that had been established for centuries.

The Encyclopaedia Britannica online edition calls Woodward "the leading interpreter of the post-Civil War history of the American South."

In 1999, a panel of judges organized by the Modern Library, a book publisher, picked The Strange Career of Jim Crow as No. 70 on its list of the century's 100 best English-language works of nonfiction.

Woodward won the Pulitzer Prize for history in 1982 for a book he edited, Mary Chesnut's Civil War, an account of the conflict drawn from the letters of a Southern woman.

He was the author of many books used widely as course texts by professors and teachers of history across the country, and also published scores of papers in scholarly journals.