Tyina Steptoe

About Tyina Steptoe

I write and teach about race, gender, and culture in the United States. My book, Houston Bound: Culture and Color in a Jim Crow City, received the Kenneth Jackson Award for Best Book of 2016 (North American) from the Urban History Association, the 2017 W. Jackson Turrentine Book Prize from the Western History Association, and the 2017 Julia Ideson Award from the Friends of the Texas Room (Houston Metropolitan Research Center). Houston Bound shows how, despite the existence of Jim Crow laws that created a black/white racial binary, converging migrations to Houston—particularly those of ethnic Mexicans and Creoles of color—complicated ideas of blackness and whiteness and introduced different understandings about race between the 1920s and 1960s. The book also uses music to examine these racial complexities, tracing the emergence of Houston's blues and jazz scenes as well as the hybrid forms of these genres that arose when migrants forged shared social space and carved out new communities and politics.

My latest project explores the history of sexuality and gender in popular music. An article on Willie Mae "Big Mama" Thornton and Little Richard appeared in the March 2018 issue of the American Quarterly.

I am also committed to academic work that reaches beyond the walls of the university. I served as a historical advisor on the television show Who Do You Think You Are, appearing on a 2016 episode that featured TV personality Aisha Tyler. While in graduate school at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, I helped organize a special summer course, “The Santa Fe Trail: In Search of the Multiracial West,” that took thirty-five undergraduate and graduate students on a two-week bus trip from Wisconsin to the Southwest in 2005.

Regular Courses:

HIST 150: U.S. Society and Institutions Since 1877

HIST 231: Music and Ethnic America

HIST 348: The South Since the Civil War

HIST 452/552: American Ethnic History

HIST 498: Music and Society (senior capstone seminar)

HIST 695: U.S. Urban History


Ph.D., University of Wisconsin-Madison, Dept. of History, 2008

M.A., University of Wisconsin-MadisonDept. of Afro-American Studies, 2002

B.S., The University of Texas at Austin, Dept. of Radio-Television-Film, 1999

B.A., The University of Texas at Austin, Dept. of History, 1999

Areas of Study

United States History, African American History, Comparative Histories of Race and Ethnicity, Cultural History, Music

Selected Publications

Houston Bound: Culture and Color in a Jim Crow City (Oakland: University of California Press, 2016)

“Big Mama Thornton, Little Richard, and the Queer Roots of Rock ’n’ Roll,” American Quarterly 70.1 (March 2018): 55-77.

“‘Jody’s Got Your Girl and Gone’: Gender, Folklore, and the Black Working Class,”Journal of African American History 99, Vol. 3 (Summer 2014): pp. 251-274.

        *Honorable mention, 2015 Letitia Woods Article Prize, Association of Black Women Historians

        *Honorable mention, 2015 Elli Köngäs-Maranda Professional Prize, American Folklore Society

“Jazz, Migration, and Community in Interwar Houston,” Journal of the West 53, no. 3 (2014): 42-50.

“An Ode to Country Music from a Black Dixie Chick,” The Oxford American, no. 54  (2006):pp. 26-7. Reprinted in The Presence of Others: Voices and Images That Call for Response, 5th Edition, (NY: Bedford/St. Martin's, 2008).

Research Interests

Comparative History of Race and Ethnicity; African American History; Gender and Sexuality; 19th- and 20th-century U.S.; Music and Society; U.S. South; U.S. West; Folklore

Tyina Steptoe's picture

Contact Information

Tyina Steptoe
Associate Professor
Office: Chávez 319D
Office Hours: Thursday 10:00 am - 12:00 pm
College of Social and Behavioral Sciences

Contact Us

Department of History
César E. Chávez Bldg.
Main Office, Room 415 
1110 James E. Rogers Way
Tucson, AZ 85721

Email: history@email.arizona.edu
Tel: (520) 621-1586
Fax: (520) 621-2422