Michael Phillips is a scholar of American race relations, Texas history, right-wing politics, and apocalyptic religions.
Phillips grew up in Garland, Texas. An award-winning reporter for the student newspaper The Shorthorn, he received a journalism degree from the University of Texas at Arlington in 1983. He worked at various newspapers in North Texas in the 1980s, including the Cleburne Times-Review, the Mesquite News, the Arlington Citizen-Journal, the Dallas Observer, and the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. At the Citizen-Journal, he won an award for his coverage of the Arlington School district. He also covered sports, entertainment, and the Fort Worth Police Department during his journalism career.
After earning his master’s degree in history from the University of California at Riverside in 1994, he received his Ph.D. from the University of Texas at Austin in 2002. His dissertation, The Fire This Time: The Battle Over Racial, Regional, and Religious Identities in Dallas, Texas, 1860-1990, won the University of Texas at Austin History Department Barnes D. Lathrop Prize for Best Dissertation for 2001-2002 and the University of Texas at Austin Outstanding Dissertation Award,
His revised dissertation, White Metropolis: Race, Ethnicity and Religion in Dallas, 1841-2001, was published by the University of Texas Press in 2006 and won the 2007 Texas Historical Commission’s prize for best book on Texas history.
Phillips later worked for the Center for American History in Austin and while there co-authored (with Patrick Cox), The House Will Come to Order: How the Texas Speaker Became a Power in State and National Politics, which was published in 2010
His published essays include “Why Is Big Tex Still a White Cowboy? Race, Gender, and the ‘Other Texans’” in Walter Buenger and Arnoldo de León, eds., Beyond Texas Through Time: Breaking Away From Past Interpretations (2011); “‘The Current is Stronger’: Images of Racial Oppression and Resistance in North Texas Black Art During the 1920s and 1930s ” in Bruce A. Glasrud and Cary D. Wintz, eds., The Harlem Renaissance in the West: The New Negroes’ Western Experience (2011); and “‘Texan by Color: The Racialization of the Lone Star State,” in David Cullen and Kyle Wilkison, eds., The Texas Right: The Radical Roots of Lone Star Conservatism (2014)
Phillips has taught classes on American and Texas history, race relations, right-wing movements, the American counterculture since World War II, and on the evolution of journalism from colonial times to the modern era. Since 2007, he has taught American history at Collin College in Plano, Texas.
He is currently collaborating, with his wife Betsy Friauf on two books. One, God Carved in Night: Black Intellectuals in Texas, The World They Lived In and the World They Made, will explore the black philosophy of education in Texas from the time of slavery to the late twentieth century. The other, Hell Painted in White: Racism and Eugenics in Texas Schools, 1880-2014, will describe how white supremacist ideology was taught in Texas schools from kindergarten to graduate school throughout the 20th century. The latter book will focus in part on the rise and ultimate failure of the Texas’ eugenics movement, which aimed to “scientifically” breed racially superior humans.