Spotlight on the Humanities | MHC Award Recipient Dr. Diane Mutti Burke

Mutti-BurkeDr. Mutti Burke was awarded the Distinguished Literary Achievement award by the Missouri Humanities Council in May of 2015.  To learn more about the annual Humanities Awards, click here.



Dr. Diane Mutti Burke is an accomplished author and researcher who is passionate about the history of this region. Her interests lie in sharing the history of Missouri slavery with students and public audiences.  About her work, Dr. Mutti Burke says, “I have spent my professional career exploring the intriguing, but sometimes problematic, history of this region. I believe that it is essential to gain a fuller understanding of our past in order to tackle the many challenging issues that we face today.”

On Slavery’s Border won the Missouri Conference on History’s book award in 2010. Thavolia Glymph from Duke University said, “As historians turn increasingly to the global and transnational dimensions of American slavery, On Slavery’s Border reminds us of the continued importance of the local.”  The Kansas City Star listed her book Bleeding Kansas, Bleeding Missouri as one of the top history books of 2013. It was also honored as a Kansas Notable Book of 2014. Kenneth Winkle of University of Nebraska said this work was “gripping, authoritative, and eye-opening.”

In addition to these two books, Dr. Mutti Burke has written a number of articles about slavery, women, and the Civil War in Missouri, including a recent article entitled, “Scattered People: The Long History of Forced Eviction in the Kansas-Missouri Borderlands,” which will be included in a volume on the Civil War in the West published by the University of California Press.

Dr. Mutti Burke isan Associate Professor of History and the Director of the Center for Midwestern Studies at the University of Missouri – Kansas City. As an educator, she brings her research on the history of this region to the classroom with courses on the Civil War, the U.S. South, and U.S. Women’s History as well as a new course on the Civil War history of the Missouri/Kansas border region.  She has mentored many undergraduate and graduate students researching the history of this region.

“I have found that students are inherently interested in learning about the place in which they live.  Whether I am teaching U.S. History, the Civil War, the American South, or U.S. Women’s History, I frequently bring local history and my own research into the classroom.  But, as much as students have learned from me, I have learned from them as they have pursued their own research on the history of their community and region,” she reflected.

Her efforts extend into the K-12 classroom, too, where she works with area students on History Day projects and has participated in training sessions for local middle and high school teachers through a number of Department of Education Teaching American History Grants.

It is her work in the development and direction of a National Endowment for the Humanities’ Landmarks of American History and Culture workshop called “Crossroads of Conflict: Contested Visions of Freedom and the Missouri/Kansas Border Wars” that is her greatest contribution to the enhancement of K-12 students’ and teachers’ knowledge of this region’s history.  The NEH has funded the program for four summers, each time bringing 80 teachers from throughout the nation to UMKC to attend two, week-long workshops about the Kansas and Missouri Border Wars.

Her commitment to education, to public history, and to excellence in scholarship marks her as a stellar contributor to the history of our state.  Dr. Mutti Burke said sheis “deeply committed to bringing the fascinating history of this state to a larger scholarly and public audience—a mission that is shared by the MHC.”

Born and raised in Kansas City, Missouri, Dr. Mutti Burke graduated from Oak Park High School before earning her Bachelor’s from Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire, and her Master’s and Doctorate from Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia.  She has been employed at the University of Missouri-Kansas City since 2004.  Dr. Mutti Burke has dedicated her professional career to researching and writing about the Civil War era history of this region, writing and editing a number of books and articles about slavery, women, and the Civil War.

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