Skip to main content

seth kotch looks like this

Associate Professor and Director, Southern Oral History Program

Contact Information

Greenlaw Hall 226, CB #3520
University of North Carolina
Chapel Hill, NC 27599-3520


Ph.D. History, University of North Carolina, 2009.
B.A. History, Columbia University, 2001.

Research Interests

Seth Kotch, associate professor, conducts research in modern American history (specifically the social history of criminal justice). Seth also directs the Southern Oral History Program.

His book, Lethal State, was published by UNC Press in February 2019. Lethal State explores the history of the death penalty in North Carolina from its colonial origins; to its use during Reconstruction, Redemption, and Jim Crow; to its relationship to lynching; to its decline in the 1940s and 1950s; and to its resurgence in the 1970s as part of the backlash against the civil rights movement.

His digital projects include “A Red Record,” a student-driven project exploring lynching and its victims in the American South.

He is the Principal Investigator of the LDF Oral History Project, a partnership with the NAACP LDF, Inc., to document that organization’s history of civil rights advocacy. He served as Co-Principal Investigator of “Media and the Movement,” a project sponsored by the National Endowment for the Humanities that sought to understand the role of journalists and the media in the civil rights movement during and after the 1960s. He served as PI and Project Supervisor on the Civil Rights History Project, a nationwide oral history research endeavor administered by the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture and the American Folklife Center in the Library of Congress.

Notable Publications

Lethal State: A History of the Death Penalty in North Carolina (UNC Press, 2019)

“The Making of the Modern Death Penalty in Jim Crow North Carolina,” in Amy L. Wood and Natalie J. Ring, eds. Crime and Punishment in the Jim Crow South (U of Illinois Press, 2019)

The Racial Justice Act and the Long Struggle with Race and the Death Penalty in North Carolina,” North Carolina Law Review (2010)

Courses Taught

AMST 202: Historical Approaches to American Studies
AMST 89: Dope: A History of America’s War on Drugs (First Year Seminar)
AMST 89: Introduction to Digital Humanities
AMST 210: This Place Called the South
AMST 278: Crimes and Punishments
AMST 714: Incarceration in America
AMST 840: Digital American Studies
AMST 850: Digital Humanities Practicum
HIST 128: US History since 1865 (Warren Correctional Institution, Johnston Correctional Institution)
AMST 101: The Emergence of Modern America (Polk Correctional Institution)