Paul Renfro

Assistant Professor of History
Paul Renfro

Contact Information

Office Location
461 BEL
Office Hours

Tuesdays, 1–3 p.m. (Fall 2019)

Paul Renfro studies the political and cultural history of the United States since 1945, with thematic interests in gender/sexuality, the carceral state, and childhood and the family. His book, Stranger Danger: Family Values, Childhood, and the American Carceral State, will be published by Oxford University Press in 2020. Renfro received his PhD in history from the University of Iowa, where he was a Louis Pelzer Dissertation Fellow. Before arriving at Florida State University, he was a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Center for Presidential History at Southern Methodist University in Dallas.

Stranger Danger explores the moral panic over child kidnapping and exploitation which erupted in the late 1970s and early 1980s. For many Americans, a slew of high-profile cases of missing and murdered children, publicized through an emergent twenty-four-hour news cycle, signaled “a national epidemic” of child abductions perpetrated by strangers. Some observers insisted that fifty thousand or more children fell victim to stranger kidnappings in any given year. (The actual figure was and remains somewhere between one hundred and three hundred.) The book demonstrates how racialized and sexualized fears of stranger abduction—stoked by politicians, the news media, bereaved parents, and the business sector—helped to underwrite broader transformations in US political culture and political economy. Specifically, the child kidnapping scare led to the development and expansion of sex offender registries, AMBER Alerts, and other mechanisms designed to safeguard young Americans from “stranger danger”—and to punish the “deviant” strangers who supposedly threatened them. Stranger Danger is slated for publication in June 2020.

Renfro is also the coeditor, with Susan Eckelmann Berghel (University of Tennessee at Chattanooga) and Sara Fieldston (Seton Hall University), of Growing Up America: Youth and Politics since 1945, an anthology that considers the significance of childhood and youth in recent American political history. Growing Up America is forthcoming from the University of Georgia Press in December 2019 and will include Renfro’s chapter, “Milk Carton Kids: Endangered Childhood and the Carceral State.” Renfro’s scholarship has also appeared in Enterprise & Society, Southern Cultures, Feminist Studies, and American Quarterly. His article, "This is Not Normal: Ability, Gender, and Age in the Resistance to Trumpism"—coauthored with Byrd McDaniel—appeared in the Spring 2019 issue of Disability Studies Quarterly (39, no. 2).

Renfro’s October 2018 review of the popular podcast Atlanta Monster can be found at this link. His June 2018 and March 2019 contributions to the Washington Post appear, respectively, here and here.


Spring 2020
A History of the United States since 1877 (AMH 2020)
The History of Your Life: The United States since 2000 (AMH 3930)

Fall 2019
The United States since 1945 (AMH 4270-1)

Spring 2019
A History of the United States since 1877 (AMH 2020-2)
Mass Incarceration and the Politics of Exclusion: Studies in United States History (AMH 3930-1)

Fall 2018
A History of the United States since 1877 (AMH 2020-3)
Sex since the Sixties: Studies in United States History (AMH 3930-1)