Paul Renfro

Assistant Professor of History
Paul Renfro

Contact Information

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. 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 in 2018, he served as a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Center for Presidential History at Southern Methodist University in Dallas.

His book, Stranger Danger: Family Values, Childhood, and the American Carceral State (Oxford University Press, 2020), reveals how a moral panic focused on child kidnapping and exploitation gripped the United States beginning in the late 1970s. Stranger Danger demonstrates how this panic—fueled by bereaved parents, politicians from across the political spectrum, and news media entities—led to the development of punitive and expansive new laws, programs, and practices designed to protect children from dangerous "strangers."

Renfro's coedited anthology, Growing Up America: Youth and Politics since 1945 (University of Georgia Press, 2019), considers the significance of childhood and youth in recent American political history. He has also published in Feminist StudiesSouthern CulturesEnterprise & Society, and Disability Studies Quarterly. Renfro's public writing has appeared in TIME, the Washington Post, the New RepublicSlateDissent, Teen Vogue, and other outlets, and he has been interviewed for stories in ELLEJezebelThe Appeal, and Mother Jones. Tentatively titled Young Blood: Ryan White and AIDS, Renfro's next book is under advance contract with the University of North Carolina Press.

Spring 2023—The United States since 1877 (AMH 2020); Graduate Colloquium: The United States since 1968 (HIS 6934)

Research Interests

Post-1945 US, Political and Cultural History, Gender/Sexuality, the Carceral State, Childhood and the Family


Stranger Danger: Family Values, Childhood and the American Carceral State

Beginning with Etan Patz's disappearance in Manhattan in 1979, a spate of high-profile cases of missing and murdered children stoked anxieties about the threats of child kidnapping and exploitation.

Growing Up America: Youth and Politics since 1945

Growing Up America brings together new scholarship that considers the role of children and teenagers in shaping American political life during the decades following the Second World War.