Frederickson was a powerful force in reshaping historical views of the Civil War and race relations in the United States. He helped invent the field of comparative history through his seminal work White Supremacy: A Comparative Study of American and South African History, which was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. Few, if any, other historians have so imaginatively used a comparative approach to racism in America.
"George Fredrickson was an incredible scholar. The cope and depth of his knowledge was breathtaking," said Hazel Rose Markus, the Davis-Brack Professor in the Behavioral Sciences. "Even in a brief conversation with hi,m non-historians immediately understood how today was composed of the past and everyone knew they needed to know more.
"Most significantly, his work has changed the way historians and social scientists think about race. George Fredrickson has helped us understand race as a dynamic system of attitudes and institutionalized practices. This system is rooted in a belief in white supremacy, and it persistently shapes societies and individuals."
"He was a pioneer," Ariela Gross, a professor of law and history at USC who studied for her doctorate under Fredrickson, said this week. "He published 'White Supremacy' at a time when most people studying slavery in the United States were doing groundbreaking work but very locally focused, looking at the social history of the U.S. . . . Now everybody is writing about slavery from an Atlantic perspective. Everyone is doing comparative and transnational work, 25 years later."
I am convinced that the few who have a genuine interest in ideas and a powerful urge to find meaning and coherence in their experience are able to tell us more about a crisis of values, with its inevitable confusion and ambivalence, than the many who avoid difficult issues and are content to speak in outdated clichés.