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Jennifer Thornton

Teaching Assistant Professor

Teaching Fields

  • Public History


  • PhD, University of California, Riverside, 2018
  • MA, University of California, Riverside, 2012
  • BA, Grinnell College, 2002

Public History Projects

Dr. Jennifer Thornton is interested in preserving the buildings and places that speak to the diverse history of the United States. In addition to her training in history, she has a background in ethnography, archaeology, and cultural resource management. As a researcher for the consulting firm LSA Associates, she documented and evaluated diverse historic properties throughout Southern California, including Jewish agricultural sites, the cultural landscape of the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians Reservation, and industrial facilities in Los Angeles for SurveyLA. In addition to her work in historic preservation, she has conducted ethnographic fieldwork with the descendants of Welsh colonists in Patagonia and has carried out archaeological survey and excavations throughout Mesoamerica and the American Southwest. She worked as a cultural resource manager for the Cibola and Gila National Forests from 2004-2008, where she authored technical reports, wrote press releases, engaged in education and outreach programs, and oversaw volunteer projects. Her ethnographic and archaeological research has been published in Contemporary Wales and Latin American Antiquity.

Research Interests

Originally drawn to history by her love of storytelling, Dr. Thornton is passionate about connecting place-based, local histories to larger historical narratives. Her current research explores the intersections of race, place, and leisure in Southern California, tracing the history of African American migrants who settled in the early-twentieth century black homesteading community of Bell Mountain, California. In the 1930s through the 1950s, the community developed into a major leisure destination for African Americans, centering on western-themed activities at the black-owned Murray’s Dude Ranch. Bell Mountain offers a case study in the development of Black Nationalism in the Far West, and the transition to consumer-driven grass-roots activism during the mid-twentieth century.

Courses Offered

  • HIST 412: Introduction to Public History
  • HIST 489: Introduction to Historic Preservation
  • HIST 600: Cultural Resource Management
  • HIST 409/609: Field Methods in Historic Preservation
  • HIST 620: Practicum in Cultural Resource Management
  • HIST 613: Local History Research Methods


Research Articles

“Lithic Industry in a Maya Center: An Axe Workshop at El Pilar, Belize.” With John Whittaker et al. Latin American Antiquity 20, no. 1 (2009): 134-156.

“Perceptions of Welshness in Patagonia.” With Carol Trosset and Doug Caulkins. Contemporary Wales 19 (2007): 234-247.

Book reviews

“Review of Porous Borders: Multiracial Migrations and the Law in the U.S.-Mexico Borderlands (2017) by Julian Lim.” Journal of African American History, forthcoming.

“Review of Hoo-Doo Cowboys and Bronze Buckaroos: Conceptions of the African American West (2014) by Michael K. Johnson.” Journal of African American History 100, no. 3 (Summer 2015): 542-544.

Selected Cultural Resource Management Reports

“Historic Context Statement: SurveyLA Industrial Development.” With Tanya Sorrell et al. Prepared by LSA Associates, Inc., for the City of Los Angeles, 2011.

“Historical Resources Assessment: Kaiser Permanente – Panorama City.” With Tanya Sorrell. Prepared by LSA Associates, Inc., for the City of Los Angeles, 2011.

“Historical Resources Assessment: Norco Ranch Commerce Park.” With Casey Tibbet and Riordan Goodwin. Prepared by LSA Associates, Inc., for Clark Neuhoff, Alere Property Group, 2011.

Forest Service Heritage Report 2006-06-053A, “Bear Creek Site Inspections.” Gila National Forest, Silver City, New Mexico, 2007.

Forest Service Heritage Report 2007-06-071, “Erosion Control at Site AR-03-06-07-722/LA 132697.” Gila National Forest, Silver City, New Mexico, 2007.

Forest Service Heritage Report 2005-03-060, “Damage Assessment for Site AR-03-03-02-1643/LA 83624.” With Linda Popelish for the Cibola National Forest, Albuquerque, New Mexico, 2005.

“Excavations at Chiik Nah, A Maya Housemound at El Pilar, Belize.” With John Whittaker, Kathryn Kamp, Melissa Badillo, Zerifeh Eiley, and Alexander Woods for the Institute of Archaeology, Belmopan, Belize, 2002.