19th century United States History; Civil War and Reconstruction; Southern History; Gender and Sexuality; Historical Memory; African American History; History of Slavery and Emancipation
My research focuses on the U.S. South, race, slavery, and emancipation.
My new book, To Walk About in Freedom: The Long Emancipation of Priscilla Joyner (W.W. Norton, 2022), tells the extraordinary story of one woman and her quest, along with other formerly enslaved people, to build free lives after the Civil War. Weaving together oral histories, genealogy, and other archival traces left by freedom’s “charter generation,” To Walk About in Freedom demonstrates that emancipation was not a singular event but an extended process that is still unfolding.
My first book, Beyond Redemption: Race, Violence, and the American South after the Civil War (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2013), explores how the violence of a protracted civil war shaped the meaning of freedom and citizenship in the new South. I trace the competing meanings that “redemption” held for Americans as they tried to come to terms with the war and the changing social landscape. While some imagined redemption from the brutality of slavery and war, others—like the infamous Ku Klux Klan—sought political and racial redemption for their losses through violence. Beyond Redemption merges studies of race and American manhood with an analysis of post-Civil War American politics to offer unconventional and challenging insight into the violence of Reconstruction.
Currently, I’m working on a new project that focuses on a mass lynching that took place in my hometown of Russellville, Kentucky, in 1908, and how its memory has shaped the lives of residents for more than a century.
To Walk About In Freedom: The Long Emancipation of Priscilla Joyner (W. W. Norton, 2022)
Beyond Redemption: Race, Violence and the American South after the Civil War (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2013)
"Only Murder Makes Men: Reconsidering the Black Military Experience," Journal of the Civil War Era, 2, NO . 3 (2012):
* Awarded the best article prize for 2012 in the Journal of the Civil War Era
“The Limits of Incorporation: Violence, Gun Rights, and Gun Regulation in the Reconstruction South,” Stanford Law and Policy Review 17, no. 3 (2006): 615-34.
“Reconstructing Loyalty: The Problem of Allegiance in Post-Civil War America," in Reconstruction: The Unfinished Business of the Civil War, Paul Cimbala and Randall Miller, eds. (New York: Fordham University Press, 2007).
On History News Network:
“The Real Origins of America’s Gun Culture” (1-14-13)
“The Roots of White Rage” (7-22-13)
In the New York Times “Disunion” series: