Ph.D., Columbia University, 2007
M.A., Columbia University, 2001
A.B., Harvard College, 1999
My scholarship concerns the long history of white supremacy and African-American opposition to white supremacy, and it combines the fields of African-American history and the history of capitalism (particularly racial capitalism). I believe that shedding light on the history of racism and white supremacy in the U.S., which I do in my research and teaching, is an important step toward dismantling these forces and working toward racial justice.
My 2019 book, Threatening Property: Race, Class, and Campaigns to Legislate Jim Crow Neighborhoods, investigates efforts to segregate cities and the countryside by race in early twentieth-century North Carolina. It tells the story of middle-class white people who responded to the economic advancement of African Americans by pushing for neighborhoods to be segregated, examining how these people worked to exclude African Americans, how African Americans responded to residential segregation campaigns, and why residential segregation has persisted even after segregationist policies were ended.
My new book project, “Lords of the Lash and Loom: Abolitionists, Anti-Abolitionists, and the Business of Manufacturing Slave-Grown Cotton,” tells the story of antebellum Lowell, Massachusetts—a place deeply tied to the South’s “peculiar institution” and shaped by competing currents of antislavery activism and anti-abolitionism. Through an examination of the economic, political, and social ties connecting investors in Lowell’s textile factories to enslavers in the South, this project explores the central but overlooked part played by mill investors in supporting the institution of slavery in the United States. In addition to investigating northern complicity with slavery, I explore antislavery activity in Lowell, including the essential contributions of members of Lowell’s Black community to this work.
My courses include “Slavery in U.S. History & Culture,” “The Age of Jim Crow,” “African-American History from Reconstruction to the Present,” “The History of the U.S. South,” and “Research in Black Studies.” These courses, which are informed by my own research and by the latest scholarly work of other historians, require that students consider issues such as what the afterlife of slavery has been and what the various costs—including economic ones—of segregation have been for Black and white Americans. I am interested in helping students better understand the present day, particularly issues of racism and poverty, through grappling with the past. I hope that students leave my classes more comfortable discussing race and racism, better attuned to issues of social justice, and more aware of the importance of historical knowledge to citizenship and informed public debate.
“In Search of the Costs of Segregation,” in Reckoning with History: Unfinished Stories of American Freedom, edited by Jim Downs, Erica Armstrong Dunbar, T.K. Hunter, and Timothy Patrick McCarthy (Columbia University Press, 2021).
Threatening Property: Race, Class, and Campaigns to Legislate Jim Crow Neighborhoods (Columbia University Press, Studies in the History of U.S. Capitalism, 2019).
“Race and Class Friction in North Carolina Neighborhoods: How Campaigns for Residential Segregation Law Divided Middling and Elite Whites in Winston-Salem and North Carolina’s Countryside, 1912–1915,” Journal of Southern History 83, no. 3 (August 2017).
“Southern Segregation, South Africa-Style: Maurice Evans, Clarence Poe, and the Ideology of Rural Segregation,” Agricultural History 87, no. 2 (Spring 2013).