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, Spindles & Slavery: Grappling with Ties to the Cotton Kingdom in the Industrial North, investigates how people in one northern industrial city—Lowell, Massachusetts—wrestled with what it meant to live with slavery in the decades before the Civil War. In doing so, it explores how slavery in the South impacted northern industrial work, discourse, and community—and illuminates how ordinary New Englanders came to care about the role of slavery in their lives. In fact, it was largely through the efforts of Lowell’s small Black population that an antislavery ethic grew in a city that, because its mills relied on cotton grown by the enslaved, had strong economic ties to the plantation South. This project has been supported by institutions including the Harvard Radcliffe Institute and the National Endowment for the Humanities.
My courses include “Slavery in U.S. History & Culture,” “Sophomore Seminar: Slavery and Its Afterlives in the Northern United States,” “The Age of Jim Crow,” “Black and White in the U.S. South: Race, Racism, and Resistance,” “Racial Capitalism: Racism, Exploitation and Exclusion in U.S. Economic History,” “African-American History from Reconstruction to the Present,” 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).