I am an assistant professor of history and an assistant professor of law at Vanderbilt University. Before joining the faculty at Vanderbilt in 2016, I was an assistant professor of history at West Virginia University, and I have held long-term residential fellowships at the Newberry Library and the American Bar Foundation. In May 2012, I received my Ph.D. in History from the University of Maryland, under the direction of Dr. Ira Berlin.
I am a historian of the nineteenth-century United States with a focus on slavery, race, and the law in the American South. Generally, I am interested in changing understandings of what law is and who it is for. I approach the study of the law and slavery from the bottom up. Rather than focusing on statutes and appellate court decisions as conclusive expressions of law, I examine trial court records, church disciplinary hearings, and other local legal records that emphasize the role ordinary people played in shaping legal processes. The antebellum U.S. South, in particular, offers a fruitful place for thinking broadly about who defines law and rights.
The National Science Foundation (SES #1353231) funded my research on African Americans in the local courts of the Lower Mississippi Valley ($149,605).
In 2019-20, I will be the ACLS Oscar Handlin Fellow in American History.