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George and Ann RichardsCivil War Era Center

Colored Conventions


We are excited to share that Michael Haggerty of the Department of History at the University of California, Davis and Lauren Feldman of the Department of History at Johns Hopkins University will join the Richards Center as pre-doctoral fellows for the 2022-2023 year! The center launched the Predoctoral Fellowship Program in response to the unprecedented challenges experienced by graduate students as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Michael Haggerty is a Ph.D. Candidate in the Department of History at the University of California, Davis. His scholarship has been supported by fellowships from the Bilinksi Educational Foundation, the New York Historical Society, and the New York Public Library. His current dissertation project is entitled “Bars to Freedom: Emancipation, Incarceration, and Slavery in Nineteenth-Century America.” His work centers the experiences of incarcerated peoples within the political debates that surrounded slavery and gradual emancipation in New York City during the first half of the nineteenth century.

Lauren Feldman is a Ph.D. student in History at Johns Hopkins University. Her work centers on intersectional histories of intimacy and investigating the broad intellectual question about how norms surrounding relationships in the U.S. have been created and reproduced over time. She is particularly committed to demonstrating how matters surrounding intimacy shed new light on conventional “big-picture” questions of U.S. history and historiography. In this vein, Lauren’s dissertation focuses on the contingent process by which marriage and state became intertwined in the U.S., from the period of the American Revolution to the Civil War. Through an examination of debates over early American marriage laws, she historicizes marriage’s centrality to the formation of United States governance, as well as the implications thereof surrounding the creation and maintenance of a U.S. privatized social structure. As part of this project, she also works on the history of slave marriage in the United States. Lauren’s work has been supported by multiple institutions, including the American Historical Association, the New York Historical Society, and New York State Archives. At Johns Hopkins, she serves as the Project Coordinator for Hard Histories, a public history initiative that examines the histories of racism and discrimination at the university.

During their time in State College, the fellows will make progress on their dissertations and take an active part in both the Richards Center and Penn State’s community of researchers.

Read more about the Predoctoral Fellowship Program

Richards Center Welcomes Pre-Doctoral Fellows

Congratulations to Dr. Lorien Foote, whose Rites of Retaliation: Civilization, Soldiers, and Campaigns in the American Civil War won the Organization of American Historians Civil War and Reconstruction Book Award! Foote published Rites of Retaliation in the University of North Carolina Press Steven and Janice Brose Lectures in the Civil War Era Series.

A military and cultural history, Foote’s recently published book explores the meanings of and shifts in civilized warfare during the American Civil War. In describing the work, the committee wrote, “Rites of Retaliation‘s particular brilliance, through its focus on the southeastern theater, is in outlining the central role of Black soldiers in shaping both Union and Confederate retaliation policies—a multifaceted series of exchanges that sometimes led to restraint, and on other occasions, an acceleration of violence and brutality. The approach is as innovative and provocative as it is impeccably researched and cogently argued.”

Read more about the 2022 Organization of American Historians Awards

Read more about Rites of Retaliation: Civilization, Soldiers, and Campaigns in the American Civil War

Read more about the Steven and Janice Brose Distinguished Lecture and Book Series

Lorien Foote Wins OAH Civil War and Reconstruction Book Award

We are thrilled to announce that Joseph Williams and Jessica Wicks-Allen will join the Richards Center in August 2022 as postdoctoral fellows. Joseph will be the Richards Center/Africana Research Center Postdoctoral Scholar in African American History and Jessica will be the Richards Center Postdoctoral Scholar in the Civil War Era. We are excited to welcome both of these scholars to Penn State and the Richards Center, and look forward to helping them further their important work.

Joseph Williams is a PhD candidate at Rutgers University and an historian of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries with research interests in Black intellectual history, Black women’s history, and the history of American religious reform. His dissertation, “Black Club Women, the Production of Religious Thought, and the Making of an Intellectual Movement, 1854-1933,” examines Black women’s conceptualization of the immaterial as well as the pluralistic approach they employed to launch an intellectual movement in the Black community. His work has been recognized by several institutions, including the American Council of Learned Societies, the Institute for Citizens & Scholars, the Louisville Institute, and the Ford Foundation. Joseph also runs The Eulogy Project, a digital humanities initiative dedicated to the preservation of eulogies and other forms of tributes produced in honor of African Americans. 

Jessica Wicks-Allen is a PhD candidate in History at the University of Maryland. She is a specialist in nineteenth-century African American history with particular interest in Black women, slavery, emancipation, the Civil War, and Reconstruction. Her dissertation titled “‘If I Am Free My Child Belongs to Me’: Black Motherhood and Mothering in the Era of Emancipation,” investigates how mothering, motherhood, and the ability to bear children shaped Black women’s transition from slavery to freedom in the U.S. South. The project traces how pregnant women and women with children fit into the new free-labor system, navigated involuntary child apprenticeship, negotiated custody and childrearing responsibilities with the fathers of their children, and established broader systems of support. It also seeks to unearth freedpeople’s own constructions of motherhood by examining their attitudes toward childbirth and motherhood, Black communities’ notions of proper mothering, and the roles of mothers and their children at various stages in their life cycles. In her scholarship, Jessica not only strives to bring Black mothers from the margins to the center of the historical narrative but to narrate the history of emancipation from their vantage and to reconstruct the gendered world in which they lived and labored. Her work has been supported by the American Philosophical Society and the Society of Civil War Historians. 

Richards Center Welcomes Postdoctoral Scholars Joseph Williams and Jessica Wicks-Allen

We are excited to share that Director Rachel Shelden has been awarded a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Humanities for her book project, The Political Supreme Court: Justices, Partisanship, & Power, 1830–1900.

The research and writing that Dr. Shelden will be able to do with this fellowship will lead to her book on the U.S. Supreme Court’s evolving relationship to the political system across the nineteenth century. Congratulations, Dr. Shelden!

Read more about grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities

Dr. Shelden Receives NEH Fellowship

In acknowledgement of the unprecedented challenges experienced by graduate students as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Richards Civil War Era Center invites applications for two predoctoral dissertation fellowships in the history of the Civil War Era, beginning July 1, 2022. Benefits include a living stipend, no teaching, and no enrollment at Penn State.

More information including how to apply can be found here:

Grassroots Leviathan: Agricultural Reform and the Rural North in the Slaveholding Republic.

Virtual event on Thursday, February 24, 2022, 4:00 p.m. EST. Registration required:

In this sweeping look at rural society from the American Revolution to the Civil War, Ariel Ron argues that agricultural history is central to understanding the nation’s formative period. Upending the myth that the Civil War pitted an industrial North against an agrarian South, Grassroots Leviathan traces the rise of a powerful agricultural reform movement that fundamentally recast northern farmers’ relationship to economic development, the federal government, and the constitutional compact.

  • Ariel Ron, Glenn M. Linden Assistant Professor of the U.S. Civil War Era at Southern Methodist University
  • Emma Teitelman, Associate Director at the George and Ann Richards Civil War Era Center and Assistant Research Professor of History at Penn State
  • Matthew Karp, Associate Professor of History at Princeton University
  • Sally McMurry, Professor Emerita of History at Penn State
  • Gautham Rao, Associate Professor of History at American University
Ariel Ron, Author-Meets-Readers, with Matthew Karp, Sally McMurry, and Gautham Rao, and moderated by Emma Teitelman (open to the public)

We are happy to announce that Jonathan Jones, former Richards Center Postdoctoral Scholar, has been awarded the Anne Bailey Prize for 2021 for his dissertation, “Opium Slavery: Veterans and Addiction in the American Civil War Era.” The selection committee was chaired by Jane E. Schultz, Indiana University-Purdue University-Indianapolis, and included Kathryn Shively, Virginia Commonwealth University, and Andrew Lang, Mississippi State University. Jonathan’s dissertation Binghamton University was directed by Diane Miller Sommerville; the committee included Gerald Kutcher, Robert Parkinson, and cognate member Judy Giesberg of Villanova University. Jones is currently an assistant professor at the Virginia Military Institute.

This project offers an intervention in disability and medical studies by investigating drug protocols administered to sick and wounded soldiers to arrest pain during the Civil War and then by charting the consequences of those protocols in the long postwar period.  In his research Jones finds an early opioid crisis that has never been recognized as such and that has crucial resonances with the 21st-century version of opioid overuse instigated by the pharmaceutical industry and an under-cautious medical establishment. It is not simply that Jones’s study of Civil War soldiers’ addictions has current sociomedical relevance, but in showing how addiction has been systemically and institutionally constructed, he provides a model and a cautionary tale about the perils of accusing veterans of moral weakness instead of the chemical dependency that was, in effect, perpetrated on them by 19th-century medical practitioners who were caught up in dangerous cycles of over-prescribing.  In this sense, Jones has brought modern medical knowledge of the pharmacopoeia to bear on what he terms the first national “epidemic” of opioid abuse. Given the last two decades of scholarship on war memory, Jones notes the absence and thus the irony of the dearth of studies about wartime addiction.  What separates Jones’s work from other recent studies is his deep immersion into surgical perspectives that redefined addiction as a psychological impairment and not a life choice in the wake of the Civil War. This research has the power to broaden understandings of today’s opioid crisis by contextualizing it in another historical period, and it opens the study of military trauma to wider inspection in the worlds of medicine and psychology.  On its way to becoming an important monograph, “Opium Slavery” presents original scholarship based on an impressive and creative use of primary and secondary sources.

Congratulations to Jonathan Jones, 2021 Anne J. Bailey Dissertation Prize winner!

William A. Blair, Ferree Professor Emeritus of Middle American History and Director Emeritus of the Richards Center, published his latest book with the University of North Carolina Press this month. Grounded in deep archival research in the records of the Freedmen’s Bureau, The Record of Murders and Outrages: Racial Violence and the Fight over Truth at the Dawn of Reconstruction investigates federal efforts to document and deploy information about violence against formerly enslaved people in the early days of Reconstruction. Exploring themes of narrative, violence, and information, Dr. Blair raises questions that remain deeply relevant about the politics of truth in highly polarized times. 

Professor Blair’s Latest Book Covers Violence and Narrative After the Civil War

All talks will be held virtually via Zoom and the total number of attendees will be limited. Please register here by indicating which lecture(s) you will attend. You will receive a Zoom link for each lecture on the morning of the talk.

  • Thursday, October 14, 5:30 p.m. EDT: Political Speech and the Rhetoric of War
  • Friday, October 15, 5:30 p.m. EDT:  Shakespeare at War
  • Saturday, October 16, 4:00 p.m. EDT: National Identity and Cultural Affinity 

Shakespeare Fights the Civil War

These lectures examine how warring parties engaged Shakespeare during America’s deadliest conflict. Shakespeare spoke to the cultural and political moment like no other figure. Macbeth and Julius Caesar had something to say about tyranny. The Tempest and Richard II offered a meditation on usurpation. And Henry V and Richard III told of war and its effects on those who waged it. What’s more, Shakespeare played a critical role in the nationalist strivings of both the Union and the Confederacy. Just as each warring party posited itself as the rightful inheritor of the Founding Fathers’ vision, both harkened back to Shakespeare in a similar fashion and for similar reasons. Finally, Civil War-era Americans also turned to Shakespeare for universal truths. Shakespeare, they believed, spoke to abiding concerns, such as the soul of genius, the power of the imagination, and of the heroic individual’s ability to determine an event’s outcome. By elucidating how Unionists and Confederates interpreted Shakespeare and, in turn, how Shakespeare shaped their understanding of war, these lectures reveal how the war’s participants turned to Shakespeare to articulate and justify what they thought and felt about the war and its attendant consequences.

Dr. Sarah E. Gardner is Distinguished University Professor of History at Mercer University, Macon, Georgia. Her work focuses on the cultural and intellectual history the Civil War era through the early decades of the twentieth century. She is the author of Blood and Irony: Southern White Women’s Narratives of the Civil War, 1861-1937 and Reviewing the South: The Literary Marketplace and the Southern Renaissance, 1920-1941. Most recently she has co-edited with Natalie J. Ring, The Lost Lectures of C. Vann Woodward and, with Steven M. Stowe, Insiders, Outsiders: Toward a New History of Southern Thought.

Dr. Sarah E. Gardner to deliver the Steven and Janice Brose Distinguished Lectures, October 14-16, 2021.

Tuesday, October 5, 6:30–8:00 p.m. EDT,Virtual Panel (webinar registration required)

In 2020, the Supreme Court held in McGirt v. Oklahoma that the boundaries of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation remained and therefore Oklahoma lacked criminal jurisdiction over crimes involving tribal citizens.  The ruling has since been extended to include the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, and Seminole Nations.  The panelists will discuss the impact of this decision on the Five Tribes and explore its implications for other Native nations as well. Each speaker will consider some of the ways Native Nations are considering the promises and potentially unfulfilled possibilities at the end of the trail.  


Stacy Leeds (Cherokee Nation), is the Foundation Professor of Law and Leadership at Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law, Arizona State University and Dean Emeritus of University of Arkansas College of Law. Leeds is a former Justice on the Cherokee Nation Supreme Court and former Chairperson of the Cherokee Nation Gaming Commission. She is currently a district court judge for Muscogee (Creek) Nation

Doug Kiel (Oneida Nation), is an Assistant Professor of History at Northwestern University.  He recently published the article “Nation v. Municipality: Indigenous Land Recovery, Settler Resentment, and Taxation on the Oneida Reservation” in NAIS, a case that ended favorably for the Oneida Nation in part because of the McGirt decision. He is currently working on a book manuscript entitled “Unsettling Territory: Oneida Indian Resurgence and Anti-Sovereignty Backlash.” 

Chief Ben Barnes (Shawnee Tribe) currently serves the Shawnee Tribe as the elected chief of the Tribal Council.  He has also served as the Director of Tribal Gamingfor Miami Nation Enterprises. He advocates for   language and cultural preservation. He is the co-author of “Salvaging the Salvage Anthropologists: Erminie Wheeler-Voegelin, Carl Voegelin, and the Future of Ethnohistory,” which articulates an important call to scholars to collaborate with Native nations whenever possible.