I am interested in the history of slavery and race in North America, American socio-legal history, the history of the Civil War and Reconstruction, and the development of American political institutions. I am especially interested in the multiple approaches to studying slavery, the ways in which concepts of race shaped American political and legal identities over time, and the ways in which courts have operated and intervened during times of crisis and radical transition.

My current work explores an unappreciated history of reparations. I am researching the wills of enslavers who bequeathed items of significant value to bondspeople. The justification for the bequests, and the lives made possible by them, often share similarities with modern schemes for reparations. I consider the possibilities for using this archive to enhance and expand reparatory discourse, both historical and current.


  • Slavery & Abolition in North America
  • Legal History
  • The Civil War & Reconstruction
  • 19th Century U.S. History
  • U.S. History

“Rehearsals for Reparations,” RSF: The Russel Sage Foundation Journal of the Social Sciences, forthcoming June 2024

Abstract: This article considers a subset of lawsuits in which emancipated people sued to have their enslavers’ bequests to them honored. It contends that we should see these suits as contests over reparations. By exploring this unappreciated history, this article argues that enslavers themselves believed reparations were due and were willing to pay them, and that there was both a general agreement between enslaved and enslaver about the form reparations should take and a similar understanding that they should be generational. The article further suggests the promise of additional inquiry into historical testamentary records. Such a novel archive would add to contemporary arguments in favor of reparations by identifying an unacknowledged effort to provide compensation to formerly enslaved people.

  • History 5: History of the Present
  • History 17B: The History of the American People, 1830-1920
  • History 142AL: American Legal & Constitutional History
  • History 142S: Slavery and the Making of African America, 1550-1861
  • History 164C: The Civil War & Reconstruction
  • History 201AM: The Historiography of American Slavery
  • History 201AM: Modern America(ns): The United States from Reconstruction through the Progressive Era
  • History 201AM: Race after Slavery
  • University of California President’s Faculty Research Fellowships in the Humanities, 2018-2019
  • William Nelson Cromwell Foundation Early Career Scholar Fellowship, 2020