Stephen Kantrowitz

I am a historian of race, politics, and citizenship in the nineteenth-century United States. I am particularly interested in individual subjects, less as the focus of traditional biographies than as windows through which broader transformations can be understood and interpreted, and in stories that span the antebellum, Civil War, and postbellum eras. My first project explored the evolving politics of white supremacy in the post-Civil War South through the career of "Pitchfork Ben" Tillman, a planter's son who became the prototype of the Southern demagogue. My book, Ben Tillman and the Reconstruction of White Supremacy (Chapel Hill, 2000), won the Ellis Hawley prize from the Organization of American Historians and was a New York Times Notable Book. My second book, More than Freedom: Fighting for Black Citizenship in a White Republic, 1829-1889 (Penguin, 2012), showed how Boston's nineteenth-century black activists, in seeking to recast their relationship to the nation, both helped to bring about the Civil War and to bind the policy of slave emancipation to the ideal of political equality. More Than Freedom was a finalist for the Frederick Douglass Prize and the Lincoln Prize. An edited collection, All Men Free and Brethren: Essays on the History of African American Freemasonry (Cornell, 2013) also emerged from this research. My current work explores the transformations of American citizenship in the Civil War era through the experience of Wisconsin's Ho-Chunk people, whose struggle to evade removal sheds light on the powerful but uncodified relationship between citizenship and "civilization."

I regularly teach undergraduate and graduate courses on the nineteenth-century U.S., the Civil War era, slavery, and slave revolts. I have begun to offer courses in Native American history as well. Earlier in my career I helped design and lead several field courses focusing on the American South, including a 2001 "Freedom Ride" summer course and a 2004 follow-up visit to Selma, Alabama. I have received several teaching awards, including a Chancellor's Award for Distinguished Teaching (2001) and the UW-Madison History Organization "Instructor of the Year" (2010).

I received my Ph.D. from Princeton in 1995, where I worked with Nell Irvin Painter, Daniel Rodgers, and James McPherson. I have been a fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study (2002-03) and the UW Institute for Research in the Humanities (2001). From 2008 to 2012 I was a Hamel Family Faculty Fellow; in 2013 I was named a Kellett Mid-Career Faculty Researcher. I am an Organization of American Historians Distinguished Lecturer.

My research interests include: Reconstruction (North and South); race and politics; white supremacy; citizenship; free black and black Northern life; nineteenth-century Native America; Southern history; masculinity.


  • PhD - Princeton
  • MA - Princeton
  • BA - Yale 


co-editor, All Men Free and Brethren: Essays on the History of African American Freemasonry (Cornell, 2013).  View Book Details
More than Freedom: Fighting for Black Citizenship in a White Republic, 1829-1889 (Penguin Press, 2012).  View Book Details
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Ben Tillman and the Reconstruction of White Supremacy (UNC Press, 2000).  View Book Details

Selected Publications:

  • “’Intended for the Better Government of Man’: The Political History of African American Freemasonry in the Era of Emancipation,” Journal of American History (March 2010)
  • "A Place for 'Colored Patriots': Crispus Attucks Among the Abolitionists, 1842-1863," Massachusetts Historical Review (spring 2009)
  • “Fighting Like Men: Civil War Dilemmas of Abolitionist Manhood,” in Catherine Clinton and Nina Silber, eds., Battle Scars: Gender and Sexuality in the U.S. Civil War (Oxford University Press, 2006).
  • "Youngest Living Carpetbagger Tells All, or How Regional Myopia Created 'Pitchfork Ben' Tillman," Southern Cultures 8.3 (fall 2002), 18-37.
  • "Ben Tillman and Hendrix McLane, Agrarian Rebels: White Manhood, 'The Farmers,' and the Limits of Southern Populism," The Journal of Southern History LXVI (August 2000), 497-524.
  • "One Man's Mob is Another Man's Militia: Violence, Manhood, and Authority in Reconstruction South Carolina" in Jane Dailey, Glenda Gilmore, and Bryant Simon, eds., Jumpin' Jim Crow: Southern Politics from Civil War to Civil Rights (Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press, 2000), 67-87.
  • "The Two Faces of Domination in North Carolina, 1800-1898" in David Cecelski and Timothy B. Tyson, eds., Democracy Betrayed: The Wilmington Race Riot of 1898 and Its Legacy (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1998), 95-112.
  • "White Supremacist Justice and the Rule of Law: Lynching, Honor, and the State in Ben Tillman's South Carolina" in Pieter Spierenburg, ed., Men and Violence: Masculinity, Honor Codes and Violent Rituals in Europe and America (Ohio State University Press, 1998), 213-239.

Selected Awards:

  • UW History organization Instructor of the Year, 2010
  • Chancellor's Award for Distinguished Teaching, 2001
  • Mark H. Ingraham Distinguished Faculty Award, 2001
  • Outstanding Credit Program, North Amer. Assoc. of Summer Sessions, 2001
  • Ellis W. Hawley Book Prize, Organization of American Historians, 2001
  • Outstanding Achievement, Wisconsin Library Association, 2001
  • Karen F. Johnson Award for Undergraduate Teaching in History, 2000
  • George C. Rogers, Jr. Book Prize, South Carolina Historical Society, 2000
  • New York Times Book Review Notable Book for 2000

Advisor To:

  • Michael Kaelin

History Courses:

Stephen Kantrowitz


Faculty Affiliate in American Indian Studies and Afro-American Studies


Curriculum Vitae (pdf)

5119 Mosse Humanities

5017 Mosse Humanities

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