University of Wisconsin–Madison

Jesse Gant

Lecturer: History 102 -American History, Civil War Era to the Present

Advisor: Stephen Kantrowitz

Office: 5265 Mosse Humanities
Mailbox: 5077 Mosse Humanities
Phone: 608.890.3303
Office Hours: TBA

Jesse Gant


My dissertation research examines the history of the abolitionist movement from a perhaps unusual vantage point, that of black activists headquartered in the North American West. To do so, it centers an important yet-overlooked group of actors in what would become known as the American “Old Northwest,” and charts how their experiences and expressions took shape over the long sweep of U.S. national origins. It finds that when examined alongside the many better-known communities that have centered so many understandings of the movement’s history in recent decades, western black abolitionists fit uncomfortably within their parameters for a number of reasons. Telling the story of western black abolition, then, adds not only an important dimension to understandings of a broader movement, but restores an abolitionist movement history to a more truly continental and transnational scale. It reveals just how expansive the abolitionist challenge really was, while also revealing the deep divides and discontinuities that marked the movement from the start. Such realities force a reconsideration of the challenges and limitations the movement faced, but also the very real promises it held–and continues to hold–for fostering a more egalitarian and interracial democracy today.


M.A., New York University, 2007
B.A., Carroll University, 2003


  • 19th Century United States; African American, U.S. West/Borderlands, Working Class, Political

MA Title

  • “Freemen to the Rescue! Wisconsin Commemorates the Underground Railroad “

Working Dissertation Title

  • “At Freedom’s Edge: The Abolitionist Movement and the Black Borderlands”

Selected Publications:

  • Wheel Fever: How Wisconsin Became a Great Bicycling State (Wisconsin Historical Society Press, 2013)
  • Awards: Winner, Award of Merit, American Association for State and Local History (AASLH); Finalist, Council for Wisconsin Writers, Norbert Blei/August Derleth Nonfiction Book Award (2013); Finalist, Jon Gjerde Prize, Midwestern History Association, 2014; Book of the Year Award, Foreword Reviews, Finalist, Non-Fiction Regional, 2013; Midwest Book Award, Midwest Publishers Association, Finalist, History-Sports-Recreation, 2013.
  • Article – “‘Patriotism is Above Political Consideration’: A Look Back at the 50th Anniversary of the Civil War in Wisconsin,” Wisconsin Magazine of History, 2011
  • Article – ‘Younger and More Irreconcilable’: James Albert Woodburn’s Undergraduate Orations, 1875-1876,” Indiana Magazine of History, 2012
  • Review – Jesse Gant, “As Goes Janesville,” directed by Brad Lichtenstein, Middle West Review, Fall 2016


  • The Smithsonian Institution, Committee for Institutional Cooperation (CIC) Yearlong Predoctoral Fellowship
  • Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and University of Wisconsin-Madison Center for the Humanities, Yearlong Public Humanities Fellowship
  • Wisconsin Humanities Council, Public Humanities Fellow
  • University of Michigan, Jacob M. Price Visiting Research Fellowship
  • University of Indiana, Everett Helm Visiting Research Fellowship
  • Dartmouth University, Futures of American Studies Travel Fellowship
  • University of Wisconsin-Madison, Center for Culture, History, and Environment (CHE) Research Travel Fellowship
  • University of Wisconsin-Madison, Chancellor’s Office, Borderlands Fellowship
  • University of Wisconsin-Madison, Department of History Fellowship

Professional Affiliations:

  • American Historical Association
  • Organization of American Historians
  • Association for the Study of African American Life and History
  • Society for Historians of the Early American Republic
  • \Society of Civil War Historians
  • Western History Association

Courses Taught as TA:

  • History 292 – History of Race, Science, and Medicine in the United States (University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee)
  • History 344 – The Era of the American Revolution
  • History 393 – Slavery, the Civil War, and Reconstruction (2x)

Courses Taught as Instructor:

  • Communications 101 – Introduction to Speech Composition
  • Abraham Lincoln and the Upper Mississippi Valley, Division of Continuing Studies
  • Wisconsin and the Anti-Slavery Movement to 1854, Division of Continuing Studies
  • Reconstruction, 1865-1877, Division of Continuing Studies