Stephen Kantrowitz

Position title: Vilas Distinguished Achievement Professor of History; Affiliate Faculty of the Department of Afro-American Studies and in the American Indian Studies Program


Phone: 608.263.1844

Office: 5119 Mosse Humanities
Mailbox: 5017 Mosse Humanities
Curriculum Vitae (pdf)
Office Hours: TBA

Stephen Kantrowitz


I am a historian of race, indigeneity, politics, and citizenship in the nineteenth-century United States. I am particularly interested in work that spans the antebellum, Civil War, and postbellum eras, and in the connections between the histories of slavery, anti-slavery, emancipation, and Reconstruction and the dynamics of Native American life and U.S. conquest. I am currently at work on a project that explores the transformations of American citizenship in the Civil War era through a history of the Ho-Chunk people. A Ho-Chunk History of Citizenship will be published by the University of North Carolina Press.

This work in Native American history builds on the questions I explored in my earlier scholarship. My first book, Ben Tillman and the Reconstruction of White Supremacy (Chapel Hill, 2000), explored the evolving politics of white supremacy in the post-Civil War South through the career of “Pitchfork Ben” Tillman, a slaveholder’s son who devoted himself to restoring his class’s social, political, and economic dominance. Ben Tillman won the Ellis Hawley prize from the Organization of American Historians and was a New York Times Notable Book. I remain interested in the long history of white supremacist ideology and politics, and I was a lead co-author of a 2018 report on the history of the Ku Klux Klan at UW-Madison.

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 built a political community, helped to bring about the Civil War, and bound 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 teaching focuses on the nineteenth-century U.S., the Civil War era, slavery and emancipation, and Native American history. 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. I frequently speak to audiences outside the university; among other projects, I helped devise and continue to participate in the Justified Anger Initiative’s community course “Black History for a New Day.”

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), a Fulbright Distinguished Professor at the University of Southern Demark (2016-17), and an Organization of American Historians Distinguished Lecturer. At UW-Madison I have been a Hamel Family Faculty Fellow, a Kellett Mid-Career Faculty Researcher, and a Senior Fellow the UW Institute for Research in the Humanities (2017-21).


Ph.D., Princeton
M.A., Princeton
B.A., Yale


Selected Publications

  • “‘Not Quite Constitutionalized’: The Meanings of ‘Civilization’ and the Limits of Native American Citizenship,” in ed. Gregory P. Downs and Kate Masur, The World the Civil War Made (Chapel Hill: UNC Press, 2015), 75-105.
  • “Citizen’s Clothing: Reconstruction, Ho-Chunk Persistence, and the Politics of Dress,” in ed. Adam Arenson and Andrew Graybill, Civil War Wests: Testing the Limits of the United States (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2015), 242-264.
  • “’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

History Courses

  • History 109 – “Who is an American?” – Syllabus 2019 (pdf)
  • History 150 – American Histories: 19th Century – Syllabus 2015 (pdf)
  • History 200 – The Historian’s Craft Origins of the U.S. Civil War – Syllabus 2012 (pdf)
  • History 258 – American South (not recently offered)
  • History 283 – Honors Seminar – Topics: “Slave Revolts in the Americas” – Syllabus 2011 (pdf)
  • History 393 – Civil War Era, 1848-1877 – Syllabus 2020 (pdf)
  • History 500 – Race in North America; Slavery and Freedom, 1840-1880
  • History 500 – Native Madison After Removal – Syllabus 2012 (pdf)
  • History 600 – The Right to Vote – Syllabus 2008 (pdf)
  • History 600 – Selma and America – Syllabus 2004 (pdf)
  • History 600 – Slavery and Antislavery; White Supremacy
  • History 600 – American Anti-Slavery Movements – Syllabus 2007 (pdf)
  • History 600 – Black Abolitionists – Syllabus 2011 (pdf)
  • History 701 – Introduction to the Professional Practice of History – Syllabus 2013 (pdf)
  • History 900 – Introduction to History for American Historians – Syllabus 2006 (pdf)
  • History 901 – Citizenship, Belonging, and the Nineteenth-Century United States – Syllabus 2020 (pdf)
  • History 901 – Slavery and Freedom, North and South – Syllabus 2004 (pdf)
  • History 901 – Southern History: Populism and ‘The People
  • History 902 – Research Seminar: American History
  • History 925 – Slavery, Politics, and Citizenship in 19th-Century America – Syllabus 2007 (pdf)
  • History 925 – Slaves’ Politics and the Politics of Slavery – Syllabus 2009 (pdf)
  • History 925 – Slavery and Emancipation in North America – Syllabus 2015 (pdf)