Stephen Kantrowitz

Position title: Plaenert-Bascom Professor of History; Faculty affiliate in Afro-American Studies and American Indian Studies


Phone: 608.263.1844

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

Stephen Kantrowitz headshot


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, emancipation, and Reconstruction and the dynamics of Native American life and U.S. conquest.

My recent work explores the transformations of American citizenship in the Civil War era through the experiences of the Ho-Chunk people. This work includes a book, Citizens of a Stolen Land: A Ho-Chunk History of the 19th-Century United States (UNC Press, 2023), and several recent articles: “White Supremacy, Settler Colonialism, and the Two Citizenships of the Fourteenth Amendment” in The Journal of the Civil War Era and “Jurisdiction, Civilization, and the Ends of Native American Citizenship: The View from 1866,” which won the Oscar A. Winther Award for the year’s best article in the Western Historical Quarterly.

My work in Native American history builds on the questions of nineteenth-century politics and citizenship that I explored in my earlier scholarship on the South and New England. 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 (pdf).

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 public-facing work includes projects within the university. In addition to my work on the history of the Ku Klux Klan on our campus in the 1920s, I have been working closely with the Public History Project, which explores histories of exclusion and resistance at UW-Madison throughout its history. A major public exhibition of this research, “Sifting and Reckoning: UW-Madison’s History of Exclusion and Resistance,” will go up in fall 2022. I am involved in the campus’s reckoning with its Native past and present, Our Shared Future. I am also thinking about these questions in national terms as co-convenor (with Alyssa Mt. Pleasant and Malinda Maynor Lowery) of “Campuses and Colonialism,” a group of scholars working on the history of North American universities, Indigenous peoples, and settler colonialism.

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 engage 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 (2008-present). At UW-Madison I have been named a Hamel Family Faculty Fellow, a Kellett Mid-Career Faculty Researcher, a Senior Fellow the UW Institute for Research in the Humanities, a Vilas Distinguished Achievement Professor, and Plaenert-Bascom Professor (2020-2025).


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.

Advisor To

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

History Courses

  • History 109 – “Who is an American?” – Syllabus 2021 (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 2022 (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)