My research and teaching focuses on 19th century U.S. history with an emphasis on the global processes that shape race and nationhood in the United States. I have taught courses on U.S. Social Movements, the United States in the World, the American Revolution, North American Colonial History, the “Age of Lincoln,” and Colorado History.
My book manuscript, Exporting the Racial Republic: African Colonization and the Transformation of U.S. Expansion, investigates one of the United States’ first attempts to engineer democracy abroad: the creation of Liberia in West Africa as a settlement for African Americans during the first half of the 19th century. While historians have primarily understood this project as part of domestic anti-slavery politics, my book is the first to directly address how the movement for this colony bridged different strands of U.S. expansionism—from the settler colonialism of the late 18th century to the ideology of global empire that would develop by the turn of the 20th century. It examines how debates about the colonization of Liberia among policymakers, reformers, and citizens legitimized white nationhood by suggesting that the United States could reproduce its own model of racial statehood abroad. By exploring how African colonization was positioned within U.S. political culture before the Civil War, my book shows how white leaders routinely used the ideas of the colonization movement to undermine black citizenship rights in the United States while they simultaneously promised to extend political sovereignty to African Americans within the confines of the Liberian nation. My research for this book has been supported by grants and fellowships from the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations, the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, and the University of Illinois