Current Projects

Gendering Secession

My book, Gendering Secession: White Women and Politics in South Carolina, 1859-1861, is under contract with Cambridge University Press's Studies on the American South series. 

Gendering Secession examines elite white women on the eve of disunion and argues that their thoughts and voices are instrumental in understanding the political, economic, and social transitions of 1860. In tracing events from John Brown’s raid on Harpers Ferry in October 1859 to the battle of First Bull Run in July 1861, I argue that elite women were astute political spectators and analysts who hid their “improper” political consciousnesses through avenues gendered as feminine and therefore socially acceptable. As women increasingly preoccupied themselves with national events in their diaries and letters, they processed these changes through religious metaphor and prophecy, historical evocations of the past, and language borrowed from popular sentimental novels. Gendering Secession braids women’s history, Civil War studies, emotions history, literary studies and criticism, and political theory into a case study of the Palmetto State during a year that irreversibly changed the United States of America. 

I am involved in several projects related to Reconstruction and the First South Carolina Volunteers, later the 33rd U.S. Colored Troops, the first regiment made up of formerly enslaved Black men in the Civil War. I helped Dr. Valinda Littlefield write a grant that allowed for students from K-12 to the graduate level to develop projects related to the 1st South Carolina. In addition to presenting at her symposium in April 2023, I created a website meant to serve as a hub for all online sources related to the 1st SC that includes an interactive map of the regiment's movements. It is currently in beta. 

I also received a mini-conference grant from the Society for Civil War Historians to put on a workshop titled Recovering Reconstruction: A Community Workshop in Augusta, Georgia. Together with Dr. John Hayes and Corey Rogers, we invited the community to learn from public history experts and discuss how to better interpret Reconstruction to the public in the city. We hope to host another workshop next year and continue Recovering Reconstruction events in the community throughout the year. We will also work to erect a monument to the 1st South Carolina to commemorate when they marched through and were stationed in Augusta. Learn more about our future attempts here

Secession Through Washington's Eyes: The Mount Vernon Ladies' Association and the Rhetoric of Revolution on the Eve of the Civil War

I was one of the 2021-2022 Fred W. Smith Washington Library Fellows, which allowed me to live at Mount Vernon and visit the archives for three months. I researched how southern members of the Mount Vernon Ladies' Association struggled to reconcile their patriotism toward the American Revolution, Early Republic, and George Washington's legacy with their current desire to leave that same union. I incorporated the South Carolina aspects of this research into Gendering Secession, and am contributing to an edited volume with the University of Virginia Press with a chapter on the MVLA more generally during the secession crisis.

With the webhosting assistance of the University of South Carolina’s Digital South Institute, I am mapping the lives of the respondents to the Works Progress Administration’s  “Slave Narratives Project,” or interviews with formerly enslaved people, in Columbia, South Carolina. Using an interactive historic map overlay, I use the WPA interviews to trace the interviewees from slavery to freedom. Some moved north, while others simply moved from the country plantations of Fairfield and Richland Counties into the City of Columbia. Once within city limits, freedpeople were increasingly limited to Black-only neighborhoods which are no longer standing, as they were marked as “blight” and slated for demolition as part of the urban renewal process. 

10 of the 28 respondents have currently been mapped. I hope to later expand this mapping projects to other cities in the state. The site can be found here.

Presidential Commission on University History, University of South Carolina

I served as the researcher on the Presidential Commission on University History, which was charged to "study and better understand the complex history of the University of South Carolina, including the contributions of marginalized and underrepresented people and/or groups whose voices have not typically been heard.  As the researcher, I compiled a list of all named buildings on campus and their origins; detailed write-ups of select building names with complex histories; a lengthy list of potential new names for campus buildings; a suggested template for a university history website; and brief biographies of notable figures overlooked in UofSC's history. The full report can be found here. I then currently consulted for the Implementation Group in response to the report.

Though the university president has decided not to move forward with our suggestions for renaming, I will continue to find ways to tell the hard history of the University of South Carolina through digital and public history. 

Civil War Women Nurses, Trauma, and the Senses

I have also been examining Civil War women nurses and the trauma they experienced in field and military hospitals. In reading numerous diaries and letters, I find that women slowly “benumb” their senses in order to productively serve their respective countries. In addition to numbing themselves to the smell, sight, sound, and touch of death, they additionally harden themselves emotionally and note with some frequency that they are no longer moved by death and gore. This research combines two exciting fields–sensory and emotions history–and further complicates our idea of homefront versus battlefield. I argue that women nurses were particularly unprepared for the horrors of war due to ideas of female propriety, but experienced traumatic events much like their male counterparts. They should not be omitted from current studies of war and trauma.  

I speak more about this topic for the National Museum of Civil War Medicine and in this podcast