In Memoriam: Thea K. Hunter

Dr. T.K. Hunter died of congestive heart failure on December 17, 2018, in New York City. Born there on July 4, 1956, to mathematician Herman Hunter and Grace Wood Hunter, a paralegal, she is survived by one brother Eric Hunter, Providence, RI, and many friends.

Thea Kai Hunter graduated from Barnard College (B.A. in Biology and Art History, 1978), Hunter College (M.A. in Art History, 1996), and Columbia University (M.A. in History, 1998; Ph.D., 2005). Her doctoral advisor Eric Foner, speaking at a memorial service in January, praised Dr. Hunter as a pioneer in the trans-Atlantic study of law and slavery.

Photograph courtesy The New School.

Photograph courtesy Scott Sandage.

Her dissertation, “Publishing Freedom, Winning Arguments: Somerset, Natural Rights and Massachusetts Freedom Cases, 1772-1836,” explored the landmark decision that slaves transported to England could not be forcibly returned to the colonies. She established that people of African descent not only made claims to individual liberty but thereby transformed Enlightenment principles, bolstering the pursuit of freedom for African-descended people throughout the Atlantic World. T.K. Hunter’s publications included “Geographies of Liberty,” in Prophets of Protest: Reconsidering the History of American Abolitionism (2006); and “Transatlantic Negotiations: Lord Mansfield, Liberty and Somerset,” Texas Wesleyan Law Review (2007). Her professional and personal papers will be donated to the Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America at Radcliffe/Harvard.

Dr. Hunter spent most of her career as a part-time instructor. After resigning a tenure-track assistant professorship at Western Connecticut State University in 2006, she taught a wide variety of courses at Princeton University, Columbia University, Montclair State University, Horace Mann School, Manhattan College, Brooklyn College, the New School, and City College of New York. She began a new research project at City College’s Rifkind Center for the Humanities and the Arts, as a Faculty Fellow in 2017-2018. She was first adjunct instructor selected for this fellowship.

Dr. Hunter's work as adjunct faculty was recently chronicled by the Atlantic and discussed widely on social media. Adrienne Monteith Petty and Scott A. Sandage wrote an obituary for Dr. Hunter that appeared in the May issue of Perspectives.

Posted: April 25, 2019
Tagged: In Memoriam