OAH Distinguished Lecturer Profile

Joshua Rothman

Portrait of Joshua Rothman

Joshua Rothman chairs the history department at the University of Alabama, where he is also a professor of history specializing in nineteenth-century America and the history of race and slavery. He is the author of Notorious in the Neighborhood: Sex and Families across the Color Line in Virginia, 1787–1861 (2003); Reforming America, 1815–1860 (2009); and Flush Times and Fever Dreams: A Story of Capitalism and Slavery in the Age of Jackson (2012), which won the Gulf South Historical Association's Michael Thomason Book Award and the Southern Historical Association's Frank L. and Harriet C. Owsley Prize. His forthcoming book, The Ledger and the Chain: How Domestic Slave Traders Shaped America, will be published in 2021.

Featured Lecture

OAH Lectures

Between 1800 and 1860, slaveholders and slave traders forcibly moved roughly one million enslaved people from the upper South to the lower South in one of the most significant demographic and economic shifts in American history. This lecture traces the ebbs and flows of the domestic slave trade over the course of time and assesses its significance for understanding the broader history of the United States.
In the 1820s and 1830s, the domestic slave trading company known as Franklin and Armfield was the most significant operation of its type in the country, and over time proved to be the most significant slave trading company in American history. This lecture discusses the lives and careers of the three main partners in the company, explains how and why their business became so successful, and discusses both their contributions to the developing economy of the United States and the unfathomable damage they wrought on the lives of the enslaved people they trafficked.
The expansion of the cotton South in the antebellum United States was central to the expansion of slavery and the development of American capitalism. This lecture traces the growth of the cotton South between 1800 and 1865; explains its significance for the lives of the enslaved, white, and Native peoples; and discusses how it helps us understand the interplay between slavery and capitalism in early American history.
While DNA evidence emerged in the late 1990s seeming to confirm centuries-old rumors and family stories that Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings had children together, for some, the historical truth of that relationship remains controversial. This lecture discusses how the story first came to be told during the lifetimes of Jefferson and Hemings, the nature of the historical evidence, the treatment over time of that evidence by historians, and where the story stands today among historians and in the popular imagination.