OAH Distinguished Lecturer Profile

Christopher Phillips

Portrait of Christopher Phillips

Christopher Phillips is the John and Dorothy Hermanies Professor of American History and the University Distinguished Professor in the Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences at the University of Cincinnati. His research interests are in the era of the Civil War and Reconstruction, and more specifically, in the American South and West, especially the middle border states. He is the author of seven books focused on slavery and freedom, urban African Americans, emancipation, war, race, politics, and memory during and after the Civil War era, including The Rivers Ran Backward: The Civil War and the Remaking of the American Middle Border (2016), which received Tom Watson Brown Prize from the Society of Civil War Historians and the George and Ann Richards Center for Research on the Civil War Era, as well as the the Society of Military Historians' Distinguished Book Award, the Midwestern History Association's John Gjerde Prize, the State Historical Society of Missouri's Missouri Book Award, and the Ohio Academy of History's Distinguished Book Prize. It was also named a Choice outstanding academic book and a Civil War Monitor best book of the year. His other books are The Civil War in the Border South (2013); Freedom's Port: The African American Community of Baltimore, 1790-1860 (1997), a cowinner of the Best Book prize from the Maryland Historical Society; Missouri's Confederate: Claiborne Fox Jackson and the Creation of Southern Identity in the Border West (2000); and Damned Yankee: The Life of Nathaniel Lyon (1996), a Choice outstanding academic book. His essays have appeared in such publications as Journal of the Civil War Era, Civil War History, and the New York Times. His work has been supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities, the American Philosophical Society, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. From 1999 to 2011, he served as a coeditor of Ohio Valley History.

Featured Lecture

OAH Lectures

The elections of 2008 and 2012 elevated a little known Illinoisan, Barack Obama, as the nation’s first African American president. The electoral maps of these elections nearly replicate those of 1860 and 1864, presidential elections of a previous Illinoisan, Abraham Lincoln, known best for emancipating slaves and leading Congress to end slavery by constitutional amendment during the Civil War. The most pronounced difference between these electoral maps is the modern convergence of former sectional antagonists – the South and the West – in opposition to Obama, and the addition of several middle American states to secure Donald Trump’s shocking electoral victory in 2016. Recent spates of racial violence – in Baltimore, Baton Rouge, Charlotte, Chicago, Cincinnati, Minneapolis, St. Louis, and Tulsa – have demonstrated the persistence of this pattern in American history. White nationalism, born of racial conservatism and democratic individualism as a counterweight to federal efforts at centralization, has been a foundational pillar of this alliance between West and South since the Civil War. It first converged in the dissent movement during the war in the middle and western states, threatening to derail Lincoln’s war effort. It flowered there again during the often violent politics of Reconstruction, and later during the Populist and Civil Rights movements, and during the citizens’ militia and antigovernment organizations and their activities during the 1990s and 2000s. This talk will address the Civil War and post-Civil War origins and ideological threads of white nationalism from regional perspectives.