Inequality in Early America, Two Decades Later

Friday, April 3, 2020, 1:00 PM - 2:30 PM

Type: Roundtable Discussion

Tags: Gender; Native Americans and Indigenous Peoples; Slavery


In 1999 Inequality in Early America appeared from the University Press of New England. The volume, edited by Carla Gardina Pestana and Sharon V. Salinger, was based on a conference held two years before at the Huntington Library and honored the work and career of Gary B. Nash. A dozen authors examined the issue of inequality in three sections on sustaining, resisting, and conceptualizing inequality. Two decades later, the theme of the 2020 OAH Annual Meeting, “(In)Equalities,” allows us to take stock of changes and continuities in the study of inequality in early America. Four discussants will join this roundtable, using the volume as a starting point, to explore the state of the field today.

Session Participants

Chair: Carla G. Pestana, University of California, Los Angeles
Carla G. Pestana was one of the editors of the original volume. Along with co-editor Sharon Salinger and Roy Ritchie, she organized the Huntington conference in honor of their graduate mentor Gary Nash. Her work revolves around issues of religion and empire within the English Atlantic world. Her most recent book, The English Conquest of Jamaica: Oliver Cromwell’s Bid for Empire, was published in 2017. She is currently the Joyce Appleby Endowed Chair of America and the World at UCLA, having studied with both Appleby and Nash at UCLA while a graduate student.

Panelist: Leslie M Alexander, University of Oregon
Leslie Alexander’s research focuses on late eighteenth and early nineteenth century Black culture, political consciousness, and resistance movements. Her first monograph, entitled African or American?: Black Identity and Political Activism in New York City, 1784-1861, explores Black culture, identity, and political activism during the early national and antebellum eras. She is also the co-editor of “We Shall Independent Be:” African American Place-Making and the Struggle to Claim Space in the United States, the Encyclopedia of African American History, and is the author of the widely read op-ed piece, “The Birth of a Nation is an Epic Fail,” which appeared in The Nation.
Dr. Alexander’s current research project, “The Cradle of Hope: African Americans, Haitian Sovereignty, and the Birth of Black Internationalism” is an exploration of early African American foreign policy. It examines how Black activists became involved in international movements for racial and social justice, and lobbied the United States government for changes in its policies towards African and African diasporic nations. Using Haiti as an illustrative example of early Black internationalism, this project charts the changing views Black leaders held about Haiti over the course of the nineteenth century and into the early twentieth century. More specifically, it examines how and why the Haitian Revolution inspired Black activists, why Black leaders in the United States fought relentlessly to protect and defend Haitian independence, and how they pressured the U.S. government to grant Haiti diplomatic recognition. This study also delves deeply into the question of why the United States government denied Haiti’s autonomy for several decades, and what the debate over Haitian independence revealed about the larger battle over race and slavery throughout the Atlantic World. Based on her new research, she has published two articles, “The Black Republic: The Influence of the Haitian Revolution on Black Political Consciousness, 1817-1861,” which appears in African Americans and the Haitian Revolution: Selected Essays and Historical Documents, and “A Land of Promise:” Emigration and Pennsylvania’s Black Elite in the Era of the Haitian Revolution in The Civil War in Pennsylvania: The African American Experience.
A recipient of several prestigious fellowships, including the Ford Foundation Senior Fellowship, Dr. Alexander has given considerable service to the discipline. She is the President of the Association for the Study of the Worldwide African Diaspora (ASWAD), and is an Executive Council member of the National Council for Black Studies (NCBS). She also serves on the Advisory Councils for the Journal of African American History, The Black Scholar, the International Journal for Africana Studies, and the Harvey Goldberg Series for Understanding and Teaching History. During her career, she has won several significant awards including the coveted University Alumni Award for Distinguished Teaching and the University Distinguished Diversity Enhancement Award at Ohio State University (OSU).

Panelist: Jack B. Bouchard, Folger Shakespeare Library
Jack Bouchard is a postdoctoral research fellow at the Folger Institute, Folger Shakespeare Library, where he works on the Mellon-funded research initiative Before ‘Farm to Table’: Early Modern Foodways and Culture. This interdisciplinary project uses the Folger’s collection, including its unrivaled corpus of manuscript recipe books, to examine the intersection of food production, consumption, medicine, literature and arts in the early modern world. Dr. Bouchard received his PhD from the University of Pittsburgh in 2018, when he defended a dissertation entitled Towards Terra Nova: The North Atlantic Fisheries and the Atlantic World, 1490-1600. He is an historian of fisheries, food and Atlantic islands in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. He is currently working on a manuscript provisionally entitled The Newfoundland fisheries in an early Atlantic World, and has previously published on the relationship between Amerindians, fishermen and the environment in the sixteenth century Gulf of St. Lawrence.

Panelist: Linford D. Fisher, Brown University

Proposal Submitter Only: Sharon V. salinger, University of California

Panelist: Serena Zabin, Carleton College
SERENA ZABIN (Ph.D. Rutgers University 2000) is Professor of History and Director of American Studies at Carleton College, where she has taught since 2000. Her work focuses on British North America as a part of the eighteenth-century British Empire. She has just completed a new history of the Boston Massacre (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2020) that recovers the lost connections between civilians and military in pre-Revolutionary Boston. Zabin’s first monograph, Dangerous Economies: Status and Commerce in Imperial New York (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2009; University Press Audiobooks, 2010; paperback, 2011), reveals the role that New Yorkers, including the enslaved, the poor, and women without legal standing, played in creating British capitalism around the Atlantic world. She is also the author of The New York Conspiracy Trials of 1741: Daniel Horsmanden’s Journal of the Proceedings (Bedford Books of St. Martin’s Press, 2004), a volume intended for the undergraduate classroom. Recent journal articles include “Conclusion: Writing To and From the Revolution.” The William and Mary Quarterly, 74, no. 4 (2017) and “Women, Trade, and the Roots of Consumer Societies,” in The Oxford Handbook of American Women’s and Gender History (Oxford University Press, 2018). Zabin has served on many book prize committees, including the Mary Kelley book prize for the Society of the Early American Republic and the First Book Prize for the Berkshire Conference of Women Historians. She currently serves on the Nominating Committee for the OAH, and will become the chair of that committee for 2019-2020.