Kelsey Jennings Roggensack

Graduate Student


I am a Ph.D. student in the Department of History at Cornell University. I study African American families and communities relocating to the American West in the 19th century and early 20th century. My dissertation examines the American West through a historical analysis of African American folklore and other documented ephemera. I consider both the migration to and subsequent settlement in the West as imperative to Black history. My research explores how recorded memories and traditions reflect the perception of the West for African Americans and in turn examines how these archival resources reveal the West as a distinctive site for Black history. I analyze the complexities inherent to this study, found at the intersection of stolen land and stolen labor. Grounded in historical and literary analyses of genealogical records, newspapers, letters, journals, as well as audio and written recordings of songs and stories, I ask: How did Black people navigate, survive, and imagine the American West? 

Committee: Russell Rickford (chair), Derek Chang, Derrick Spires

Research Focus

African-American/Black American History
Histories of Resistance
Migration History
US History