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Tamika Nunley

Associate Professor

Tamika Nunley

Educational Background

Ph.D., University of Virginia, History

M.A., University of Virginia, History

M.A., Columbia University, African American Studies

B.A., Miami University, African American Studies/History

Overview

Tamika Nunley is Associate Professor of History with courses and research focused on the history of slavery, African American women's and gender history, the early Republic, and the American Civil War. Her first book, At the Threshold of Liberty: Women, Slavery, and Shifting Identities in Washington, D.C. (University of North Carolina Press, 2021) reveals how African American women—enslaved, fugitive, and free—imagined new identities and lives beyond the oppressive restrictions intended to prevent them from experiencing liberty, self-respect, and power. Consulting nineteenth-century newspapers, government documents, letters, abolitionist records, legislation, and memoirs, Nunley traces how black women navigated social and legal proscriptions to develop their own ideas about liberty as they escaped from slavery, initiated freedom suits, created entrepreneurial economies, pursued education, and participated in political work. In telling these stories, Nunley places black women at the vanguard of the history of Washington D.C., and illuminates how they contributed to the momentous transformations of nineteenth-century America. This book was named the 2021 Letitia Woods Brown Book prize winner for best book in African American women's history and has been shortlisted for the MAAH Stone Book Award.

She is currently finishing a second book, The Demands of Justice: Enslaved Women, Capital Crime, and Clemency in Early Virginia, 1662-1865 with the University of North Carolina Press. This book examines clemency in legal cases that involve enslaved women accused of capital crime in early Virginia. In these legal encounters, we not only see a system that worked to define and affirm a commitment to legal paternalism that upheld the rule of law, but decades of responses made by the countless enslaved women accused of capital offenses. The Demands of Justice examines how these responses constituted the makings of an intellectual history of enslaved women’s articulations of justice. She has published articles and reviews in The Journal of Southern History, The William and Mary Quarterly, the Journal of American Legal History and the Journal of the Civil War Era.

In addition to being a lifetime member of the Association of Black Women Historians, she serves on the editorial board of Civil War History, and on committees for the Society for Historians of the Early American Republic, the Society of Civil War Historians, and the Southern Historical Association. 
Her work has been supported by the Andrew Mellon and Woodrow Wilson foundations as well as the American Association of University Women and the Bright Institute Fellowship.

Departments/Programs

  • American Studies Program
  • History

Research

  • African American
  • Gender
  • Slavery
  • Nineteenth-Century American history
  • Legal History

Courses

Spring 2022

Publications

SELECTED PUBLICATIONS    

At the Threshold of Liberty: Women, Slavery, and Shifting Identities in Washington, D.C. (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, February 2021) 

*Winner of the 2021 Letitia Woods Brown Book Prize 

*Shortlist for the MAAH Stone Book Award 

“Thrice Condemned: Enslaved Women, Violence, and the Practice of Leniency in Antebellum Virginia Courts” Journal of Southern History 87, No. 1 (February 2021)

*Winner of the 2021 Letitia Woods Brown Prize for Best Article 

“The New Civil War Revisionism,” with Edward L. Ayers, Gregory Downs, Daniel Crofts, Christopher Phillips, and Matthew E. Stanley, Civil War History 65, No. 4 (December 2019) 

“’I Know What Liberty Is’: Elizabeth Keckly’s Union War” New Perspectives on the Union War eds. Gary Gallagher and Elizabeth Varon in The North’s Civil War Series (New York: Fordham University Press, 2019) 

“By Stealth’ or Dispute: Freedwomen and the Contestation of American Citizenship” in The Civil War and the Transformation of the American Citizenship, ed. Paul Quigley (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2018) 

“Teaching in Climes of Unrest: BLM, Slavery, and the Intellectual Underpinnings of Student Protest at Oberlin” in The Panorama, a digital publication of the Journal of the Early Republic (Aug. 21, 2017)


BOOK REVIEWS


Thavolia Glymph, The Women’s Fight: The Civil War’s Battles for Homes, Freedom, and Nation (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2020) forthcoming in The English Historical Review (2021)

Loren Schweninger, Appealing for Liberty: Freedom Suits in the South (New York: Oxford University Press, 2018) William and Mary Quarterly 76, no.3 (July 2019).

Tera Hunter, Bound in Wedlock: Slave and Free Black Marriage in the Nineteenth Century (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2017) in American Journal of Legal History 58, no.1 (Spring 2018).

Amber D. Moulton, The Fight for Interracial Marriage Rights in Antebellum Massachusetts, (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2015). Journal of the Civil War Era December 2016. 

Jessica Millward, Finding Charity’s Folk: Enslaved and Free Black Women in Maryland. (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2015) Civil War Book Review August 2016.


RESEARCH IN PROGRESS

The Demands of Justice: Enslaved Women, Capital Crime, and Clemency in Early Virginia, 1705-1865 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, under contract)