Collegiate Affiliation

I received my PhD from Duke University, and my first book, Suspect Relations: Sex, Race, and Resistance in Colonial North Carolina (Cornell, 2002), explores the dynamics of racism in the 18th century. It focuses on the interactions of ordinary people in a slave society, and on the way their intimate relationships, and the treatment of these in court, made racial difference seem increasingly real. My second book is American Freethinker: Elihu Palmer and the Struggle for Religious Freedom in the New Nation (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2020). Palmer challenged the commonplace notion that the fate of the republic depended on Christian orthodoxy, arguing instead that freedom of speech and thought best protected a democratic nation. Although an early Americanist by training, my research and teaching include much 20th-century history, with a focus on the "culture wars" over religion and politics. I am also interested in memoir as a lens into the past, and I offer courses on History through Memoir. My current book-in-progress is hybrid family history/memoir involving my father's German family over four generations with a focus on displacement by war, political division, and voluntary migration. I love to teach, and in April 2011 I was honored to receive the Horace T. Morse - University of Minnesota Alumni Association Award for Outstanding Contributions to Undergraduate Education. In 2011–12, I was a Fulbright scholar at the Heidelberg Center for American Studies, University of Heidelberg, Germany.

Educational Background & Specialties
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Educational Background

  • PhD: History, Duke University, 1994
  • MA: History, Duke University, 1989
  • BA (cum laude): Comparative Literature, Smith College, 1985


  • Colonial and Revolutionary America
  • US social and intellectual history
  • Women, gender, and sexuality in early America
  • Race and racial ideologies in early America
  • American Religious History
  • Cultural encounters in early America
  • Radicalism in Early America