My research is primarily concerned with the ways in which discourses of gender, race and sexuality were articulated and interacted in the context of nineteenth century America
My most recent research project concerns transitional gender identity in nineteenth century America, focusing on Sarah Hicks Williams, a middle class woman born and raised in New Hartford, New York, who, in 1853, married Benjamin Williams, a physician and slaveholder from Greene County, North Carolina. Sarah relocated to Benjamin’s plantation following their honeymoon to take on the role of plantation mistress to the 37 or so enslaved peoples there. The monograph, Gender, Race and Family in Nineteenth Century America: From Northern Woman to Plantation Mistress (Palgrave MacMillan: forthcoming November 2012) concerns Sarah’s experiences of transition: from North to South; “true woman” to “southern lady”; single young woman to wife and mother. It is a story of the shifting nature of antebellum identity, yet calls into question the regional differences that were said to have existed between gender ideals of the “free North” and the “slave South” in this era. As a consequence of this research and in collaboration with Norfolk’s Black History Month Celebrations in October 2012 an exhibition of several of Sarah’s letters and a related series of Public Lectures and Café Conversations is being held at the Millennium Library, Norwich: see www.containingmultitudes.co.uk.
My next research project, “Articulating the Wounds of History: Slavery, Race, and African American Memory,” will concern the role that particular individuals played in reconfiguring a collective identity following the trauma of slavery. This research will position slavery in the United States as a collective memory, grounding one’s identity as African American. It will consider three inter-related forms of representation: the visual, the textual, and the vernacular, in first generation Black America at the turn of the nineteenth century. It will consider the role that individual intellectuals, in the broadest sense of the word, played in responding to the cultural trauma of slavery and formulating a collective response.
My Ph.D. thesis was completed in September 2003 at the University of Warwick, where I also spent my undergraduate years. It explored the emotional lives of the enslaved in antebellum North Carolina, seeking to uncover the realities of their courting relationships and courtship experiences. The monograph based on my PhD thesis, Courtship and Love among the Enslaved in North Carolina, was published in 2007 with the University Press of Mississippi. I also published a co-edited collection concerning the era of Reconstruction with ABC Clio in 2008 as part of their “Perspectives in American History Series”.
Fraser, Rebecca (2012) Gender, Race and Family in Nineteenth Century America: From Northern Woman to Plantation Mistress. Palgrave Macmillan, 2012.
Fraser, Rebecca (2008) Reconstruction: People and Perspectives. ABC-CLIO; 1 edition . ISBN 9781598840216
Fraser, Rebecca (2007) Courtship and Love Among the Enslaved in North Carolina. University Press of Mississippi, p. 137. ISBN 1934110078
Fraser, Rebecca (2011) 'No more Sarah Hicks': A Reconfiguration of Antebellum Time and Space for an Elite White Woman. Slavery and Abolition, 32 (2). pp. 213-226. ISSN 0144-039x/ 1743-9523
Fraser, Rebecca (2005) Courtship Contests and the Meaning of Conflict in the Folklore of Slaves. Journal of Southern History, 71 (4). pp. 769-802.
Fraser, Rebecca (2009) Negotiating their Manhood: Masculinity amongst the Enslaved in the Upper-South 1830-1860. In: Black and White Masculinity in the American South, 1800-2000. Cambridge Scholars Publishing, pp. 76-94. ISBN 9781443805964
Fraser, Rebecca (2008) The Meaning of Freedom for African American Men. In: Reconstruction, Perspectives in American Social History. ABC-CLIO; 1 edition, pp. 1-20. ISBN 9781598840216
Home and Belonging in the Letters of Sarah Hicks Williams
Gender and Race in Antebellum Popular Culture. By Sarah N. Roth. Cambridge University Press. 2014. x + 320pp. £69.99Full Text
Gender, Race and Family in Nineteenth Century America: From Northern Woman to Plantation MistressUEA Repository
'No more Sarah Hicks': A Reconfiguration of Antebellum Time and Space for an Elite White WomanFull Text UEA Repository
Negotiating their Manhood: Masculinity amongst the Enslaved in the Upper-South 1830-1860UEA Repository
The Meaning of Freedom for African American MenUEA Repository
Reconstruction: People and PerspectivesUEA Repository
Courtship and Love Among the Enslaved in North CarolinaUEA Repository
Courtship Contests and the Meaning of Conflict in the Folklore of SlavesUEA Repository
Goin' Back Over There to See That Girl: Competing Spaces in the Social World of the Enslaved in Antebellum North CarolinaFull Text UEA Repository
Key Research Interests
My research is primarily concerned with the interaction and articulation of race, gender, and sexuality in nineteenth century America. I would be happy to take on research students working in the following areas: gender and sexuality in nineteenth century America; race in the nineteenth century south; history of enslavement on the North American mainland from colonial period to 1861; Civil War and Reconstruction with an emphasis on race and gender; historical biographies (with a particular emphasis on gender and race) in nineteenth century America; and African American cultural lives (with a particular emphasis on the antebellum period).
Gender, Race and Family in Nineteenth Century America: From Northern Woman to Plantation Mistress (Palgrave MacMillan: forthcoming November 2012).
External Activities and Indicators of Esteem
- Member of British Association of American Studies
- Member of British American Nineteenth Century Historians
- Teaching Fellow of the Higher Education Academy
- Recipient of the Arthur Miller Prize for best journal length article for my piece, “Courtship Contests and The Meaning of Conflict in the Folklore of Slaves,” Journal of Southern History, 71:4 (Nov 2005), pp. 769-802.
- Invited speaker at Australian and New Zealand American Studies Association, Sydney, 2008.
- Peer reviewer for the Journal of American Studies, American Nineteenth Century History, and Slavery and Abolition.
- Invited to act as external examiner for David Doddington’s PhD, “Hierarchies and Honour among Enslaved Men in the Antebellum South,” at the University of Warwick. Viva date TBA.
- I have been asked to write one of the case studies as part of the impact narrative in AMS for the upcoming REF 2014. This will revolve around the Containing Multitudes exhibition and related events I have organised and that I engaged in as part of Norfolk Black History Month’s celebrations in 2012.
- Director of Graduate Studies (Taught Postgraduate and Postgraduate Research): 2006 – 2011.
- Senior Advisor (2007, semester II)
- Faculty Director: Postgraduate (Taught Programmes), Aug 2012 – Present