Top Young Historians: 80 – Stephanie M. H. Camp


Edited by Bonnie K. Goodman

80: Stephanie M. H. Camp, 1-14-08

(Note: Stephanie Camp died of cancer on April 2, 2014 at 46)

Basic Facts

Teaching Position: Associate Professor of History, University of Washington, September 2004 to present, Core Faculty, Africa and Diaspora Studies, September 2003 to present, Adjunct Assistant Professor of Women Studies, Fall 2000 to present, Affiliate Faculty, Harry Bridges Center for Labor Studies, Fall 2002 to present.
Area of Research: African-American history, History of Slavery, American South
Education: Ph.D. University of Pennsylvania, History, 1998
Major Publications: Camp is the author of Closer to Freedom: Enslaved Women and Everyday Resistance in the Plantation South. (Chapel Hill and London: The University of North Carolina Press, 2004), Winner, 2005 Annual Lillian Smith Book Award for New Voices in Non Fiction, The Southern Regional Council and the University of Georgia Libraries,
Honorable Mention, 2005Stephanie Camp JPG John Hope Franklin Prize, American Studies Association, Finalist, 2005 Washington State Book Award Washington, Washington Center for the Book at The Seattle Public Library, Included in the Gender and American Culture series. She is also the editor with Edward E. Baptist New Studies in the History of American Slavery (Athens, Georgia: The University of Georgia Press, 2006). Camp is also the author of numerous scholarly journal articles, book chapters and reviews including among others: “Ar’n’t I a Woman? and the History of Race and Sex in the U.S.” Part of “The History of Woman and Slavery: Considering the Impact of Ar’n’t I a Woman? Female Slaves in the Plantation South on the Twentieth Anniversary of Its Publication” article by Daina Ramey Berry, Stephanie M.H. Camp, Leslie Harris, Barbara Krauthamer, Jessica Millward, Jennifer L. Morgan. Journal of Women’s History. 19, 2 (June 2007), Winner, 2007 Letitia Woods Brown Memorial Prize for the best article on black women’s history; “I Could Not Stay There’: Enslaved Women, Truancy, and the Geography of Everyday Forms of Resistance in the Antebellum Plantation South.” Reprinted in Nancy Hewitt and Kirsten Delegard, eds., Women, Families and Communities: Readings in American History (1994; Glenview, Ill.: Scott, Foresman/Little, Brown Higher Education, 2007); “I Could Not Stay There’: Enslaved Women, Truancy, and the Geography of Everyday Forms of Resistance in the Antebellum Plantation South,” Slavery and Abolition, 23, 3 (December 2002). (Peer-reviewed.); “The Pleasures of Resistance: Enslaved Women and Body Politics in the Plantation South, 1830-1861,” Journal of Southern History 68, 3 (August 2002). (Peer-reviewed.)
Awards: Camp is the recipient of numerous awards and fellowships including among others:
Institute for Ethnic Studies in the United States grant, summer 2007;
Institute for Ethnic Studies in the United States grant, summer 2004;
Ford Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow, 2000-2001;
Faculty Fellow, Walter Chapin Simpson Center for the Humanities Society of Scholars, University of Washington, Winter, 2001;
Associate Fellow, Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance and Abolition, Yale Center for International and Area Studies, March 2001;
Royalty Research Fund Scholar, University of Washington, Summer 2000;
Sydney and Frances Lewis Fellowship for Research in Women’s History, Virginia Historical Society, 1999;
Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Research Fellowship, Library Company of Philadelphia, Summer, 1998;
Huggins-Quarles Dissertation Award, Organization of American Historians, 1997;
Andrew W. Mellon Predoctoral Fellow, Virginia Historical Society, 1997-98;
Minority Scholar in Residence, Vassar College, 1997-98;
Ford Foundation Doctoral Fellowship for Minorities, 1997-98. (Declined.);
Predoctoral Fellowship, Carter G. Woodson Institute, 1997-1998. (Declined.);
Department of History Mellon Dissertation Fellowship, University of Pennsylvania, 1995-96;
Fontaine Fellowship, University of Pennsylvania, 1992-1995;
Yale University Fellowship, 1990-92.
Additional Info:
Formerly Scholar in Residence, Vassar College, 1997-98, and Instructor, Department of History, University of Pennsylvania, 1997.
Camp served on the Board of Editors of the Journal of Southern History. She has been interviewed on NPR, NPR’s Seattle affiliateand Oregon Public Television; and she has have given public talks on black history in a variety of public settings including Seattle Arts and Lectures, the Central District Forum for Arts and Ideas and Monroe Correctional Complex.

Personal Anecdote

Like virtually all historians, I have rehearsed repeatedly the intellectual forces that brought me to my first book, which was also my dissertation: the oversights in the historiography, the theoretical developments that informed my contribution to the field, the sources that deserved new analysis. What I have often wondered about, though, were the personal motivations for writing a dissertation and then a book on enslaved women’s resistance. Did I, as a young, black woman, identify with black women who were enslaved more than a century ago? Did I, so often charged with being unnaturally defiant, need to cathect that identification on resistance, and not subjugation? As I mature into an experienced teacher who has seen many of my students compelled to identify with the variety of characters we study, I find myself having the courage to admit that the answer to these questions is “yes.”

That this is a difficult admission needs no lengthy explanation. Professional historians know that “the past is another country,” as our historicist forefathers (sic) wrote to explain their breaking away from the generally acontextual, moralistic narratives that preceded them. Identification is but a way of obfuscating difference, a romantic fantasy of a sameness that does not exist. I have come to believe this basic tenet of our profession as much as anyone. But not, perhaps, as much as some.

From my students I have learned to give identification some credit. While their feelings of association with slaves, slaveholders, poor white southerners, abolitionists and others are often confusing and painful, students’ sense of connection with and investment in them is a powerful motivation for the hard work required to leap into the minds, lives and worlds of people who lived so far apart from us. For me, identification was precisely the spur that got me asking questions, even if I had to learn to dis-identify in order to hear properly the answers for what they were: the words of others.

Students’ sense of the connection between themselves and this country’s slave past is also right. That is, “the past is another country” is not exactly an accurate descriptor of the U.S.’s relationship to its slave past, or to any aspect of its past. The American economy, culture and politics were all shaped (some have argued they were made) by the institution of slavery. The same is true for the many past lives and lands consumed in the making of today’s United States. Where is the line dividing the country of the past from this one? When students see, for example, their high school experiences in the educational institutions available to freedpeople in the late nineteenth century, are they narcissistically shoe-horning the whole world into their own? Perhaps a bit. But I have come to think that they are also appreciating the organic nature of the life of a country. That (somewhat ahistorically self-centered) sense of connection is one I now embrace as a potentially radical first step, as it was for me, towards re-envisioning the U.S. as constituted in and still living with the legacy of, its histories of exploitation and subjugation-and resistance.


By Stephanie M. H. Camp

  • By the antebellum period, laws, customs and ideals had come together into a systematic constriction of slave movement that helped establish slaveholders’ sense of mastery. Planters presided over controlled and controlling Closer to Freedom JPG landscapes dictating the movements of their slaves. Enslaved women and men alike were bound by this ‘geography of containment,’ but women in greater numbers and with greater consistency were confined to southern plantations; as a group they enjoyed much less mobility than did men.In violation of slaveholders’ orders and the state’s laws, though, enslaved people left the quarters; again and again enslaved people ran away and created other kinds of spaces that gave them room and time for their families, for rest from work, and for amusement; on occasion, women moved forbidden objects into their quarters to worrisome effect. In short, enslaved people created a ‘rival geography’-alternative ways of knowing and using southern space that conflicted with planters’ ideals and demands.” — Stephanie M. H. Camp in “Closer to Freedom Enslaved Women and Everyday Resistance in the Plantation South”About Stephanie M. H. Camp
  • “This slim volume makes a substantial and often ingenious contribution to slavery studies and to women’s and southern history. Taking pleasure seriously, studying space without getting trapped in the ‘public versus private’ debate, finding new information in much-mined sources, and complicating our knowledge of enslaved women’s resistance are valuable in themselves. They are also potent hints at what Camp and those who follow her lead will accomplish in the coming years.” — American Historical Review review of “Closer to Freedom Enslaved Women and Everyday Resistance in the Plantation South”
  • “Camp’s creative and elegant work reinforces the interconnectedness of North and South, slave and free, in the lives of enslaved people.” — Signs review of “Closer to Freedom Enslaved Women and Everyday Resistance in the Plantation South”
  • “Closer to Freedom is beautifully written, accessible, and truly enjoyable to read. It will make all readers rethink how we understand women’s lives under slavery, how we understand the historical significance of space, and how we conceptualize the process of slavery itself.” — The Journal of Southern History review of “Closer to Freedom Enslaved Women and Everyday Resistance in the Plantation South”
  • “Through the lens of geography, Camp successfully introduces a new language to describe and interpret everyday resistance among enslaved women and men. Scholars interested in a different approach to this important topic will find Closer to Freedom refreshing.” — Civil War History review of “Closer to Freedom Enslaved Women and Everyday Resistance in the Plantation South”
  • “This elegant and often profound monograph casts a fresh eye on the daily acts of self-preservation and disguised defiance that historians of slavery have called ‘everyday resistance.’ . . . Illuminating both the texture of enslaved women’s lives and the concept of everyday resistance, Closer to Freedom is both a welcome teaching text and an accessible study for general readers.” — North Carolina Historical Review review of “Closer to Freedom Enslaved Women and Everyday Resistance in the Plantation South”
  • “The book is well written throughout, and Camp really does seem to get inside the minds of enslaved women. . . . This is a promising first book and an interesting and innovative addition to the historiography of the lives of the enslaved.” — Georgia Historical Quarterly review of “Closer to Freedom Enslaved Women and Everyday Resistance in the Plantation South”
  • “Camp has written a provocative book full of astonishing, sometimes unforgettable moments. Moreover, she has raised important questions about the way slave women resisted their owners. Ultimately no one will be able to answer the questions that Camp asks without coming to grips with the world she describes.” — Virginia Magazine of History and Biography review of “Closer to Freedom Enslaved Women and Everyday Resistance in the Plantation South”
  • “Stephanie Camp’s brilliant study draws upon numerous fields of scholarship–feminist theory, anthropology, sociology–to produce an innovative reinterpretation of enslaved women in the plantation South. Sensitive, bold, and imaginative, Closer to Freedom is the first book to place black women at the center of everyday resistance to bondage.” — Douglas R. Egerton, Le Moyne College reviewing “Closer to Freedom Enslaved Women and Everyday Resistance in the Plantation South”
  • “The author’s attention to a ‘spatial history of American slavery’ reveals contests over physical space as a hitherto unappreciated dimension of the everyday politics of plantation life. This book skillfully brings into view clandestine pockets–ephemeral but resilient–in which slave women, in particular, struggled to sustain a ‘rival geography’ in which powers of mastery could be held at bay.” — Julie Saville, University of Chicago reviewing “Closer to Freedom Enslaved Women and Everyday Resistance in the Plantation South”

Posted on Sunday, January 13, 2008 at 6:33 PM

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