Race & Ethnicity

At Duke, we are interested in what W. E. B. Du Bois so famously dubbed “the problem of the color line,” as well as how race and ethnicity intertwine with other collective identities such as community or nation, class or gender.  Although embodied and experienced individually, racial and ethnic identities have served to shape social interactions, set the boundaries of inclusion and exclusion, and guide allocations of resources and power.  They are constructed categories—ever changing and continually contested—but they are potent nonetheless.

The History Department has a strong tradition of investigating categories of social difference and their construction.  As early as 1974, Duke used innovative oral history initiatives and preserved written and documentary sources to created a multiracial source base for the writing of Southern, African-American, and civil rights history.  At the same time the History Department led the way in recruiting a generation of African-American graduate students whose research would revolutionize civil rights historiography.  That commitment continues today with the Behind the Veil project, which has conducted 1,300 oral history interviews with African Americans from across the South, resulting in a new source base for documenting life during the Jim Crow era. 

At Duke, race and ethnicity form a cross-cutting subfield that connects to students and faculty working from diverse methodological perspectives in a variety of periods and places.  Coursework in racial formations, imperialism, social movements, and policy and political history all explore how race and ethnicity have been made in particular locales and historical moments, as well as how being racialized and ethnicized subjects has affected people’s lived experience and material circumstance.  Duke scholars have researched the experience of enslaved peoples, orientalism and subjectivity, the global phenomenon of white supremacy, the making of race in Western Africa, and the ways in which the African American freedom struggle links with liberation movements worldwide.  Impressive library holdings in the Human Rights Archive, U.S. Southern History and Culture, and the John Hope Franklin Research Center for African and African American History provide invaluable resources for pursuing a course of study.


Juliana Barr, Associate Professor in the Department of History

Associate Professor Juliana Barr received her M.A. and Ph.D. (1999) in American women’s history from the University of Wisconsin Madison and her B.A. (1988) from the University of Texas at Austin. She joined the Duke University Department of History in 2015 after teaching at Rutgers University and... full profile »

Sarah Jane Deutsch, Professor of History

Office: 326 Carr Building, Durham, NC 27708
Phone: (919) 684-2602

My work engages issues of difference, particularly racial, gender, class, and spatial formations. My current book project is “Making a Modern U.S. West, 1898-1942.” I have written three other books, Women and the City: Gender, Space and Power in Boston, 1870-1940 (2000); From Ballots to Breadlines... full profile »

Laurent Dubois, Professor of Romance Studies

Office: 213 Language Center, Durham, NC 27708
Phone: (919) 660-3112

I am a specialist on the history and culture of the Atlantic world, with a focus on the Caribbean and particularly Haiti. I am the faculty director of the Forum for Scholars and Publics at Duke University, and write for magazines including the New Republic, Sports Illustrated, and the New Yorker. I... full profile »

Laura F. Edwards, Peabody Family Professor of History in Trinity College of Arts and Sciences

Office: 231 Carr Bldg, Durham, NC 27708
Phone: (919) 668-1435

My research focuses on women, gender, and the law in the nineteenth-century, particularly the U.S. South. In addition to articles on these topics, I have published four books: A Legal History of the Civil War and Reconstruction:  A Nation of Rights (2015); The People and Their Peace:... full profile »

John D. French, Professor of History

Office: 231 Carr Bldg, Durham, NC 27708
Phone: (919) 684-2536

I am an historian of modern Latin America with a specialization in Brazil. Since 2005, I have been working on a book entitled "Lula's Politics of Cunning: From Trade Unionism to the Presidency in Brazil" which draws on a multi-year international research project on “Nurturing Hope, Deepening... full profile »

Barry Gaspar, Professor with Tenure

Office: 306 Carr Bldg, Durham, NC 27708
Phone: (919) 684-2109

Dr. Gaspar concentrates on comparative slave systems, with a special interest in the development of slave society and the evolution of slave life in the United States and the Caribbean. The Atlantic Slave Trade, Atlantic history and culture, the legacy of slavery in post-slave societies, historical... full profile »

Thavolia Glymph, Professor of African and African American Studies

Office: 236 Friedl Bldg, Durham, NC 27708
Phone: (919) 668-1625

Thavolia Glymph is Associate Professor of History at Duke University in the Departments of African & African American Studies and History and a Faculty Affiliate in the Duke University Population Research Institute (DuPri) and the Program in Women's Studies. Glymph is a historian of the... full profile »

Adriane D. Lentz-Smith, Associate Professor in the Department of History

Office: Dept of History, Carr Bldg, Durham, NC 27708
Phone: (919) 684-2837

My interests lie in African American history, twentieth-century United States History, and the history of the US & the World. My 2009 book, Freedom Struggles: African Americans and World War I, looks at the black freedom struggle in the World War I years, with a particular focus on... full profile »

Nancy MacLean, William H. Chafe Professor of History and Public Policy

Nancy MacLean is an award-winning scholar of the twentieth-century U.S., whose new book, Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right’s Stealth Plan for America, has been described by Publishers Weekly as “a thoroughly researched and... full profile »

Sucheta Mazumdar, Associate Professor of History

Office: 226 Carr Bldg, Durham, NC 27708
Phone: (919) 684-5490

Grounded primarily in Chinese history, and secondarily in Indian history, I am excited by the intellectual challenges of writing and teaching comparative global history. Two broad questions frame my research agenda: the radical transformation of circuits of consumption and commodity production that... full profile »

Gunther W. Peck, Associate Professor of History

Office: 308 Carr Bldg, 136 Public Policy, Durham, NC 27708
Phone: (919) 668-5297

My research focuses on the long history of human trafficking and its relationship to the evolution of racial ideology, humanitarian intervention, and immigration policy in North America and Europe. In addition to mentoring both History and Public Policy graduate students, I regularly teach four... full profile »