Plenary Speakers

Speaker Biography
Headshot of plenary speaker Natasha Trethewey Natasha Trethewey is Board of Trustees Professor of English at Northwestern University. She served two terms as the 19th Poet Laureate of the United States (2012-2014) and is the author of five collections of poetry, including Native Guard (2006)—for which she was awarded the 2007 Pulitzer Prize—and, most recently, Monument: Poems New and Selected (2018); a book of non-fiction, Beyond Katrina: A Meditation on the Mississippi Gulf Coast (2010); and a memoir, Memorial Drive (2020) an instant New York Times Bestseller. She is the recipient of fellowships from the Academy of American Poets, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Guggenheim Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, the Beinecke Library at Yale, and the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard. She is a fellow of both the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Letters. In 2017 she received the Heinz Award for Arts and Humanities. A Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets since 2019, Trethewey was awarded the 2020 Rebekah Johnson Bobbitt Prize in Poetry for Lifetime Achievement from the Library of Congress.
Headshot of plenary speaker David Blight David Blight is Sterling Professor of History, African American Studies, and American Studies at Yale University, where he is also Director of the Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, and Abolition at Yale. His books include the Pulitzer Prize-winning Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom (2018) as well as American Oracle: The Civil War in the Civil Rights Era (Harvard University Press, published August 2011), A Slave No More: Two Men Who Escaped to Freedom, Including their Narratives of Emancipation, (Harcourt, 2007),  and Race and Reunion: The Civil War in American Memory (Harvard University Press, 2001), which received eight book awards, including the Bancroft Prize, the Abraham Lincoln Prize, and the Frederick Douglass Prize. Blight is also a frequent book reviewer for the New York TimesWashington Post Book World, the Chicago Tribune, the Los Angeles Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, the Boston Globe, Slate.com and other newspapers, and has written many articles and op-eds on abolitionism, American historical memory, and African American intellectual and cultural history
Headshot of plenary speaker Judith Giesberg Judith Giesberg is Robert M. Birmingham Chair in the Humanities and Professor of History at Villanova University. Giesberg is the author of five books, Civil War Sisterhood: The United States Sanitary Commission and Women’s Politics in Transition (Boston, MA:  Northeastern University Press, 2000),“Army at Home:” Women and the Civil War on the Northern Home Front (Chapel Hill, NC:  University of North Carolina Press, 2009), Keystone State in Crisis:  Pennsylvania in the Civil War (Pennsylvania Historical Association, 2013), and Emilie Davis’s Civil War:  The Diaries of a Free Black Woman in Philadelphia, 1863-1865 (State College, PA: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2014.)  Judy’s latest book, Sex and the Civil War:  Soldiers, Pornography, and the Making of Modern Morality, (University of North Carolina Press) was published in 2017.  Judy directs a digital project, Last Seen:  Finding Family After Slavery, that is collecting, digitizing, and transcribing information wanted ads taken out by former slaves looking for family members lost to the domestic slave trade.
Headshot of plenary speaker Stephanie Jones-Rogers Stephanie Jones-Rogers is an associate professor of history at the University of California Berkeley. Her first book, They Were Her Property: White Women as Slaveowners in the American South is a regional study that draws upon formerly enslaved people’s testimony to dramatically reshape current understandings of white women’s economic relationships to slavery. The book is based on her revised dissertation, which won the Organization of American Historians’ 2013 Lerner-Scott Prize for the best doctoral dissertation in U.S. women’s history. They Were Her Property also won the Lapidus Center for the Historical Analysis of Transatlantic Slavery (at the New York Public Library’s Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture) 2020 Harriet Tubman Prize for the best nonfiction book published in the United States on the slave trade, slavery, and anti-slavery in the Atlantic World, the Southern Association for Women’s Historians 2020 Julia Cherry Spruill Prize awarded for the best book in southern women’s history, the Southern Historical Association’s 2020 Charles S. Sydnor Award, which is awarded for the best book in southern history published in an odd-numbered year, the Society for Historians of the Early American Republic’s 2020 Best Book Prize, the Organization of American Historians’ 2020 Merle Curti Prize for the best book in American social history, and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize in History.
Headshot of plenary speaker Stephanie McCurry Stephanie McCurry is the R. Gordon Hoxie Professor of History at Columbia University. She specializes in the American Civil War and Reconstruction, the nineteenth-century United States, the American South, and the history of women and gender. She is the author of Masters of Small Worlds: Yeoman Households and the Political Culture of the Antebellum South Carolina Low Country (Oxford University Press, 1995), Confederate Reckoning: Power and Politics in the Civil War South (Harvard University Press, 2010), a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for History, and most recently, Women’s War: Fighting and Surviving the American Civil War (Harvard University Press, 2019). She is also the author of articles and review essays that have appeared in The Atlantic, The Nation, The New York Times, The Times Literary Supplement, and The Women’s Review of Books. Her current work focuses on the epic human drama of Reconstruction in the U.S. and the comparative history of postwar societies and processes of reconstruction in the 19th and 20th centuries.
Headshot of plenary speaker Nina Silber Nina Silber is a professor of history at Boston University, where she is also the chair of the History Department. Her research and teaching focus on the US Civil War, US women’s history, and the history of the American South. Her books include The Romance of Reunion: Northerners and the South, 1865-1900 (1993); Divided Houses: Gender and the Civil War (1992); Daughters of the Union: Northern Women Fight the Civil War (2005); and Gender and the Sectional Conflict (2009). She has been the recipient of numerous grants, including the Charles Warren Fellowship at Harvard University, a Fulbright Senior Lectureship at Charles University in Prague, and a Senior Research Fellowship through the Boston University Humanities Foundation. Aside from her teaching and research, Professor Silber has also worked on numerous public history projects, ranging from museum exhibitions at the Gettysburg National Military Park to film projects on the Civil War and Reconstruction eras. Between June 2018 and June 2020, Professor Silber served as President of the Society of Civil War Historians. Professor Silber’s newest book, This War Ain’t Over: Fighting the Civil War in New Deal America, was published by the University of North Carolina Press in November 2018.
Headshot of plenary speaker Fay Yarbrough Fay Yarbrough is an associate professor of History at Rice University. Her research interests focus on the native populations of the southeastern United States and Indian Territory during the nineteenth century. She is particularly interested in the interactions between indigenous peoples and people of African descent. Her first book Race and the Cherokee Nation: Sovereignty in the Nineteenth Century explores the complex relationship between the construction of sexual boundaries and the formation of tribal and racial identities.  The study analyzes how Cherokee lawmakers used marriage laws to construct conceptions of race and gender in the face of Jackson’s Indian policies and how the Civil War and Reconstruction reconfigured the thinking of Cherokee legislators. Professor Yarbrough also co-edited a collection of essays entitled Gender and Sexuality in the Indigenous Americas, 1400-1850 with Sandra Slater (College of Charleston) Currently, Professor Yarbrough is working on a project that considers the participation of Choctaw Indians in the American Civil War. Professor Yarbrough teaches courses on nineteenth-century American history covering the American Civil War, Native history, African American history, and women and gender.
Headshot of speaker Thavolia Glymph Thavolia Glymph is a professor of history and law at Duke University. Her work focuses on slavery, emancipation, plantation societies and economies, Reconstruction, and black political thought in the nineteenth century U.S. South. She is the author of The Women’s Fight: The Civil War’s Battles for Home, Freedom, and Nation, Littlefield History of the Civil War Era Series (University of North Carolina Press, 2020), recipient of the Tom Watson Brown Book Award awarded by the Society of Civil War Historians and the Watson-Brown Foundation; the 2021 John Nau Prize for best book in the American Civil War Era awarded by the John L. Nau III Center for Civil War History, University of Virginia; 2021 Civil War and Reconstruction Book Award awarded by the Organization of American Historians; the 2021 Mary Nickliss Prize awarded by the Organization of American Historians; and the 2021 Darlene Clark Hine Award awarded by the Organization of American Historians. She is also the author of Out of the House of Bondage: The Transformation of the Plantation Household (Cambridge University Press, 2008), and co-editor of two volumes of the award-winning documentary series Freedom: A Documentary History of Emancipation, 1861-1867 (Series 1, Volume 1 and Series 1, Volume 3).