Associate Professor of US History and the College

PhD'10 New York University

On Research Leave: 2022-23

Mailing Address

The University of Chicago
Department of History
1126 E. 59th Street
Chicago, IL 60637

Social Science Research Building, room 512 – Office
(773) 702-8399 – Office telephone
(773) 702-7550 – Fax

Field Specialties

Atlantic slavery and emancipation; nineteenth-century African diaspora; US South; urban and regional history; race, gender, and sexuality


Rashauna Johnson is a historian of the 19th-century African diaspora, with an emphasis on slavery and emancipation in the US South and Atlantic World. She is especially interested in the limits and possibilities of archival histories of enslaved and freed people and the worlds in which they labored and lived. Johnson teaches courses on race, slavery, and nation; methodologies of slavery studies; and the 19th-century US.

Johnson is the author of Slavery’s Metropolis: Unfree Labor in New Orleans during the Age of Revolutions (Cambridge UP, 2016; paperback 2018), which was awarded the 2016 Williams Prize for the best book in Louisiana history and the 2018 H. L. Mitchell Award by the Southern Historical Association for the best book on the southern working class. Slavery's Metropolis was also named a finalist for the 2016 Berkshire Conference of Women's Historians Book Prize, honorable mention for the Urban History Association's Kenneth Jackson Award, and a finalist for the 2017 Frederick Douglass Book Prize. She is currently at work on her second book project, a history of family and region, slavery and emancipation in rural Louisiana. That project has been supported by the Hutchins Center for African & African American Research at Harvard University, the Mellon Scholars Post-Doctoral Fellowship in African American History at the Library Company of Philadelphia, and The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History. In addition, she is a coeditor of The Cambridge History of the African Diaspora.

Johnson serves extensively within and beyond the profession. She is a general editor for the Cambridge Studies on the African Diaspora. She has been a member of several book prize committees, including Wesley-Logan (AHA), David Montgomery (OAH), and Harriet Tubman (Schomburg), as well as program and fellowship committees. She is currently a board member of the Association for the Study of the Worldwide African Diaspora (ASWAD) and member of the Omohundro Institute Council. Consistent with her commitment to engaged scholarship beyond the profession, Johnson regularly delivers lectures to public and private high schoolers, and she has taught GED and literature courses in correctional facilities.

Johnson grew up in New Orleans, Louisiana. She earned a BA in Afro-American Studies and political science from Howard University, where she graduated summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa. She earned a PhD in history from New York University. Her graduate studies were supported in part by the Andrew Mellon Predoctoral Fellowship in the Humanistic Studies, and her dissertation received NYU’s 2011 Dean's Outstanding Dissertation Award in the Humanities. She is also the recipient of the Drusilla Dunjee Houston Award given by the Association of Black Woman Historians. She taught in the history department at Dartmouth College for nine years, where she directed the foreign study program in London (2017) and the honors program (2019-20). She was also affiliated with the Program in African and African American Studies (AAAS), and served on the advisory board for the Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship (MMUF) Program.

Selected Publications

Slavery’s Metropolis: Unfree Labor in New Orleans during the Age of Revolutions. Cambridge University Press, 2016 (paperback 2018).

“Spectacles of Restraint: Race, Excess, and Heterosexuality in Early American Print Culture.” In Heterosexual Histories, eds. Rebecca Davis and Michele Mitchell. New York: NYU Press, forthcoming 2021.

“Les études sur l’esclavage: défis et opportunités méthodologiques,” trans. Emmanuel Roudaut, Revue d’histoire du XIXe siècle 57 (2018): 128-30.

“From Saint-Domingue to Dumaine Street: A Family Story of Atlantic Circulations and Great Migrations,” Journal of African American History 102, no. 4 (Fall 2017): 427-43.

“A Fragile Empire? Early American Expansion from Below,” Reviews in American History 44, no. 3 (September 2016): 411-417.

“Visibility Versus Voice: Enslaved Women in U.S. History and Memory,” Reviews in American History 41, no. 2 (June 2013): 238-245.

“‘Laissez les bons temps rouler!’ and Other Concealments: Households, Taverns, and Irregular Intimacies in Antebellum New Orleans.” In Interconnections: Gender and Race in American History, edited by Alison M. Parker and Carol Faulkner, 19-50. Rochester: University of Rochester Press, 2012 (paperback 2014).

Online Publications

Streets and Archives: Slavery and the Spaces of Early New Orleans,” Process History: The Blog of the Organization of American Historians (OAH), April 5, 2017.

Slavery, New Orleans, and the Counting Blues,” Black Perspectives, African American Intellectual History Society (AAIHS),, March 28, 2017.

Slavery’s Metropolis: The Place of Enslaved People in a Revolutionary Age,” Age of Revolutions,, February 27, 2017.


As Historians Gather, No Truce in the History Wars, NYT, January 8, 2023
—Marc Parry, “How Should We Memorialize Slavery? A Case Study of What Happens When Research Collides with Public Memory,” The Chronicle Review of The Chronicle of Education, September 15, 2017.
—“Raquettes in New Orleans,” Tripod: New Orleans at 300, WWNO Radio Interview, January 2016.