R. Isabela Morales
Fields of Study: United States (1789-1920), African American history, Slavery and Emancipation in the Atlantic World
My dissertation is a social history of race and family in the American West. It examines the "landscape of race" in the post-emancipation period by following the lives and travels of the Townsend family—the twelve biracial children of two white brothers and several enslaved women. Ultimately, theirs is a story is about mobility: geographic, economic, and social. Manumitted in 1860 after their fathers’ deaths—and named the heirs to the two cotton planters’ considerable wealth—the Townsends migrated across the country in the following decades, settling in Alabama, Ohio, Kansas, and Colorado. Their experiences provide insight into the ways that class, color, and region affected African American men and women’s opportunities for economic and social advancement in the second half of the 19th century.