Rashauna R. Johnson
2022-2023: Hutchins Family Fellow
Rashauna Johnson is a proud New Orleanian and an award-winning historian of slavery and emancipation in the African diaspora. She is especially interested in labor, space and place, and gender and sexuality in the nineteenth-century US South. Rashauna is the author of the prize-winning Slavery’s Metropolis: Unfree Labor in New Orleans during the Age of Revolutions (Cambridge, 2016) and is currently at work on a book about slavery and emancipation in the global US South. She taught at Dartmouth College for nearly a decade before joining the history department at The University of Chicago.
For the fellowship project, she will work on Strange Roots: Black Intimacies in the Global Plantation South tells three intersecting stories. The first is a family history of the author’s maternal ancestors in black and white, slavery and freedom. The second story is about a region of rural Louisiana, particularly the politics of intimacy in its transformation from borderlands to center of King Cotton and later a site of Angola Penitentiary. The final story concerns the world to which plantations belonged, and it changed dramatically over the nineteenth century. In 1800 this region was a New Spain borderland that later teemed with cotton. During the Civil War, black Union troops at Port Hudson fought to secure a new future. But as former Confederates reestablished antidemocratic dominance, the region became a site of Jim Crow modernity. In weaving these three components into one another, this project insists that Black history matters, and its struggles and triumphs prove instructive as we envision a radical future.