Duke historian Glymph accepts secondary appointment to Law School faculty

November 28, 2018Duke Law News

Duke University Professor of History Thavolia Glymph

Duke University Professor of History Thavolia Glymph has accepted a secondary appointment at Duke Law School. Glymph, whose research and teaching focus on the 19th-century U.S. South, with an emphasis on gender and women’s history, slavery, emancipation, the Civil War, and Reconstruction, has previously been in residence at the Law School as the John Hope Franklin Visiting Professor of American Legal History in the fall 2015 and spring 2018 semesters.

“I am extremely honored to have this secondary appointment,” said Glymph, who also serves as the faculty research scholar at the Duke Population Research Institute. “There are many people at the Law School whose scholarship intervenes in really critical and important ways with questions that I teach and address in my work such as the relationship of slavery to national development and the Constitution, the problem of war and refugees, the meaning of freedom, and the developments that culminated in adoption of the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution and their legacies. To have a more direct relationship with them and with the study of the law will be immensely valuable.”

Glymph is the author of Out of the House of Bondage: The Transformation of the Plantation Household (Cambridge, 2008), for which she shared the 2009 Philip Taft Labor History Award and was a finalist for both the 2009 Frederick Douglass Book Prize and the Jefferson Davis Award. She has edited, co-edited, or co-authored five additional volumes and published more than 30 other scholarly works. In 2014, she received the George and Ann Richards Prize for her article, “Rose’s War and the Gendered Politics of a Slave Insurgency in the Civil War,” published in the Journal of the Civil War Era.

“I am delighted that Professor Glymph has found a second intellectual home at the Law School,” said Kerry Abrams, the James B. Duke and Benjamin N. Duke Dean of the School of Law and professor of law. “Her historical research delves into the most fundamental legal issues of the American Civil War and Reconstruction — issues that are crucial for understanding the development of constitutional law, property law, and the law of citizenship. Her participation at the Law School will enrich our community’s understanding of the role of law in our nation’s development.”

In a book forthcoming next fall from UNC Press, Women at War: Race, Gender, and Power in the American Civil War, Glymph uses such primary documents as diaries, letters, and government records to present women “in conversation with each other as they were in life,” be they Northern white women working with Southern black women in wartime refugee camps, former plantation mistresses interacting with poor white women while fleeing the Union Army, or other encounters on a shifting cultural landscape. “That’s the kind of conversation I want readers to see, how the war impacts class structure and race across the geographical boundaries of North and South.”

With another book project, titled African American Women and Children Refugees in the Civil War, Glymph examines questions of statelessness, forced labor, wartime atrocities, human rights, refugee camps, and the history of surveillance and containment in the context of the destruction of slavery and war.

“What I’m trying to do is to encourage a different way of thinking about the Civil War and refugees more broadly,” said Glymph, who made the Civil War refugee experience the topic of her 2015 Robert R. Wilson Lecture, titled “Under the Shield of the Law of Nations,” and a Duke Law course titled Slavery as Refugees and the Laws of War: Gender, Race, and the Origins of Human Rights Law in the U.S. “We tend to think of refugees and refugee policy primarily as a function of World War II and the UN protocols and policies that came at the end of the war. I’m arguing that the questions the UN dealt with and the policies they came up with were prefigured by the problems that occurred in our own country from 1861 through 1865.”

Melvin G. Shimm Professor of Law Darrell Miller, who is serving with Glymph on the National Constitution Center’s advisory board for its permanent Reconstruction exhibit, said her work provides “essential historical context” for his own scholarship and that of his colleagues on the Reconstruction amendments and contemporary law. “Thavolia is a thoughtful and innovative scholar who wants to bring into the academy the voices that have been otherwise unheard in the history of slavery and Reconstruction,” he said.

While visiting Duke Law in 2018, Glymph delivered a second Robert R. Wilson Lecture, titled “‘You will please let me know if we are free:’ The Dissolution of Property Rights in Human Beings in War and the Bounds of Freedom.” Her related course, The Law of Slavery and Freedom: The 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments, explored the ways in which the institution of slavery interacted with the law in the United States and how the law defined freedom and the practices of freedom.

Glymph called her experience teaching law students both extraordinary and intellectually fruitful. “Not only were they engaged with my class, but they were always bringing in conversations and discussions about relevant material from other classes that really enhanced the overall learning experience,” she said. “I learned a lot that has been useful in thinking about my own research and in thinking about teaching more broadly.”

Glymph has participated in student- and faculty-organized panel discussions at the Law School independent of her semesters in residence, including a September 2017 discussion titled “Statues and Symbols in the Wake of Charlottesville.” She has also served as a commentator for the Culp Colloquium, an annual scholarship workshop for untenured minority faculty members from law schools around the country, and is working with Miller, Edward and Ellen Schwarzman Professor of Law Guy-Uriel Charles, and Trina Jones to organize an interdisciplinary two-day conference on Reconstruction that begins at Duke Law on March 1. Glymph also served on the Law School’s recent dean search committee.

An extremely engaged member of the Duke community, Glymph participated in two significant university-wide activities last March: She was a member of committee for the Provost’s Forum on Academic Freedom, chaired by Lanty L. Smith ’67 Professor of Law Joseph Blocher, and organizer of the two-day symposium titled “American Universities, Monuments, and the Legacies of Slavery.”

Glymph, whose next scholarly project is titled “Playing ‘Dixie’ in Egypt: Civil War Veterans in the Egyptian Army and Transnational Transcripts of Race, Nation, Empire, and Citizenship, 1869-1878,” has served as an Organization of American Historians Distinguished Lecturer since 2011. She will become the 86th president of the Southern Historical Association in 2019 and deliver her presidential address at the organization’s annual meeting in 2020. She said she is particularly pleased to be the first African American professor from Duke in the post once held by her friend, the late legendary historian John Hope Franklin. “When they called me, all I could think of was that John would have been very proud and pleased that I followed him with this honor,” she said.

But following Franklin, who taught Constitutional History at Duke Law from 1985 to 1992, as a member of the Law School faculty, “is the greatest honor of my career,” she added. “It’s such a distinct honor to be able to follow in his footsteps as a professor of history and in the Law School, and to have been the John Hope Franklin Visiting Professor. I can’t think of anything else that has so touched me and been so profoundly rewarding.”