Associate Professor of History:
Phone: +1 401 863 9577
My research takes place at the intersection of three fields in American history: Civil War and Reconstruction; Legal and Constitutional History; and Slavery, Emancipation, and Race.
Michael Vorenberg received his A.B. and Ph.D. from Harvard University, which awarded him the Bowdoin Prize for the best graduate essay, the Harold K. Gross Prize for the best dissertation in history, and the Delancey Jay Prize for the best work on human liberties. After receiving his Ph.D., Professor Vorenberg was a postdoctoral fellow at the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute at Harvard, and then an Assistant Professor of History at the State University of New York at Buffalo. He began teaching at Brown University in 1999, became the Vartan Gregorian Assistant Professor in 2002, and was promoted to Associate Professor with tenure in 2004. His first book, Final Freedom: The Civil War, the Abolition of Slavery, and the Thirteenth Amendment was published by Cambridge University Press in 2001 and was a Finalist for the Lincoln Prize. He is also the author of The Emancipation Proclamation: A Brief History with Documents, forthcoming from Bedford Books/St. Martin's. Currently, he is at work on a book about the impact of the Civil War on American citizenship. That project has received funding from the American Council of Learned Societies, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the American Antiquarian Society, and Brown University's Cogut Center for the Humanities Institute. He has published numerous essays and articles on topics ranging from Lincoln's plans for the colonization of African Americans to the meaning of rights and privileges under the Fourteenth Amendment. From 2004 to 2007, Professor Vorenberg was a member of Brown University's Steering Committee on Slavery and Justice. He currently is a member of the Advisory Committee of the United States Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial and is on the Board of Editors of Law and History Review. He lives in Barrington, Rhode Island, with his wife and daughter.
My research takes place at the intersection of three fields in American history: Civil War and Reconstruction; Legal and Constitutional History; and Slavery, Emancipation, and Race. My first book, Final Freedom: The Civil War, the Abolition of Slavery, and the Thirteenth Amendment (Cambridge, 2001), dealt with the making and meaning of the Thirteenth Amendment, the measure that outlawed slavery in the United States, but the larger subject was the way that popular attitudes toward race and the law collided with unanticipated effects of the Civil War to create a movement for a reworking of the constitutional order. Under this new order, Americans came to believe that they were empowered to change the Constitution, even though it was viewed by many as the product of irretrievable wisdom if not divine inspiration. With this new appreciation of the legitimacy of altering or amending the Constitution, Americans gained faith in their ability to shape the power of the state and the definition of who was American.
In my second book project, Reconstructing the People: The Invention of Citizenship During the American Civil War, I continue in a similar vein by examining how elite and ordinary members of the Union and the Confederacy during the Civil War strove for the first time in American history to translate latent notions of citizenship into law, policy, and manifest belief. The project already has been awarded a major grant from the American Council of Learned Societies, which provided me with a two-semester leave from teaching to work on the project, as well as a summer stipend from the National Endowment for the Humanities and a short-term fellowship from the American Antiquarian Society in Worcester, Massachusetts.
I have prepared for publication three articles based on this new work. The first examines the connection between racial and constitutional thinking in nineteenth-century America; the second examines disputes over Mexican and American landholding rights in the far West during the Civil War; and the third examines oath-taking and African Americans' acquisition of the right of testifying as witnesses during the Civil War era. I have presented some of the research involved in these articles and the larger book in lectures at Northwestern University Law School, The Nevada Law School, and the annual meetings of the American Society for Legal History and the Southern Historical Association.
In addition, I am under contract with Bedford Books/St. Martin's Press for a book on The Emancipation Proclamation. Finally, I have written two essays reflecting on my research in the context of the current state of the field of legal and constitutional history during the Civil War and Reconstruction era. The first of these essays was published in The Democratic Experiment: The Promise of American Political History, edited by Meg Jacobs, William Novak, and Julian Zelizer (Princeton, 2003), and the second will appear in a volume titled Reconstructions, edited by Thomas Brown (Oxford, 2006).
Vartan Gregorian Assistant Professorship, Brown University, 2002-2004.
Finalist, Lincoln Prize, 2002 (for Final Freedom).
American Council of Learned Societies/Andrew W. Mellon Fellowship, 2002-03.
Kate B. and Hall J. Peterson Fellowship, American Antiquarian Society, 2002-03.
Salomon Research Award, Brown University, 2002-2003.
National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Stipend, 2001.
Julian Park Fund Fellowship, State University of New York (SUNY) at Buffalo, 1998.
Research Development Fund Fellowship, SUNY at Buffalo, 1997.
Harold K. Gross Prize for Best Dissertation at Harvard in History, 1996.
Delancey Jay Prize for Best Dissertation at Harvard on Human Liberties, 1996.
W.E.B. Du Bois Fellowship, Harvard University, 1995.
Whiting Fellowship in the Humanities, 1994.
Bowdoin Prize for Best Essay at Harvard in the Humanities, 1993.
Indiana Historical Society Graduate Fellowship, 1993.
W. M. Keck Fellowship, Henry E. Huntington Library, 1993.
Everett M. Dirksen Congressional Research Fellowship, 1993.
Mark DeWolfe Howe Fellowship, Harvard Law School, 1993.
Charles Warren Center Research Fellowship, Harvard History Dept., 1991-2.
Derek Bok Award for Distinction in Teaching at Harvard, 1991.
Philip Washburn Prize for Best Senior Thesis at Harvard in History, 1986.
American Historical Association
Organization of American Historians
Southern Historical Association
American Society of Legal History
Board of Editors, Law and History Review, July 2004-
Co-Chair, Local Arrangements Committee, Annual Meeting of the Society for Historians of the Early American Republic, Providence, Rhode Island, Summer 2004.
Advisory Committee, Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission, Library of Congress (2002-present).
Board of Advisors, Lincoln Prize, Gettysburg Institute (2000-present).
Lecture courses on: American History to 1877; Antebellum America and the Road to Civil War; Civil War and Reconstruction; American Legal and Constitutional History
Seminars on The South and Slavery; Race and the Law; Making the American Color Line; Topics in American Legal History
American Council of Learned Societies, 2002-03
American Antiquarian Society Short-Term Fellowship, 2002
Brown University Salomon Research Award, 2002-03
National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Stipend, 2001