Barbara J. Fields

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Barbara Jeanne Fields (born Charleston, South Carolina) is a professor of American history at Columbia University.[1] Her focus is on the history of the American South, 19th century social history, and the transition to capitalism in the United States.


She was raised in Washington, D.C., where she attended Morgan Elementary School, Banneker Junior High School, and Western High School.[2] She received her B.A. from Harvard University in 1968, and her Ph.D. from Yale University in 1978. At Yale, she was one of the last doctoral students of C. Vann Woodward, one of the preeminent American historians of the twentieth century. She made a notable appearance in Ken Burns' documentary series, The Civil War and The Congress.[3]

Fields was the first African American woman to receive tenure at Columbia University. She has also taught at Northwestern University, the University of Michigan, and the University of Mississippi. She is widely known for her 1990 essay, "Slavery, Race and Ideology in the United States of America."[4] Her books include Racecraft: The Soul of Inequality in American Life (with Karen Fields, 2012). She is currently at work on a book tentatively entitled Humane Letters: Writing in English about Human Affairs, as well as a study of slavery and emancipation in the Americas.[5]

Bard College awarded Fields an honorary doctorate in May 2007.


  • 1992 MacArthur Fellows Program
  • John H. Dunning Prize of the American Historical Association, for Slavery and Freedom on the Middle Ground: Maryland during the Nineteenth Century
  • Founders Prize of the Confederate Memorial Literary Society, for The Destruction of Slavery
  • Thomas Jefferson Prize of the Society for the History of the Federal Government, for The Destruction of Slavery
  • 1994 Lincoln Prize by the Lincoln and Soldiers Institute at Gettysburg College, for Free At Last: A Documentary History of Slavery, Emancipation, and the Civil War



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