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Ruth N. Halls Associate Professor of History and Gender Studies
Professor Myers is a historian of the black female experience in the United States, and her research interests revolve around issues of race, gender, freedom, and power and the ways in which these constructs intersect with one another in the lives of black women in the Old South. In 1993 and 1995 respectively, she completed a Bachelor of Arts in Classics and History and a Master of Arts in History from the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada. In 2004, she earned a Doctor of Philosophy in History from Rutgers University in Brunswick, New York.
Her first book, Forging Freedom: Black Women and the Pursuit of Liberty in Antebellum Charleston, (UNC Press, 2011) examines the lives of free black women, both legal and de facto, in Charleston, South Carolina, from 1790-1860. At its heart, the project analyzes the tactics that black female Charlestonians utilized to acquire, define and defend their own vision of freedom, methods which included the acquisition of wealth, networking with people in positions of power, and utilizing the state's judicial apparatus. Examining life, liberty, and ideas about civil rights from the perspective of those invested with the least formal power in the Old South, this study concludes that antebellum black women used all the resources at their disposal to enjoy a freedom of their own design as opposed to one that was shaped for them by white southerners. Drawing on family papers, legislative documents, probate records, parish registers, census data, tax lists and city directories, this project restores black women to their rightful place as social, economic, and political actors in the pre-Civil War South.
Her second book, which will be publishd in 2019, is currently titled, "Remembering Julia: A Tale of Sex, Race, Power, and Place." This project examines the decades-long relationship of Julia Chinn, a woman of color, and U.S. congressman, senator, and one-term Vice President Richard Mentor Johnson, a white man.