Dr. Anna-Lisa Cox, Ph.D.

Dr Anna-Lisa Cox, Ph.D.

Dr. Anna-Lisa Cox, Fellow at Harvard’s Hutchins Center for African and African American Research, will present her surprising findings on the national struggle for equal citizenship and its ties to integrated education in the antebellum Northwest Territories and states. Her work on this subject is now underpinning an exhibit at the new Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, and will soon be published in her upcoming book, The Bone and Sinew of the Land (Public Affairs Press, 2018).


Dr. Anna-Lisa Cox is an active historian, writer, and lecturer on the history of race relations in the nineteenth-century Old Northwest Territory states. Dr. Cox has been the recipient of numerous awards for her research, including recognition and support from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Gilder Lehrman Foundation and major grants from the Spencer Foundation. She is the author of A Stronger Kinship, published by Little, Brown and winner of the Michigan Notable Book award. During her recent tenure as a Research Associate at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, her research underpinned the creation of two permanent exhibit, including a major exhibit on African American pioneers to the antebellum frontier in the “Power of Place” Hall. She will be further exploring the topic of African American pioneering farmers in the Old Northwest Territory states in her forthcoming book, “The Bone and Sinew of the Land:” Black Pioneers and the Fight for the Heart of the Nation on America’s First Free Frontier, to be published by Public Affairs Press in 2018. Dr. Cox is currently an Honorary Member of Western Michigan University’s History Department as well as a Non-Resident Fellow at Harvard’s Hutchins Center for African and African American Research.


“No distinction shall be allowed on account of complexion:” Education and the Pioneering Struggle for Equality in Antebellum America.

When Prudence Crandall was forced to close her school for African American girls in 1830s Connecticut, she moved to Illinois. When George Kimball’s dream of opening an integrated labor academy in 1830s Vermont was violently destroyed, he moved to Illinois.

While the two may not seem closely connected, the fact that these pioneers of equality in antebellum America moved to Illinois is no coincidence, for Illinois was part of the “Great West” – the Northwest Territory states. This was America’s first free frontier and the place where Blacks and Whites were making extraordinary advances towards equality in the face of rising racism.

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