Ph.D, Columbia
Draper Chair in American History

Office Hours, Spring 2018: Tues and Thurs 2:30-3:30pm and by appointment
Office: Wood Hall, Rm 219
Phone: (860) 486-2253
Fax: (860) 486-0641


Areas of Specialty

Early American, Southern, and African American History, Transnational Histories of Slavery, Abolition, and Feminism, United States Political History, the History and Legacy of the Civil War and Reconstruction



Manisha Sinha is professor and the James L. and Shirley A. Draper Chair in American History. She was born in India and received her Ph.D from Columbia University where her dissertation was nominated for the Bancroft prize. She was awarded the Chancellor’s Medal, the highest honor bestowed on faculty and received the Distinguished Graduate Mentor Award in Recognition of Outstanding Graduate Teaching and Advising from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, where she taught for over twenty years. Her recent book The Slave’s Cause was reviewed by The Times Literary Supplement, The New York Review of Books, The Wall Street JournalThe New York TimesThe Christian Science MonitorThe Atlantic, and The Boston Globe, among other newspapers and journals. It was featured as the Editor’s Choice of the New York Times Book Review. It was named the book of the week by Times Higher Education in May, 2016 to coincide with its UK publication and one of three Great History Books for 2016 in Bloomberg News. Her first book, The Counterrevolution of Slavery, was named one of the ten best books on slavery in Politico in 2015. In 2017, she was named one of Top Twenty Five Women in Higher Education by the magazine Diverse: Issues in Higher Education.

Sinha’s research interests lie in United States history, especially the transnational histories of slavery and abolition and the history of the Civil War and Reconstruction. She is a member of the Council of Advisors of the Lapidus Center for the Historical Analysis of Transatlantic Slavery at the Schomburg, New York Public Library, co-editor of the “Race and the Atlantic World, 1700-1900,” series of the University of Georgia Press, and is on the editorial board of the Journal of the Civil War Era and Slavery and Abolition. She has written for The New York TimesThe New York Daily NewsTime MagazineCNN, The Boston Globe, The Washington Post, Dissent, and The Huffington Post and been interviewed by The Times of LondonThe New York Times, Smithsonian Magazine, The Boston Globe, Slate, The Daily Caller, and Gothamist. She appeared on Jon Stewart’s The Daily Show in 2014. She was an adviser and on-screen expert for the Emmy nominated PBS documentary, The Abolitionists (2013), which is a part of the NEH funded Created Equal film series. She is currently writing a book on Reconstruction under contract with Basic Books.


Selected Publications

The Slave’s Cause: A History of Abolition (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2016)

  • Frederick Douglass Book Prize, Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History and the Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, and Abolition, Yale University
  • Avery O. Craven Award for Best Book on the Civil War Era, Organization of American Historians
  • Best Book Prize, Society of Historians of the Early American Republic
  • James A. Rawley Award for the Best Book on Secession and the Sectional Crisis published in the last two years, Southern Historical Association
  • National Book Award for Non Fiction, Long List
  • Honorable Mention in the U.S. History category for the American Publishers Awards for Professional & Scholarly Excellence (PROSE)

Co-authored, The Abolitionist Imagination (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2012)

Co-edited, Contested Democracy: Freedom, Race and Power in American History (New York: Columbia University Press, 2007)

Co-edited, African American Mosaic: A Documentary History from the African Slave Trade to the Twenty First Century Vol. I To 1877 & Vol. II From 1865 to the Present (Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Prentice Hall, 2004) 

The Counterrevolution of Slavery:  Politics and Ideology in Antebellum South Carolina (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2000)

  • Finalist, Avery O. Craven Award for Best Book on the Civil War Era, Organization of American Historians
  • Finalist, George C. Rogers Award for Best Book on South Carolina History

Selected Articles

“History and Its Discontents,” in The Future of History: Historians, Historical Organizations and the Prospects for the Field edited by Conrad Edick Wright and Kate Viens (Boston: Massachusetts Historical Society, 2017): 79-88

“Reviving the Black Radical Tradition,” in Race Capitalism Justice Forum 1 Boston Review (Boston, 2017): 66-71

America’s Rotten Electoral College System,” in Eric Burin ed., Picking the President: Understanding the Electoral College System (The Digital Press @ the University of North Dakota, 2017)

Abraham Lincoln’s Competing Political Loyalties: Union, Constitution, and Antislavery,” in Nicholas Buccola ed., Abraham Lincoln and Liberal Democracy (Lawrence: University of Kansas Press, 2016): 164-191

“The Long and Proud History of Charleston’s AME Church,” in Chad Williams, Kidada E. Williams, and Keisha N. Blain eds., Charleston Syllabus: Readings on Race, Racism, and Racial Violence (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2016): 69-70

The Other Francis Ellen Watkins Harper,” Common-place (Spring 2016) Vol. 16 No. 2

“Did He Die an Abolitionist? The Evolution of Abraham Lincoln’s Antislavery,” American Political Thought 4 (Summer 2015): 439-454

Memory as History, Memory as Activism: The Forgotten Abolitionist Struggle after the Civil War,” commonplace 14 (Winter 2014)

Review Essay, “The Complicated Histories of Emancipation: State of the Field at 150,” Reviews in American History 41 (December 2013): 665-671

Architects of Their Own Liberation: African Americans, Emancipation and the Civil War,” OAH Magazine of History 27 (April 2013): 1-6

 “Historians’ Forum: The Emancipation Proclamation,” Civil War History 59 (March 2013): 7-31

“Did the Abolitionists Cause the Civil War?” in The Abolitionist Imagination (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2012): 81-108.

“Making Sense of John Brown’s Raid,” in Edward Ayers and Carolyn R. Martin eds., America on the Eve of the Civil War: A Virginia Sesquicentennial Conference (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2010): 69-89, 112-120.

”Allies for Emancipation?: Lincoln and Black Abolitionists,” in Eric Foner ed., Our LincolnNew Perspectives on Lincoln and His World (New York: W.W. Norton, 2008): 167-196.

“An Alternative Tradition of Radicalism: African American Abolitionists and the Metaphor of Revolution, 1775-1865” in Contested Democracy: Freedom, Race and Power in American History (Columbia University Press, 2007): 9-30

“To ‘Cast Just Obliquy’ on Oppressors: Black Radicalism in the Age of Revolution” William and Mary Quarterly LXIV (January 2007): 149-160

“Coming of Age: The Historiography of Black Abolitionism,” in Timothy Patrick McCarthy and John Stauffer eds, Prophets of Protest: Reconsidering the History of American Abolitionism (New York: New Press, 2006): 23-38

Review Essay “His Truth Is Marching On: John Brown and the Fight for Racial Justice,” in Civil War History 52 (June 2006): 161-169

“Black Abolitionism: The Assault on Southern Slavery and the Struggle for Racial Equality,” in Ira Berlin and Leslie Harris eds., Slavery in New York (New York: New Press, 2005): 239-262

“Eugene D. Genovese: The Mind of a Marxist Conservative,” Radical History Review 88 (Winter 2004): 4-29

“The Caning of Charles Sumner: Slavery, Race and Ideology in the Age of the Civil War,” Journal of the Early Republic Vol. 23, No. 2 (Summer 2003): 233-262

“Revolution or Counterrevolution? The Political Ideology of Secession in Antebellum South Carolina,” Civil War History Vol. XLVI No. 3 (September, 2000): 205-226

“Judicial Nullification: The South Carolina Led Southern Movement to Reopen the African Slave Trade in the 1850s” in Maria Diedrich, Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and Carl Pedersen eds., Black Imagination and the Middle Passage (Oxford University Press, 1999) 127-143

“Louisa Susanna McCord: Spokeswoman of the Master Class in Antebellum South Carolina,” in Susan Ostrov Weisser and Jennifer Fleischner eds., Feminist Nightmares Women at Odds: Feminism and the Problem of Sisterhood (New York University Press, 1994) 62-87


Selected Awards and Accolades

Top 25 Women in Higher Education and Beyond, Diverse: Issues in Higher Education, March 9, 2017

Elected Fellow of the Massachusetts Historical Society, 2017-

National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship, Massachusetts Historical Society, 2016-2107

Distinguished Graduate Mentor Award in Recognition of Outstanding Graduate Teaching and Advising, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, 2016

Exceptional Merit Award, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, 2013

Chancellor’s Medal and Distinguished Faculty Lecture, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, 2011

Howard Foundation Fellowship, Brown University, 2009-2010

Faculty Fellowship, Charles Warren Center for Studies in American History, Harvard University, 2007-2008

Elected Member, American Antiquarian Society, Worcester, 2006-

National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship, American Antiquarian Society, Worcester, 2004-2005

Appointed to Distinguished Lecture Series, Organization of American Historians, 2003-

Research Grant, American Philosophical Society, Philadelphia 1999

Rockefeller Post Doctoral Fellowship in the Humanities, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, 1994-95

Post-Doctoral Fellowship, W. E. B. Du Bois Institute for Afro-American Research, Harvard University, 1993-94

Mrs. Giles Whiting Fellowship in the Humanities, Columbia University, 1992-93