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Margaret Washington Washington


Office: 305 McGraw Hall
Phone: (607) 255-6746
Fax: (607) 255-0469

Office Hours: By Appointment


Cornell University Africana Studies
Cornell University American Studies
Cornell University Religious Studies

Margaret Washington joined the Cornell history department in 1988 as associate professor. Her specialties are African American history and culture, African American women and Southern history. She is one of the foremost authorities on the black experience.

Washington's most recent major work, Sojourner Truth's America, was published in 2009 with the University of Illinois Press. This definitive biography unravels Sojourner Truth's world within the broader panorama of American history, slavery and other significant reforms in the turbulent age of Abraham Lincoln. Sojourner Truth's America notably provides a unique lens into the unlikely ascendancy of an uneducated New Yorker and former slave who became a rousing preacher, political orator and mercurial figure in progressive America. Choice Magazine voted Sojourner Truth's America one of the most outstanding academic books of 2009. The Association of Black Women Historians awarded Sojourner Truth's America the Letitia Woods Brown Prize, as the best book on African American women in 2009. The Organization of American Historians selected Sojourner Truth's America as the best book on African American Women's and Gender History for 2009, and awarded it the inaugural Darlene Clark Hine Prize.

Margaret Washington has also published the only modern edition of The Narrative of Sojourner Truth, A Bondwoman of Olden Times (Vintage, 1993) that includes an original introduction, notes and textual annotation. Washington's numerous articles on black women include, "From Motives of Delicacy ": Sexuality and Morality in the Narratives of Sojourner Truth and Harriet Jacobs, Journal of African American History, Winter, 2007; "'Rachel Weeping for Her Children': Black Women in the Abolition of Slavery, " History Now, September, 2005; "'A'rn't I a Woman?' " American History Through Literature, 2005 and "Sojourner Truth, Shadow or Substance: Writing the Life of A Legend, " Culturefront, Summer, 1993. Washington has also written encyclopedia entries on Sojourner Truth, African-Dutch holidays in the North, Harriet Tubman, and on woman's rights.

As a specialist in Southern history, Margaret Washington has written extensively on the Gullah people of South Carolina. Her book "A Peculiar People: Slave Religion and Community-culture among the Gullahs," New York University, 1988, is one of the most original and frequently cited works among scholars writing about black spirituality, resistance, and the cultural connections between Africans in America and those on the Continent. "A Peculiar People" was awarded the Sierra Prize from the Western Association of Women Historians. Washington's articles on Southern history include "Meaning of Scripture in Gullah Religion," in Vincent Wimbush, ed., African Americans and the Bible, Continuum Publications, 2000; "Anthropological Approaches and Studies of Folk culture," Encyclopedia of Social History, Scribner's, 1993; "Community Regulation and Cultural 'Specialization among the Gullahs,' " in Paul Johnson, ed., African-American Christianity: Eight Historical Essays, University of California Press, 1994; "Gullah Attitudes toward Life and Death: An African-Christian Synthesis," in Joseph Holloway, ed., Africanisms in American Culture, Indiana University Press, 1990. Washington has also written encyclopedia entries on the Gullah people and their culture.

Currently, Professor Washington is writing a book on abolitionist women and biracial activism and researching for a project on transnational abolition in Americas.
Washington has received research awards from the National Endowment for the Humanities, Wesleyan University Center for Humanities and the Cornell University Society for the Humanities.

Professional activism beyond the scholarly community and dedication to public history has been focal points of Professor Margaret Washington's career. In her efforts to encourage interest in the American experience among non-specialists, she is a frequent lecturer and panel participant at high schools, summer institutes, museums, state park services, local history centers and libraries. She has served on the New York State Humanities Council and on NEH media panels. She served on the board of advisors of the Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission and helped to disseminate information, plan conferences and events to commemorate the 200th anniversary of Lincoln's birth.

Professor Washington has been advisor and consultant for numerous PBS documentary films and film series as well as historical consultant for the Sundance award-winning feature film, "Daughters of the Dust." Documentaries, which Professor Washington has been advisor for, include:

"Cheating the Stillness: the World of Julia Peterkin," Lightfoot Films, 2010.

"Gettysburg: The Speech that Saved America," Discovery Channel, 2008.

 "The USS Constellation and the Atlantic Slave Trade, History Channel, 2007.

 "Unchained Memories: The Slave Narratives." HBO, 2003.

"JAZZ."  Florentine Films by Ken Burns, 2001.

"This Far by Faith: Stories from the African American Religious Experience."  Blackside films, 2003.

 "America During the Lincoln Years." American Experience, WGBH Television, 2000.

"Fatal Flood." Stewart Gazit Productions, 2001.

"Abraham and Mary Lincoln: A House Divided." David Grubin Productions, 2000.
"John Brown's Holy War." WGBH Television, 1999.

"Africans in America." Roja Productions and WGBH Television, 1998.

"1900" David Grubin Productions, 1998.

 "Liberty," Middlemarch Productions, 1996.
"When the Lion Wrote History: The Life of Frederick Douglass." WETA Television and Roja Productions, 1994.

Currently Washington is historical consultant for two documentaries in progress: "Road to Civil War" and "Walt Whitman."

Professor Washington holds a B. A. from California State University, Sacramento, M. A. from New York University, and a Ph.D. from the University of California, Davis. Prior to coming to Cornell, she taught history at the University of California, Los Angeles and comparative culture the University of California, Irvine. Professor Washington also taught in the history department at Colgate University, where she directed the Africana and Hispanic Studies Program.