My research is primarily concerned with the ways in which discourses of gender, race and sexuality were articulated and interacted in the context of nineteenth century America

My most recent research project concerns transitional gender identity in nineteenth century America, focusing on Sarah Hicks Williams, a middle class woman born and raised in New Hartford, New York, who, in 1853, married Benjamin Williams, a physician and slaveholder from Greene County, North Carolina. Sarah relocated to Benjamin’s plantation following their honeymoon to take on the role of plantation mistress to the 37 or so enslaved peoples there. The monograph, Gender, Race and Family in Nineteenth Century America: From Northern Woman to Plantation Mistress (Palgrave MacMillan: forthcoming November 2012) concerns Sarah’s experiences of transition: from North to South; “true woman” to “southern lady”; single young woman to wife and mother. It is a story of the shifting nature of antebellum identity, yet calls into question the regional differences that were said to have existed between gender ideals of the “free North” and the “slave South” in this era. As a consequence of this research and in collaboration with Norfolk’s Black History Month Celebrations in October 2012 an exhibition of several of Sarah’s letters and a related series of Public Lectures and Café Conversations is being held at the Millennium Library, Norwich: see

My next research project, “Articulating the Wounds of History: Slavery, Race, and African American Memory,” will concern the role that particular individuals played in reconfiguring a collective identity following the trauma of slavery. This research will position slavery in the United States as a collective memory, grounding one’s identity as African American. It will consider three inter-related forms of representation: the visual, the textual, and the vernacular, in first generation Black America at the turn of the nineteenth century. It will consider the role that individual intellectuals, in the broadest sense of the word, played in responding to the cultural trauma of slavery and formulating a collective response.

My Ph.D. thesis was completed in September 2003 at the University of Warwick, where I also spent my undergraduate years. It explored the emotional lives of the enslaved in antebellum North Carolina, seeking to uncover the realities of their courting relationships and courtship experiences. The monograph based on my PhD thesis, Courtship and Love among the Enslaved in North Carolina, was published in 2007 with the University Press of Mississippi. I also published a co-edited collection concerning the era of Reconstruction with ABC Clio in 2008 as part of their “Perspectives in American History Series”.


Fraser, Rebecca (2012) Gender, Race and Family in Nineteenth Century America: From Northern Woman to Plantation Mistress. Palgrave Macmillan, 2012.

Fraser, Rebecca (2008) Reconstruction: People and Perspectives. ABC-CLIO; 1 edition . ISBN 9781598840216

Fraser, Rebecca (2007) Courtship and Love Among the Enslaved in North Carolina. University Press of Mississippi, p. 137. ISBN 1934110078


Fraser, Rebecca (2011) 'No more Sarah Hicks': A Reconfiguration of Antebellum Time and Space for an Elite White Woman. Slavery and Abolition, 32 (2). pp. 213-226. ISSN 0144-039x/ 1743-9523

Fraser, Rebecca (2005) Courtship Contests and the Meaning of Conflict in the Folklore of Slaves. Journal of Southern History, 71 (4). pp. 769-802.

Fraser, Rebecca (2004) Goin' Back Over There to See That Girl: Competing Spaces in the Social World of the Enslaved in Antebellum North Carolina. Slavery and Abolition, 25 (1). pp. 94-113.

Book Section

Fraser, Rebecca (2009) Negotiating their Manhood: Masculinity amongst the Enslaved in the Upper-South 1830-1860. In: Black and White Masculinity in the American South, 1800-2000. Cambridge Scholars Publishing, pp. 76-94. ISBN 9781443805964

Fraser, Rebecca (2008) The Meaning of Freedom for African American Men. In: Reconstruction, Perspectives in American Social History. ABC-CLIO; 1 edition, pp. 1-20. ISBN 9781598840216


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