Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



Major Professor

Derek H. Alderman

Committee Members

Joshua Inwood, Ronald Kalafsky, Maria Stehle


In the more than 150 years since the end of the Civil War, Emancipation Proclamation, and 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution that formally brought an end to chattel slavery, people in the United States have done much to downplay, sanitize, and outright forget both the history of slavery—despite its foundational role in the establishment of the U.S. political economy—and the life-altering damage that powerful white men, predominantly, inflicted upon millions of Africans and African Americans through a brutal system that lasted more than 200 years. Contributing to the process of whitewashing the histories and geographies of slavery have been the large absences of many academic disciplines to engage in critical research on chattel slavery until relatively recently. Since the 1960s, geographers have increasingly grappled with the discipline’s racist and imperialist past, engaging in “critical” studies that have advanced the discipline and added emphases on social justice, drawing upon diverse social theories such as Marxism, feminism, Critical Race Theory, and postmodernism. This dissertation builds upon this scholarship in developing a critical historical geographic understanding of slavery and its legacy in the U.S., paying particular attention to the “Deep South” states of Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana. In the case of researching slavery, this dissertation argues that the ways in which people in the contemporary South (mis)remember the United States’ history are serious reflections on how contemporary issues of racism and white privilege operate in America. Taking a critical approach to historical geographic research of slavery is not merely an academic process but is inherently political. The dissertation engages with critical historical geographies of slavery by focusing primarily on counter narratives of slavery—“counter” in the sense that they stand in opposition to and correct whitewashed, dominant narratives that purport slavery was a mostly benign, patriarchal system. Further, it examines social and economic relations that operate to perpetuate these mythic perceptions of the United States’ chattel slavery system. The overarching goal of the dissertation is to study the processes through which people form, operationalize, and can advance counter narratives of slavery.

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