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The George Washington Presidential Library at Mount Vernon welcomes our twelfth class of research fellows for the 2024-25 academic year. Their research helps us better understand the history of colonial America, the Revolutionary era, and the early American republic.

Learn More about the Mount Vernon Fellowship Program

Greg Brooking, Ph.D.

Henry Laurens: A Southern Founder

Greg Brooking is a high school teacher in Fulton County, Georgia. He earned his Ph.D. at Georgia State University. His work focuses on the colonial and Revolutionary South. His first book, From Empire to Revolution: Sir James Wright and the Price of Loyalty in Georgia, was published by the University of Georgia Press.

Sherri Burr, J.D. and M.P.A

Generational Impact: An Economic Comparison of Mount Vernon's Enslaved Population Who Received Freedom in 1800 with Those Who Remained Enslaved until 1863

Sherri Burr currently holds the title of Dickason Chair and Regents Professor of Law Emerita University of New Mexico School of Law. Burr's 27th book, Complicated Lives: Free Blacks in Virginia, 1619-1865 (Carolina Academic Press, 2019), was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize in History. Her academic credentials include a B.A. degree from Mount Holyoke College, an M.P.A. from Princeton University, and a J.D. from Yale Law School. In 2015, she became a fellow at the International Center for Jefferson Studies in Virginia to work on Complicated Lives. At the George Washington Library in Mount Vernon, she will test the question, “How harmful was slavery to individuals and successive generations of their families?” She plans to compare the post-freedom economic lives of enslaved persons at Mount Vernon who were owned by George Washington to those who belonged to the Custis Dower Estate. President Washington designated his bondsmen to receive freedom in his will after the death of his wife Martha. She chose to free them during her lifetime by a deed of manumission that became effective on January 1, 1801. The Custis Dower Estate bondsmen, by contrast, did not receive freedom until January 1, 1863, or after the Civil War. 

Recipient of the Black Women United for Action Fellowship

Laura Clerx

Nature's Properties: Science and Commerce in Early America, 1780-1850

Laura Clerx is a Ph.D. candidate at Boston College. Her dissertation, “Nature’s Properties: Science and Commerce in Early America, 1780-1850,” explores the relationship between scientific and economic activity in the lives of early Americans seeking to expand national markets into the North American continent’s interior. She argues that changes to economic practice in the early republic which transformed early national Americans’ relationship to property in land and material goods and laid the groundwork for an increasingly capitalist society, also shaped the way that they studied and understood the scientific properties of the natural world. At Mount Vernon, she looks forward to researching the meeting of scientific knowledge and early republic economic realities in the papers of the 1785 Potomac Navigation Company founded by Washington.

Recipient of the James C. Rees Entrepreneurship Fellowship

John Stuart Gordon, Ph.D.

Gold in America: Artistry, Memory, Power

John Stuart Gordon is the Benjamin Attmore Hewitt Curator of American Decorative Arts at the Yale University Art Gallery. At Mount Vernon he will be researching gold objects owned by the Custis and Washington families, as well as later commemorative items in gold, for his forthcoming publication, Gold in America: Artistry, Memory, Power. Objects wrought from gold convey prosperity as well as express deep interpersonal connections such as love, mourning, or civic pride, suggesting that their sentimental value often rivaled their monetary value. The role of the Custis and Washington families in shaping the Nation’s sense of self—and the remarkable surviving documentation of their lives—makes them important figures within the larger discussion of who owned gold and what the material signified within the Atlantic world.

Philip Mills Herrington, Ph.D.

The Plantation Revival

Philip Mills Herrington is an Associate Professor of History at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Virginia, where he teaches United States history, historic preservation, and architectural history. His current book project, The Plantation Revival, co-authored with Dr. Lydia Mattice Brandt of the University of South Carolina, examines the origins and evolution of one of the most enduring images in American architecture: the white-columned plantation house. Across the United States, thousands of buildings—from suburban ranches and governors’ mansions to fraternity houses and country clubhouses—nod to the myth of the Old South. Through close attention to design intention, use, and public perception, this project identifies what makes some buildings “southern plantations” in a country filled with white columns. As the first book on the history and meaning of the image of the white-columned plantation house, it joins a growing body of scholarly and popular literature that interrogates the legacy of the plantation in American architecture, tourism, and national mythmaking.

Kelly Houston Jones, Ph.D.

Tangled Wrath: The Lynching of Enslaved People in the American South

Kelly Houston Jones is Associate Professor of History and Graduate Program Director at Arkansas Tech University. Research for her first book, A Weary Land: Slavery on the Ground in Arkansas, led her to the topic she will explore as a fellow at Mount Vernon—vigilante murders of enslaved people from the colonial era through the Civil War. Slavery’s violence loomed as an undeniable reality in George Washington’s world. Exasperation at runaways and fear of rebellion linked whites in plantation communities. Sometimes the control of enslaved people involved whites other than enslavers or their overseers in altercations that could turn deadly, especially when incentivized by laws like Virginia’s “outlawry” statute. An untold number of enslaved people suffered lethal group violence outside the law for generations before the Civil War. Jones will comb the collections at Mount Vernon for the relationship between order and violence in plantation society, enslavers’ invitation/toleration/rejection of non-slaveholding whites’ involvement in policing the regime, and what enslaved people’s actions in resistance suggest about how they understood the role of the public in this context.

Ryan P. Langton

Negotiating the Endless Mountains: Networked Diplomacy along the Eighteenth-Century Trans-Appalachian Frontier

Ryan P. Langton is a Ph.D. candidate in the History Department at Temple University. His dissertation traces how personal relationships - bonds of kinship, friendship, partnership, patronage, and alliance - informed the shifting process of cross-cultural diplomacy and the politics of empire along the Appalachian Mountains in the eighteenth century. Using geographic information system (GIS) software, his project centers Indigenous conceptions of diplomatic space and the interpersonal relationships that gave these spaces meaning to map the shifting networks connecting trans-Appalachian diplomats from Indigenous and European backgrounds, including men and women, traders and soldiers, elite politicians and enslaved people. At Mount Vernon,  he will draw on the library's manuscript and map collections to chart the personal networks that shaped cross-cultural diplomacy around the Ohio Valley during and after the Seven Years' War.

Recipient of the Society of Colonial Wars Fellowship 

Edward J. Larson, Ph.D.

Declaring Independence: Jefferson, Adams, Paine and the Revolutionary Year of 1776

Edward J. Larson is the University Professor of History and holds the Hugh and Hazel Darling Chair in Law at Pepperdine University. In anticipation of the 250th anniversary of American independence in 2026, Larson is researching and writing a book under contract with W. W. Norton to present and analyze the words and actions of 1776 from the British bombardment of Norfolk on January 1 through the publication of Common Sense and adoption of the Declaration of Independence to Washington's crossing of the Delaware River and year-end battles of Trenton and Princeton. Washington, Jefferson, Adams, Paine, Dickinson and others will feature prominently in the narrative along with soldiers and other individual participants in America's revolutionary year of independence.

Sarah Juliet Lauro, Ph.D.

Monumental: Commemorations of Enslaved Resistance

Sarah Juliet Lauro, Ph.D, is associate professor at the University of Tampa. She is the author/editor of many academic works on slavery and resistance, including attention to the folkloric Caribbean zombie (see for example the article “A Zombie Manifesto” in boundary2, 2011, and the book The Transatlantic Zombie: Slavery, Rebellion, and Living Death, (Rutgers UP, 2015). Her more recent work is on enslaved resistance in literature, art, film, museums and monuments, and even digital media. On this topic she published Kill the Overseer! The Gamification of Slave Resistance (University of Minnesota Press, 2020) and articles in TDR: The Drama Review (2021); History of the Present (2020); and archipelagoes (2017; 2023). Her next monograph is devoted to commemorations of enslaved resistance; it is under contract with the University of Minnesota Press.

Charlene M. Boyer Lewis, Ph.D.

Traitor, Wife: Peggy Shippen Arnold and Revolutionary America

Charlene M. Boyer Lewis is the Larry J. Bell Distinguished Professor in American History. She is also the Chair of the Women, Gender, and Sexuality Department as well as the Director of American Studies at Kalamazoo College. She is a co-editor of the Jeffersonian America Series for the University Press of Virginia. She received her Ph.D. from the University of Virginia and M.A. from American University. She specializes in women’s history, family history, and American cultural and social history in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. She is the author of Ladies and Gentlemen on Display: Planter Society at the Virginia Springs, 1790-1860 and Elizabeth Patterson Bonaparte: An American Aristocrat in the Early Republic. Her article entitled “Modern Gratitude: Patriarchy, Romance, and Recrimination in the Early Republic” appeared in the Journal of the Early Republic in Spring, 2019. Most recently, she co-edited and had an essay in The Women in George Washington’s World, published in 2022 by the University Press of Virginia. Her next project is an examination of Margaret Shippen Arnold, the wife of Benedict Arnold, and American culture in the Revolutionary Era and will be published by Norton in early 2026.

James E. Lewis, Jr., Ph.D.

American Prime: Why Americans Desired, Adopted, and Abandoned Their Own Prime Meridian

James E. Lewis Jr. is a Professor of History at Kalamazoo College, where he has been teaching for more than twenty years. He received his Ph.D. in 1994 from the University of Virginia. In addition to a number of essays in collected works, he is the author of four books: The American Union and the Problem of Neighborhood (UNC, 1998); John Quincy Adams: Policymaker for the Union (SR Books, 2001); The Louisiana Purchase (Thomas Jefferson Foundation, 2003); and The Burr Conspiracy (Princeton, 2017). The Burr Conspiracy was long-listed or a finalist for a number of prestigious awards, including the George Washington Prize (2018). His current project concerns the troubled history of the American prime meridian between the 1780s and the 1880s.

David Marsich

Relating to the Republic: Representative-Constituent Relationships in the Early United States, 1794-1844

David Marsich is a Ph.D. Candidate in History at George Mason University in Fairfax, VA. He is an Assistant Professor of History at Germanna Community College, where he teaches U.S. History. His dissertation project examines the ways that people in the early United States engaged with their members of Congress and conceived of political representation over the first half-century of the republic from the Jay Treaty Crisis through the controversy over the Gag Rule. At Mount Vernon, he will study accounts about Congressmen in office and as candidates along with writings that suggest how people thought about representation more broadly.

Sandra Moats, Ph.D.

Global at the Founding: U.S. Consuls and the Development of American Diplomacy

Sandra Moats is a professor of history at the University of Wisconsin-Parkside. She is the author of two previous books on the politics and culture of the early republic, including Navigating Neutrality: Early America Governance in the Turbulent Atlantic (University of Virginia Press, 2021). Her current book project focuses on the outsized role U.S. consuls played in conducting American diplomacy from the 1790s to the 1920s. The reliance on consuls originated in revolutionary Treaty of Amity and Commerce with France. With the establishment of the U.S. Consular Service in 1792, consuls assumed posts across the globe to protect America’s commercial interests. Consuls continued to dominate American diplomacy until the 1930s when the United States’ expanding international role required the appointment of diplomats steeped in political affairs. Global at the Founding offers a groundbreaking and refreshing perspective on the commercial focus of American diplomacy, from the revolution into the early 20th century.

Karima Moyer-Nocchi, Ph.D.

Macaroni and Beyond - From James Hemings to African American Women: The Early American Underpinnings in the making of an iconic dish

Karima Moyer-Nocchi is a culinary historian and professor at the University of Siena, Italy. She is the author of two books: Chewing the Fat - An Oral History of Italian Foodways from Fascism to Dolce Vita and The Eternal Table - A Cultural History of Food in Rome. Her upcoming publication with Columbia University Press is The Epic History of Macaroni and Cheese. Chapter four of the book provides a rigorous examination of Jefferson and Hemings' involvement in the introduction and popularization of the dish, along with a deconstruction of the mythology surrounding it. The period of research undertaken at Mount Vernon will focus on an in-depth examination of societal conditions that would have impacted James Hemings in the areas he lived following his return from Paris, in particular Philadelphia, where he would have been in contact with Hercules Posey, Washington's enslaved chef. Additionally, it aims to collect evidence for a reassignment of agency to African American women in Early American history for the establishment of macaroni and cheese as a culinary identity marker in the US.

Cody E. Nager, Ph.D.

Determined to be American: Regulating Migration and Citizenship in the Early American Republic, 1783–1815

Cody Nager is a research fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover History Lab. He received his doctorate in history from the Graduate Center, City University of New York. His manuscript, Determined to be American: Regulating Migration and Citizenship in the Early American Republic, 1783–1815 investigates how the new nation’s precarious international and domestic position shaped debates over migration which divided Americans into political parties supporting different visions for the nation’s future. Free and enslaved migrants forced Americans to confront a panoply of political leanings, economic circumstances, and ideologies. Selecting the “right” immigrants would strengthen the nation while picking the “wrong” ones would lead the nation to ruin. Throughout the Early Republic, Americans evaluated and reevaluated migration politics forming the core of debates over migration policy that continue to this day.

Ross M. Nedervelt, Ph.D.

Security, Imperial Reconstitution, and the British Atlantic Islands in the Age of the American Revolution

Dr. Ross Nedervelt is an adjunct professor of history at Florida International University in Miami, Florida. His in-progress monograph, tentatively titled The Border-seas of a New British Empire: Security, Imperial Reconstitution, and the British Atlantic Islands in the Age of the American Revolution, examines the transformative impact of the American Revolution on the British Atlantic colonies of Bermuda, the Bahamas, and the Turks and Caicos Islands, and their strategic importance for both British and American security between 1775 and 1824. Previously, published works include “Caught between Realities: The American Revolution, the Continental Congress, and Political Turmoil in the Bahama Islands,” in the Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History, as well as “Securing the Borderlands/seas in the American Revolution: The Spanish-American Association and Regional Security against the British Empire” in Spain and the American Revolution: New Approaches and Perspectives (Routledge; reprinted by the University of Virginia Press).

Kieran J. O'Keefe, Ph.D.

Horatio Gates and the Pursuit of a Republican Revolution

Kieran J. O'Keefe is an Assistant Professor of History at Lyon College. He is working on a biography of Horatio Gates, who has long been one of the most controversial figures of the Revolutionary War. This project will take a fresh look at Gates’ life. It will show how Gates made substantial contributions to American independence, mostly recognized during his lifetime but erased by early national historians troubled by Gates’ acrimonious relationship with George Washington. Gates also offers an opportunity to see the American Revolution from the perspective of an officer with radical political views. He was a strong republican, shaping his leadership during the Revolutionary War and his post-war politics.

Sandra Patton-Imani, Ph.D.

Ann Fairfax Washington Lee: Race, Gender, and Sex in 18th Century Virginia

Sandra Patton-Imani is a Professor of American Studies at Drake University. She is the author of two books, BirthMarks: Transracial Adoption in Contemporary America (2000) and Queering Family Trees: Race, Reproductive Justice, and Lesbian Motherhood (2020). At Mount Vernon she will conduct ethnographic research on the public construction of national history at Mount Vernon and will utilize historical archives focusing on the life of Ann Fairfax Washington Lee a biracial woman who, as George Washington's sister-in-law, was the first mistress of Mount Vernon. The research focuses on historical erasures regarding race, gender, sex, and class in America.

Steven Sarson, Ph.D.

History and Historical Consciousness in the US Declaration of Independence

Steve Sarson is Professor of American Civilization at Jean Moulin University in Lyon, France. He is the author of three books, The Tobacco-Plantation South in the Early American Atlantic World, British America, 1500-1800: Creating Colonies, Imagining an Empire, and Barack Obama: American Historian, articles in journals such as the Journal of Economic History, the Journal of the Early Republic, and the William and Mary Quarterly, and edited an 8-volume collection of documents (with Jack P. Greene) on The American Colonies and the British Empire. His current research is for a book entitled “When in the Course of human events”: History and Historical Consciousness in the US Declaration of Independence (University of Virginia Press, 2025) and related articles and other publications.

Bartholomew Sparrow, Ph.D.

The Unknown Founding: Indentured Servants, the White Poor, and American Political Development

Bartholomew Sparrow is Professor of Government at The University of Texas at Austin. His research in American Political Development examines how American politics and government have been shaped by extranational factors (and vice versa).  He is the author of The Insular Cases and the Emergence of American Empire, From the Outside In: World War II and the American State, and two other books. At Mount Vernon he will be working on how the presence of unfree Europeans—the indentured servants, transported convicts, political exiles, and abductees who constituted a majority of immigrants to the thirteen American colonies—and their propertyless descendants systematically influenced the lives and political views of the Founding Fathers and framers (George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and others), shaped the texts of the Declaration, Articles of Confederation and U.S. Constitution, and led to the racialization of agricultural labor in the Southern and Chesapeake colonies over the course of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.

Dillon L. Streifeneder, Ph.D.

Revolution, War, and the Forging of a Vigorous Government

Dillon L. Streifeneder is a historian of colonial America and the early American republic. He received his Ph.D. from Ohio State University, where his dissertation focused on state formation and governance in New York during the era of the American Revolution. At Mount Vernon, he will be working on transitioning his dissertation into a book manuscript, focusing on the monumental challenges of waging the Revolutionary War that confronted the nascent revolutionary states. As Washington and his fellow officers of the Continental Army quickly discovered, their efforts to win independence were often confronted by the realities of having to work with obstinate local officials and the competing interests of local, state, and national level government that frustrated activist and energetic attempts at governance. This project focuses on day-to-day experiences of governance and efforts to develop institutional structures needed to wage war. 

Whitney Nell Stewart, Ph.D.

Bitter Vines: Wine and Slavery in the United States

Whitney Nell Stewart is an assistant professor of history and faculty of the Edith O'Donnell Institute of Art History at the University of Texas at Dallas. She has written and edited several articles, essays, and anthologies, and is author of This Is Our Home: Slavery and Struggle on Southern Plantations (University of North Carolina Press, 2023). At the George Washington Presidential Library, Whitney will be researching the relationship between wine and slavery in the early United States, looking particularly at viticulture and vinification at Mount Vernon.

Kevin J. Weddle, Ph.D.

Washington at War: The Making of a Commander-in-Chief

Kevin Weddle is professor emeritus of military theory and strategy at the US Army War College. He served on active duty in the US Army for 28 years as a combat engineer officer, participated in Operations Desert Storm and Enduring Freedom, and retired as a colonel. He is the author of two award-winning books, including the 2021 recipient of the Gilder Lehrman Prize for Military History, The Compleat Victory: Saratoga and the American Revolution. His project will trace George Washington’s transformation from a relatively inexperienced senior officer into an extremely capable commander-in-chief, one who demonstrated both political shrewdness and strategic sophistication. He will explore how the general grew into his role through trial and error, nurturing relationships with superiors, peers, and subordinates, developing a keen understanding of his adversaries (both British and American), and his evolving understanding of the nature of the war he was fighting.

Recipient of the James C. Rees Fellowship on the Leadership of George Washington