The University of Iowa

Leslie A. Schwalm

Slavery, Civil War, & Reconstruction
Women's & African-American History
Southern History
19th Century U.S. History
222 Schaeffer Hall (History) & 716 Jefferson Bldg (Women's Studies)
Office Hours: 
M 8:00-10:00 & 11:30-12:30 and by appointment
Phone Number: 
(319) 335-2074 (History) & (319) 335-0619 (Women's Studies)

Leslie A. Schwalm is a social historian of nineteenth-century America. She received her PhD from the University of Wisconsin at Madison in 1991. She teaches courses on American slavery, the Civil War, emancipation and Reconstruction, all with a particular emphasis on women's history and African American history. She holds joint appointments in both Women's Studies and African American Studies. Leslie received the May Brodbeck Humanities Fellowship and Faculty Scholar Award from the University of Iowa and has been awarded fellowships and grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Iowa State Historical Society.

Leslie's book, A Hard Fight For We: Women's Transition from Slavery to Freedom in South Carolina (1997), is a study of African American women on the rice plantations in the South Carolina low country. Leslie explores how African American women, at the point when slavery was disintegrating, struggled to control their own labor, resist slaveowners' demands, and also fought for respect within their own households. The book was awarded the Willie Lee Rose Prize by the Southern Association of Women's Historians in 1998. Leslie also won, in 1998, the Letitia Woods Brown Prize from the Association of Black Women Historians for her article "Sweet Dreams of Freedom: Freedwomen's Reconstruction of Life and Labor in Lowcountry South Carolina."

Leslie's current research explores the meaning, impact, and public memory of emancipation. Her book titled Emancipation's Diaspora (UNC Press, 2009), explores the ways in which the destruction of slavery became a national phenomenon, as opposed to a southern one. She has published two articles related to her research on this project. "Emancipation Day Celebrations: The Commemoration of Slavery and Freedom in Iowa," was awarded the Iowa State Historical Society's Throne-Aldrich Certificate of Recognition. "'Overrun With Free Negroes?: Emancipation and Wartime Migration in the Upper Midwest," was selected by the Organization of American Historians for inclusion in Best Articles in American History (Palgrave Press, 2006).

Out of this line of research, Leslie is also completing a collection of primary sources documenting how African Americans in Iowa experienced and understood the end of slavery. This work will be the most comprehensive collection of material ever published on African Americans in nineteenth-century Iowa.

Additionally, Leslie serves as an advisory editor to the "Blacks in the Diaspora" series of the Indiana University Press.


Courses recently taught by Professor Schwalm include:

  • HIST:2251 (16A:051) Colloquium for History Majors (American)
  • HIST:4275 (16A:147) History of Slavery in the USA
  • HIST:4280 (16A:171) Women in America Colonial Period to 1870
  • HIST:7205 (16:205) Gender & Race in the Nineteenth Century U.S.
  • HIST:7214 (16:287) Readings in African American Women's History
Awards & Service: 
  • Faculty Scholar, University of Iowa (2000-2003)
  • Willie Lee Rose Book Award, Southern Association of Women Historians (1998)
  • Letitia Woods Brown Publication Prize, Association of Black Women Historians (1998)
  • May Brodbeck Humanities Fellowship, University of Iowa (1996)
  • National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship (Summer 1994, 1999-2000)
  • American Association of University Women Educational Foundation Dissertation Fellowship (1989-1990)
  • Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation Research Grant in Women's Studies (1989)
  • National Historical Publications and Records Commission Fellowship in Historical Editing at the Freedmen and Southern Society Project, University of Maryland (1987-1988)