Leslie A. Schwalm

Leslie Schwalm
Slavery, Civil War, & Reconstruction
Women's, Gender, & African-American History
19th Century U.S. History
222 Schaeffer Hall (History) & 410 Jefferson Bldg (Gender, Women's, and Sexuality Studies)
Office Hours: 
M 8:00-9:00 & W 10:30-11:30 and by appointment
Phone Number: 
(319) 335-2074 (History) & (319) 335-0619 (Women's Studies)

Professor Schwalm is a historian of U.S. and comparative slavery, emancipation, Civil War, and Reconstruction.  She holds appointments in both the Department of History and the Department  of Gender, Women’s, and Sexuality Studies.  History graduate students can choose to earn a graduate certificate in GWSS, and undergraduate History majors often find a second major in GWSS a valuable extension of their interest in the history of women and gender.

Leslie's first 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 slave owners' 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 second book,  Emancipation's Diaspora: Race and Reconstruction in the Upper Midwest (2009), explores the ways in which the destruction of slavery became a national, and not only a southern, phenomenon.  She explores the contest over the meaning of emancipation and black citizenship between white and African American Midwesterners, men and women, during and after the Civil War.  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 Essays in American History (Palgrave Press, 2006).

Currently, Leslie is working on a book about how science and medicine were used to reinforce ideologies of race in the age of emancipation.  An article on this project, “Surviving Wartime Emancipation: African Americans and the Cost of Civil War,” was published in the Journal of Law, Medicine, & Ethics, Vol. 39, issue 1 (Spring 2011).  This project has received funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the New York Public Library.


Courses recently taught by Professor Schwalm include:

  • HIST:2251 Colloquium for History Majors (American)
  • HIST:4275 History of Slavery in the USA
  • HIST:2266 Civil War & Reconstruction
  • HIST:4280 Women in America Colonial Period to 1870
  • HIST:7219 Gender & Race in the Nineteenth Century U.S.
  • HIST:7214 Readings in African American Women's History
  • HIST:6635 Crossing Borders Seminar: Gender and Slavery in Comparative Context
Awards & Service: 
  • Collegiate Scholar, University of Iowa College of Arts and Sciences (2010-11)
  • 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)