Brenda E. Stevenson, Professor and Nickoll Family Endowed Chair in History at the University of California, Los Angeles, is an internationally recognized scholar of the history of race, slavery, gender, family, and racial conflict in the United States. She holds dual appointments in the Departments of History and African American Studies at UCLA. Stevenson received her doctoral degree from Yale University under the supervision of distinguished historian of African American history, Professor John W. Blassingame. She is the recipient of numerous honors and awards, including the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Fellowship at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, Stanford University, and the John Hope Franklin Senior Fellowship, National Humanities Center. Professor Stevenson is currently working on two book projects: the first focuses on the enslaved family from the colonial period through the antebellum era, while the second attends to the histories of enslaved women, specifically.

Domestic slave quarters at “Springwood.” Photograph by John G. Lewis.  Courtesy of the Virginia Department of Historic Resources.

Domestic slave quarters at “Springwood.” Photograph by John G. Lewis. Courtesy of the Virginia Department of Historic Resources.

Stevenson’s first book, Life in Black and White: Family and Community in the Slave South (1996), explores the diverse structures and meanings that characterized family and community among the free and enslaved residents of Loudon County, Virginia. Drawing on the private papers of wealthy planters, local periodicals, and enslaved people’s testimony, among other sources, the author artfully weaves a complex image of Virginia society, one which accounts for the individual, and often tangled, strands of race, gender, and class. Stevenson’s careful evaluation of the evidence is well-rewarded, resulting in one of her most insightful contributions to contemporary historiography. That is, not only were many enslaved families matriarchal and extended in nature, a contention in sharp contrast with much of the earlier revisionist scholarship on this topic, but also that these features enabled families in bondage to become more, not less, stable.

Stevenson’s thoughtful reassessment of the enslaved family has continued to reverberate throughout the wider historiography of African American life and kin in the years since her initial publication. Her subsequent works, including, The Contested Murder of Latasha Harlins: Justice, Gender, and the Origins of the LA Riots (2013) and What is Slavery? (2015), extend this framework, exploring the ways in which the imbrications of race, gender, and class have etched themselves into the experiences of historical actors, transforming the lives of these individuals and communities. Brenda E. Stevenson has also contributed written numerous articles and chapters, offering her expertise in several celebrated volumes, including Darlene Clark Hine and Barry Gaspar’s More than Chattel, as well as Deborah Gray . White’s Telling Histories.

Professor Stevenson has also continued to serve the wider academic community through her work on the editorial boards of the Journal of Black Studies (Current), the Journal of African American History (Current), Women, Gender and Families of Color (Current), Gender and Slavery Advisory Board, University of Georgia Press (Current), Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, and Southern Exposure.

Brenda E. Stevenson also transcends the walls of academia to embrace her role as a public scholar. Professor Stevenson makes regular appearances on radio, podcast, and television programs, providing insight to the historical roots of contemporary issues of race, gender, and community. Such work includes collaboration with radio stations KPCC and KCRW, podcasts The MidPod and Vox, and documentary filmmakers such as those affiliated with A&E and Showtime.

Most recently, Professor Stevenson has accepted an award to become one of the two William Andrews Clark Memorial Library Professors for the 2018-2019 academic year. Working alongside Sharla Fett of Occidental College, Stevenson will organize a series of three conferences geared toward exploring our complex and contested national origins. Currently, the conferences are entitled “‘20. And odd Negroes’:  African Labor, Colonial Economies, Cultural Pluralities”; “‘Burgesses to be chosen in all places:’ Representative Governance Takes Hold on British Claimed Soil;” and “‘Respectable’ Women’: Gender, Family, Labor, Resistance and the Metanarrative of Patriarchy,” respectively.

and HONORs

  • UCLA Faculty Research Lectureship Recipient, UCLA, Fall 2019

  • Carter G. Woodson Scholars Medallion through the Association for the Study of African American Life and History, 2018

  • William Andrews Clark Library Professor at UCLA, 2018-2019

  • Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Fellowship at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, Stanford University, 2016-2017

  • John W. Blassingame Award, Southern Historical Association, 2015

  • John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Fellowship, 2015-2016

  • Axel Springer Fellow, American Academy in Berlin, Spring 2016

  • John Hope Franklin Senior Fellowship, National Humanities Center, Fall 2015

  • UCLA College Commencement Marshal, 2015

  • Recipient of Women’s ENews Designation of one of the 21 Leaders for the 21st Century, 2015

  • Ida B. Wells Award for Bravery in Journalism, Women’s eNews, 2015

  • Honored at BWHXG , Michigan State University, 2015

  • UCLA Gold Shield Faculty Award, 2014

  • James A. Rawley Prize, OAH Best Book on the History of Race Relations in the U.S., 2014

  • Women’s Literary Festival of Santa Barbara Featured Book Selection, 2014

  • UCLA Academic Advancement Program 40th Anniversary Faculty Recognition Award, 2012

  • Gustavus Myers Outstanding Book Prize, 1997

  • Mellon Fellowship in the Humanities, Rice University

  • Mellon Fellowship in the Humanities, Emory University (declined)

  • Carter G. Woodson Fellowship (declined) Yale Bush Center in Child Development and Public Policy

  • Smithsonian Fellowship in American History (declined)

  • UC Chancellor’s Postdoctoral Fellowship UC President’s Postdoctoral Fellowship (declined)

  • Ford Postdoctoral Fellowship (declined)

  • UCLA Career Development Award (2)

  • UCLA Center for the Study of Women Award

  • UCLA Academic Senate Research Grant

  • Institute of American Cultures at UCLA Faculty Research Award

  • American Association of University Women Fellowship

  • Virginia Foundation for the Humanities and Public Policy Fellowship

  • Walter Prescott Webb Fellowship in History

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