Erica Ball

Professor Erica Ball
Professor of History and Black Studies
B.A., Wesleyan University; M.A., Ph.D., The Graduate Center, City University of New York
Department Chair, Black Studies
Appointed In: 
Swan Hall #323

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Erica L. Ball is a cultural historian specializing in nineteenth and early twentieth-century African American history.

Focusing on the ways African Americans have placed visual, print and other forms of cultural production in the service of the long freedom struggle, her work explores the connections between African American expressive culture, class formation, and popular representations of slavery and abolition. Professor Ball’s first book, To Live an Antislavery Life: Personal Politics and the Antebellum Black Middle Class (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2012), interrogates the links between early nineteenth-century African American advice literature, free black antislavery activism, and African American processes of middle-class self-fashioning on the eve of the Civil War. Most recently, Professor Ball edited a volume of scholarly essays on Alex Haley’s Roots. Co-edited with Kellie Carter Jackson and published by the University of Georgia Press, Reconsidering Roots: Race, Politics, and Memory assesses the ways that the wildly popular book and its 1977 television adaptation recast representations of slavery and the black family, reflected on the promise of freedom and civil rights, and generated discussions about race, gender, violence, and power in the United States and abroad. Professor Ball is currently working on two projects: a cultural history of “Slavery in the Modern American Imagination,” and a study of Madam C. J. Walker, beauty culture, and black women’s self-fashioning at the turn-of-the-twentieth century.

Selected Publications


To Live an Antislavery Life: Personal Politics and the Antebellum Black Middle Class. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2012.

Edited Volumes

Co-edited with Kellie Carter Jackson, Reconsidering Roots: Race, Politics, and Memory. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2017.

Edited Journals

Co-edited with Lisa Arellano and Amanda Frisken, Reconsidering Gender, Violence and the State: Radical History Review 126 (October 2016).

Co-edited with Melina Pappademos and Michelle Stephens, Reconceptualizations of the African Diaspora: Radical History Review 103 (Winter 2009). Received “Honorable Mention” for Best Special Issue of 2009 from the Council of Editors of Learned Journals

Articles, Essays, and Book Chapters

“Reconsidering Roots” (with Kellie Carter Jackson) in Erica L. Ball and Kellie Carter Jackson, eds., Reconsidering Roots: Race, Politics, and Memory. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2017: 1-21.

“Kunta Kinte: The Power of a Name” (with Kellie Carter Jackson), Transition: The Magazine of Africa and the Diaspora 122 (March 2017), 42-46.

“The Unbearable Liminality of Blackness: Violence in Steve McQueen’s 12 Years a Slave,” Transition: The Magazine of Africa and the Diaspora 119 (April 2016), 175-186.

“The Politics of Pain: Representing the Violence of Slavery in American Popular Culture,” in David Schmid, ed., Violence in American Popular Culture. Santa Barbara, CA: Praeger Press, 2015: 27-44.

“Response: 'Goodbye Miss Lara!' or What's Slavery Got to Do With It?: Regeneration through Violence in Django Unchained?” Safundi: The Journal of South African and American Studies 16:3 (August 2015), 312-317.

“‘Gadding,’ ‘Gainsaying,’ and Negotiating Gossip in the Antebellum Black Press,” in Jennifer Frost and Kathleen Feeley, eds., When Private Talk Goes Public: Gossip in United States History. NY: Palgrave Press, 2014: 101-118.  

“To Train them for the Work: Manhood, Morality, and Black Conduct Discourse in Antebellum New York.” In Timothy Buckner and Peter Caster, eds., Fathers, Preachers, Rebels, Men: Black Masculinity in U.S. History and Literature, 1790-1945. Columbus, OH: Ohio State University Press, 2011: 60-79.

“Conceptualizing the Intersectionality of Race, Class and Gender in U.S. Women’s History.” In Margaret Crocco, Carol Berkin and Barbara Winslow, eds., Clio in the Classroom: Teaching U.S. Women’s History. NY: Oxford University Press, 2009: 149-161.