Amy Dru Stanley
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Amy Dru Stanley

Associate Professor, History

Amy Dru Stanley's research and teaching explore American history, from the early Republic through the Progressive Era. Methodologically, she works at the intersection legal, intellectual, and social history. She is especially interested in the history of capitalism, slavery, and emancipation, as well as the historical experience of moral problems. Recent articles include “Instead of Waiting for the Thirteenth Amendment: The War Power, Slave Marriage, and Inviolate Human Rights,” published in the American Historical Review. Her book From Bondage to Contract: Wage Labor, Marriage and the Market in the Age of Slave Emancipation has received the Frederick Jackson Turner Prize in 1999 for the best first book in US History, the Morris D. Forkosch Award for the best book in intellectual history, and the Avery O. Craven Award for the best book on the era of the Civil War and Reconstruction. Her essays have also appeared in the New York Times and The Nation. Awards include research fellowships from the American Bar Foundation and New York University School of Law, and a University of Chicago Quantrell Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching and a Faculty Award for Excellence in Graduate Teaching. A graduate of Yale University and Princeton University, Stanley has also taught at University of California–Irvine, Howard University, and Yale University.


Yale University
PhD in history with distinction, 1990
MPhil, 1983
MA, 1982

Princeton University
AB, magna cum laude, 1978


The University of Chicago
Associate Professor, July 1998-present
Assistant Professor, July 1994-June 1998

The University of California, Irvine
Associate Professor (with tenure), July 1993-June 1994
Assistant Professor, July 1990-June 1993
Acting Assistant Professor, July 1989-June 1990

Howard University
Lecturer, Fall 1987

Yale College
Lecturer, 1984

“Slave Emancipation and the Pursuit of Happiness: The Politics of Emotions,” Society of Civil War Historians Biennial Meeting, June 2014 

“Human Rights and Slavery Abolition,” Charles Warren Center for Studies in American History at Harvard University, March 2014

“Free Love and Free Markets,” Yale University, February 2014

“Marriage Matters,” American Historical Association Annual Meeting, 2014

“New Directions in the History of Slave Emancipation: The Civil Rights Act of 1875 and Human Rights,” Southern History Association Annual Meeting, 2013

“Economic Rights and Violence against Women,” Conference on the Sovereign Economy at Tel Aviv University, June 2012

“The Meaning of Freedom: Free Labor, Property, and Contract in Postbellum America,” Teaching American History at Gilder Lehrman Institute, June 2012

“The Traffic in Things and the Rights of Persons: An American Peculiarity,” Conference on the New History of American Capitalism at Harvard University, November 2011

“Commodity Exchange, Chattel Bondage, and Sensual Love,” American Studies Association Annual Meeting, 2011

“Slavery and the Emancipation of Desire,” Graduate Century at City University of New York, May 2011

“Legacies of the Haymarket Riot,” Chicago Insights at University of Chicago, May 2011   

“Slave Breeding,” Conference on Slavery’s Capitalism, Jointly Sponsored by Harvard and Brown University, April 2011

“Commodity Relations, Love, and Personhood,” American History Seminar at Johns Hopkins University, March 2011

“Migration, Slave Trafficking, Slave Breeding,” Midwest Faculty Seminar at University of Chicago, February 2011

“Slave Breeding and Free Love,” Gilder Lehrman Center at Yale University, September 2010

“‘By Reason and the Nature of Things’: Abolition, Slave Marriage, and Human Rights,” The Historical Society Annual Conference, June 2010

“Instead of Waiting for the Thirteenth Amendment,” American Studies Seminar at Princeton University, February 2010 

“Slavery Abolition and Human Rights,” Yale Law School, October 2009

“Commodity Exchange across the Mason-Dixon Line,” New York University, June 20

“Antislavery and Human Rights:  Problems of Representation,” University of Montreal, March 2009

“Badges of Woman's Slavery: Abolition and Inviolate Rights,” Harvard University Workshop on the Political Economy of Modern Capitalism, April 2009

"Chicago’s South Side in the 1940s: A Symposium on the Photography of Wayne Miller,” University of Chicago, November 2008 (paper and conference organizer)

“The Meaning of Abolition,” Whitney Museum of American Art, November 2007

“Sweated Labor and Bender's Sweated Work, Weak Bodies,” Social Science History Association Annual Meeting, 2004

“On History/Gender Pedagogy," University of Chicago, April 2003

“Labor, Sovereignty, and Law,” University of Illinois at Chicago, October 2002 

“Dominion and Dependence in the Law of Freedom and Slavery,” American Society for Legal History, Annual Meeting, 2001

“Peck’s, Reinventing Free Labor,” Social Science History Association Annual Meeting, 2001

“The Death of the ‘Social,’” Law & Society Annual Meeting, May 1999 (comment)

“Freedom and Dependence,” University of Minnesota History Department, February 1999

"Michael Grossberg's A Judgment for Solomon," Social Science History Association Annual Meeting, 1998

“Home Life and Social Ethics,” Organization of American Historians Annual Meeting, April 1997; Conference on the Terms of Labor at Washington University Center for the History of Freedom, October 1996; Conference on Republicanism and Liberalism in America and the German States 1750-1850, October 1996

“‘The Right to Possess All the Faculties that God Has Given’: Possessive Individualism, Slave Women, and Abolitionist Thought,” Organization of American Historians Annual Meeting, 1995

“Marriage in the Age of Contract Freedom,” Johns Hopkins University, November 1994

“The Prostitute as Criminal: The Legal Bounds of Sexual Exchange,” Eighth Berkshire Conference on the History of Women, 1990

“Beggars and Free Labor in Postbellum America,” American Society for Legal History Annual Meeting, 1990

“Metaphors of the Market: The Problem of the Able-Bodied Beggar in Postbellum Political Economy and Law,” Organization of American Historians Annual Meeting, 1988

“Law and the Construction of Free Labor,” Law & Society Annual Meeting, June 1988

“Status or Contract: Marriage in the Age of Reconstruction,” American Historical Association Annual Meeting, 1985

“Work and Social Welfare,” at Workers, the Nation-State, and Beyond: Newberry Conference on Labor History across the Americas, 2008 (comment)

“Catholicism and Antislavery,” Newberry Library Seminar, 2003 (comment)

“Women, Property, and the Marriage Business since the Revolution,” Organization of American Historians Annual Meeting, 2000 (comment)

“Genealogies of Gay Rights Discourse,” Queer Products of American Politics at University of Chicago, 1998 (comment)

“Law and Public Identity,” Organization of American Historians Annual Meeting, 1993 (chair and comment)

“Negotiating the Boundaries of Public Space: Women Educators and Actresses in the Early Nineteenth Century,” American Studies Association Annual Meeting, 1990 (comment)

“The Revolution, the Civil War, and Women's Rights,” Organization of American Historians Annual Meeting Special Bicentennial Session, 1990 (comment)

“Wage Justice, Conference on Women and Work: Understanding the Gender Gap,” UCLA, 1990 (chair and discussant)


  • Faculty Fellow, Princeton University Center for Human Values (2014-2015)
  • Nominated to be a Fellow, Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences (2010)
  • Quantrell Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching, University of Chicago (2009)
  • Faculty Award for Excellence in Graduate Teaching, University of Chicago (2005)
  • Frederick Jackson Turner Prize (1999)
  • Morris D. Forkosch Award (1999)
  • Avery O. Craven Award (1999)
  • Honorable Mention, Frederick Douglass Prize (1999)
  • Chicago Humanities Institute Fellowship (1995-1996)
  • ACLS Research Fellowship (1992)
  • UC Irvine Faculty Career Development Grant (1992)
  • NEH Summer Seminar Fellow, Institute for Legal History, Seminar on Family History, University of Wisconsin at Madison, (1986)
  • Fellow, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution (1985-1986)
  • American Bar Foundation Research Grant (1986)
  • Charlotte W. Newcombe Fellow, Woodrow Wilson Foundation (1984-1985)
  • Golieb Fellow, Legal History, NYU Law School (1983-1984)
  • Pisces Teaching Award, Yale University (1984)


  • Book series editor, America in the Nineteenth Century, University of Pennsylvania Press (2013-present)
  • Editorial board, Journal of the Early Republic (2014-present); Labor: Studies in Working-Class History of the Americas (2005-2006)
  • Referee, Yale University Press; Harvard University Press; University of Chicago Press; Blackwell Press; Polity Books; University of North Carolina Press; Cornell University Press; New York University Press; Harper/Collins
  • Referee, American Historical Review; American Quarterly; Journal of American History; Journal of Southern History; Social Science History; Gender History; Journal of Women's History; Law and History Review


  • Evaluator, MacArthur Foundation Awards (2004, 2011, 2012)
  • Member, Merle Curti Prize Committee, Organization of American Historians (2011-2012)
  • Member, Committee on Fellowships and Awards, American Society for Legal History (2007-2010)
  • Evaluator, Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowship (2006-2007)
  • Member, Littleton-Griswold Prize Committee, American Historical Association (2000-2002)
  • Member, Surrency Prize Committee, American Society for Legal History (1998-2000)


  • Member, Human Rights Program Faculty Governing Board (2008-present)
  • Member, Center for Gender Studies (1998-present)
  • Member, Center for Gender Studies (1994-present)
  • Chair, History Department, Graduate Admissions and Aid (2012-2014)
  • Faculty Supervisor, Social History Workshop, (1998-2009)
  • Chair, American in World Civilizations (2005-2008)
  • Chair, History Department, Undergraduate Affairs Committee (1999-2002; 2006-2008)
  • Chair, Curriculum Committee, Center for Gender Studies (2005-2007)
  • Representative, University Senate (2006-2007)
  • Member, College Admissions Committee (2005-2006)
  • Member, Curriculum Committee, Center for Gender Studies (2002-2006)
  • Member, Committee on the History of Culture (1999-2004)
  • Representative, College Council (2000-2003)