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College of Architecture, Arts and Humanities

J. Brent Morris

J. Brent Morris


Department of History
Office: Hardin Hall 114
Phone: (864) 656-3153

Ph.D., Cornell (2010); M.A., Cornell (2008); B.A., University of South Carolina (2001)


Research Interests
South Carolina History, History of the South, Slavery and Abolition

J. Brent Morris is an award-winning historian and scholar, with specializations in South Carolina history, the history of the American South, and African American history. At Clemson, he is Professor of History. Previously, he was Professor of History and founding director of the Institute for the Study of the Reconstruction Era at the University of South Carolina Beaufort.

His many publications include his prize-winning first book Oberlin, Hotbed of Abolitionism: College, Community, and the Fight for Freedom and Equality in Antebellum America (UNC Press, 2014). His 2017 book Yes Lord, I Know the Road: A Documentary History of African Americans in South Carolina 1526-2008 (USC Press) is the only comprehensive history of the five-century experience of Black life in the Palmetto State, and it informed the development of his 2020 book A South Carolina Chronology (co-authored with Walter Edgar and Jim Taylor, USC Press). His newest book is Dismal Freedom: A History of the Maroons of the Great Dismal Swamp (UNC Press, 2022), the first book-length study that fully examines the lives of maroons (fugitive slaves) and their communities in the liminal world between slavery and freedom in the swamp along the North Carolina/Virginia border. He has published dozens of other articles and essays in The New York Times, the Journal of American History, American Historical Review, and the Journal of Southern History, among others.

Dr. Morris has served as consultant and/or board member for many public-facing projects including the International African American Museum, the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, the National Park Service, and the South Carolina Historical Association. His scholarship, teaching, and service projects have been supported by over $1.8 million in grants and fellowships.

Brent was the 2010 recipient of the South Carolina Historical Society's Malcolm C. Clark Award, was named 2016 University of South Carolina Breakthrough Star for Research and Scholarship, and was awarded the 2018 Award of the Order of the South, the highest honor bestowed by the Southern Academy of Letters, Arts, and Sciences (previous awardees include Eudora Welty and James Dickey). From 2020-2022 he was a USC System Academic Leadership Fellow.


Selected Professional Works

Books (Published)

Dismal Freedom: A History of the Maroons of the Great Dismal Swamp (Univ. of North Carolina Press, 2022).

A South Carolina Chronology (coauthored with Walter B. Edgar and C. James Taylor) (Univ. of South Carolina Press, 2020).

Yes, Lord I Know the Road: A Documentary History of African Americans in South Carolina, 1526-2008 (Univ. of South Carolina Press, 2017).

Oberlin, Hotbed of Abolitionism: College, Community, and the Fight for Freedom and Equality in Antebellum America. (Univ. of North Carolina Press, 2014; paperback edition 2018). Winner of the 2016 Henry Howe Book Award of the Ohio Genealogical Society for outstanding work on Ohio state, county, or local history.

Books (In Production or Under Contract)

(editor, with Vernon Burton) Reconstruction at 150: Reassessing America’s “New Birth of Freedom” (Univ. of Virginia Press, in production, forthcoming 2023).

The Changing Palmetto State: A New History of South Carolina since WWII (coauthored with Walter B. Edgar, Univ. of South Carolina Press, under contract, forthcoming 2023).

Journal Articles & Book Chapters (Published)

“‘Mingled Fear and Ferocity’: A Glimpse into the Maroon Communities of the Great Dismal Swamp,” in Maroons and the Marooned: Runaways and Castaways in the Americas: Marronage and Maroonage in Culture, History, and Society, ed. Richard Bodek and Joseph P. Kelly (University of Mississippi Press, 2020), 3-29.

“‘I have at last found my ‘sphere’: The Unintentional Development of a Female Abolitionist Stronghold at Oberlin College,” in Slavery and the University: Histories and Legacies, ed. Leslie Alexander, et al (University of Georgia Press, 2019), 197-212.

“Divided by a Common Past: Race and the Unfinished Revolution of Reconstruction,” in The Routledge History of the American South, ed. Maggi Morehouse (Routledge, 2017), 206-219.

“‘No peer in his race’: Robert Brown Elliott and the Radical Politics of Reconstruction Era South Carolina,” in Before Obama: A Reappraisal of Black Reconstruction Era Politicians, ed. Matthew Lynch (Routledge, 2012), 1-40.

“‘All the truly wise or truly pious have one and the same end in view’: Oberlin, the West, and Abolitionist Schism,” Civil War History, Vol.LVII, No.3 (September 2011), 234-267.

“‘We are verily guilty concerning our brother’: The Abolitionist Transformation of South Carolina Planter William Henry Brisbane,” South Carolina Historical Magazine, Vol.111, Nos.3-4 (July-Oct. 2010) [published 2011], 118-150. (Winner of the 2010 South Carolina Historical Society Malcolm C. Clark Award, presented annually for the best article published in the journal)

“‘Running Servants and All Others’: The Diverse and Elusive Maroons of the Great Dismal Swamp,” in Voices from Within the Veil: African Americans and the Experience of Democracy, ed. William Alexander, Cassandra Newby-Alexander, and Charles Ford (Cambridge Scholars Press, 2008), 85-112.

Journal Articles & Book Chapters (Accepted or Submitted)

“‘Introduction: Constructing Reconstruction,” in Reconstruction at 150: Reassessing the Revolutionary New Birth of Freedom, ed. Burton and Morris (forthcoming 2023).

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