Meet the Historians

Grappling with the history of slavery in America, contextualizing 19th-century perspectives, and understanding how abolitionists laid the foundation for modern civil rights are weighty subjects for us humble campanologists, so we invited some of the best minds in the field to guide and advise us in the planning of the Emancipation Bells. Each of these historians lent their understanding of American history to our project – and we are truly grateful.

Manisha Sinha

Manisha Sinha is the James L. and Shirley A. Draper Chair in American History at the University of Connecticut and a leading authority on the history of slavery and abolition and the Civil War and Reconstruction. She was born in India and received her Ph.D from Columbia University where her dissertation was nominated for the Bancroft prize. She is the author of The Counterrevolution of Slavery: Politics and Ideology in Antebellum South Carolina, which was named one of the ten best books on slavery in Politico in 2015 and recently featured in The New York Times’ 1619 Project. Her multiple award winning second monograph The Slave’s Cause: A History of Abolition was long listed for the National Book Award for Non Fiction. It was named Editor’s Choice in The New York Times Book Review, book of the week by Times Higher Education to coincide with its UK publication, and one of three great history books of 2016 in Bloomberg News.

She is the recipient of numerous fellowships, including two yearlong research fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities as well as two from the Mellon Foundation. She is the Eighth recipient of the James W.C. Pennington Award for 2021 from the University of Heidelberg, Germany. In 2018, she was a Visiting Professor at the University of Paris, Diderot and was elected to the Society of American Historians.

She is a member of the Board of the Society of Civil War Historians and of the Council of Advisors of the Lapidus Center for the Historical Analysis of Transatlantic Slavery at the Schomburg, New York Public Library. She taught at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst for over twenty years, where she was awarded the Chancellor’s Medal, the highest recognition bestowed on faculty. She is currently writing a book on the “greater reconstruction” of American democracy after the Civil War, which is under contract with Liveright (Norton).

Professor Sinha has been interviewed by the national and international press. She has been on National Public Radio, NBC, Democracy Now, BBC News, C-SPAN, Pacifica, Euro News, Canadian Television News, Canadian Broadcasting Company, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, China Global News, Jon Stewart’s The Daily Show, TLC’s Who Do You Think You Are, and was an advisor and on-screen expert for the Emmy nominated PBS documentary, The Abolitionists (2013), which is a part of the NEH funded Created Equal series. She has lectured all over the country and internationally in the UK, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Australia, India, Ireland, and New Zealand. The Chinese rights to The Slave’s Cause have recently been sold to Beijing Han Tang Zhi Dao Book Distribution Co., Ltd.

Image: Manisha Sinha. Courtesy: Peter Morenus, University of Connecticut.

Louise Knight

Louise "Lucy" W. Knight is an author, lecturer, and historian. She has written two biographies of Jane Addams. In 2005 she published Citizen: Jane Addams and the Struggle for Democracy (University of Chicago Press, 2005), about Addams's formative years. The second book, the first full life biography of Addams in 37 years is Jane Addams: Spirit in Action (W. W. Norton, 2010). Shifting her focus to the antebellum period, she is currently working on a book about the radical abolitionist-feminists, Sarah and Angelina Grimké, titled American Sisters: Sarah and Angelina Grimké and the Fight for Human Rights, to be published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux in 2024. 

Knight's writings have been published in the New York Times Book Review, the Wall Street Journal, the Nation website, CNN.com, and the Chicago Tribune. She lectures often at universities, historical societies. and academic conferences. She has appeared on public television, C-Span Book TV, and various radio stations. In her lectures, book talks, and other writings, she explores the connections between early and current progressive civic action.

She is a long-time Visiting Scholar in the Gender and Sexuality Studies Program at Northwestern University,  currently serves in the board of Biographers International Organization (BIO) and is a former president of the Frances Willard Historical Association, which manages the historical site, Frances Willard's home, in Evanston, Illinois.  

Image: Louise Knight. Courtesy: Rose Lincoln, The Harvard Gazette.