Assistant Professor of History
Office hours: By Appointment
Ph.D, The Graduate Center, City University of New York
Teaching and Research Interests
Slavery and Emancipation, Abolition and Social Reform, Race and Citizenship, 18th and 19th Century America, African American History, Atlantic History, Revolutionary Era, Early American Republic
Paul J. Polgar is a historian of slavery, race, and abolition in the United States and broader Atlantic World. He joined the faculty of the Arch Dalrymple III Department of History at the University of Mississippi in 2015, after serving as a postdoctoral fellow at the Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture. He received his B.S. from Boston University, his M.A. from George Mason University, and his Ph.D. from The Graduate Center, City University of New York.
His first book, Standard-Bearers of Equality: America’s First Abolition Movement (forthcoming with the University of North Carolina Press, on behalf of the Omohundro Institute, in the Fall of 2019) recovers the remarkable vision of America’s first abolition movement for a racially inclusive republic, created by a coalition of black and white activists during the three decades following the American Revolution. By seeking to obtain and enforce emancipation laws, guard and expand the rights of illegally enslaved and free blacks, end white prejudice, and eliminate racial inequality through making African Americans virtuous citizens of the new republic, America’s first abolition movement forged a cohesive agenda for black freedom and equality. But by 1830 a radically different antislavery movement, colonization, had emerged. Colonizationists premised their reform agenda on permanent black inferiority and unconquerable white prejudice, arguing that slavery could only end if those freed were exiled from the U.S. Colonizationists pulled many reformers into their orbit, marginalizing the activism of America’s first abolition movement. Consequently, the racially progressive origins of American abolitionism that Standard-Bearers of Equality vividly recaptures became buried.
Professor Polgar regularly teaches undergraduate courses on American slavery, race, and freedom, in addition to the first half of the U.S. survey, as well as graduate courses on comparative emancipations and U.S. historiography through Reconstruction.
“Race and Belonging in the New American Nation: The Republican Roots of Black Abolitionism,” in Race and Nation in the Age of Emancipations, ed. Whitney Nell Stewart and John Garrison Marks (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2018): 143-163.
“The Inescapable Problem,” Reviews in American History, Vol. 43, No. 2 (June 2015): 254-261.
“‘To Raise Them to an Equal Participation’: Early National Abolitionism, Gradual Emancipation, and the Promise of African American Citizenship,” Journal of the Early Republic, Vol. 31, No. 2 (Summer 2011): 229-258.
“‘Whenever They Judge It Expedient’: The Politics of Partisanship and Free Black Voting Rights in Early National New York,” American Nineteenth Century History, Vol. 12, Issue 1 (March 2011): 1-23.
“Fighting Lightning with Fire: Black Boston’s Battle against The Birth of a Nation,” Massachusetts Historical Review, Vol. 10 (2008): 85-114.