John Stauffer

Professor of English and of African and African American Studies; Chair of Committee on Degrees in History and Literature


John Stauffer is Professor of English and American Studies and chair of History and Literature at Harvard University. He writes and lectures on the Civil War era, antislavery, social protest movements, and photography. He is the author or editor of 10 books and over fifty articles, including two books that were briefly national bestsellers: GIANTS: The Parallel Lives of Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln (2008), which won the Iowa Author Award and a Boston Authors Club Award and has been translated into Mandarin, Arabic, and Korean; and State of Jones (2009), co-authored with Washington Post columnist Sally Jenkins. His first book, The Black Hearts of Men (2002), won the Frederick Douglass Book Prize and Avery Craven Book Prize, and was the Lincoln Prize runner-up. His most recent book, co-authored with Benjamin Soskis, is The Battle Hymn of the Republic: A Biography of the Song That Marches On (2013).

His essays and reviews have appeared in Time, Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Washington Post, Huffington Post, The New Republic, Raritan, and numerous scholarly journals and books. He has lectured in Europe and Asia for the State Department’s International Information Programs. In 2009 Harvard named him the Walter Channing Cabot Fellow for “achievements and scholarly eminence in the fields of literature, history or art.”

He has been a consultant on two Hollywood films: Quentin Tarantino’s Django; and a screenplay by Gary Ross based on State of Jones. He appeared in the PBS documentary, The Abolitionists, and was an advisor for the film. He was a consultant to the 2012-14 exhibition WAR/PHOTOGRAPHY and contributed an essay to the exhibition catalog.

He is the recipient of two teaching awards from Harvard: the Everett Mendelsohn Excellence in Mentoring Award; and the Jan Thaddeus Teaching Prize.

He received his Ph.D. from Yale University in American Studies in 1999, began teaching at Harvard that year, and was tenured in 2004. He lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts, with his wife, Deborah Cunningham, and their two children, Erik and Nicholas.

Dissertation Committees

“The Man on the Dump: The Aesthetics of Waste in American Art and History” (Steven Brown)

“The Disappearing Bridge: A Literary History of the U.S. and Czechoslovakia, 1948-89” (Brian Goodman)

“‘Heard It on the Radio’: Automobile Radio and American Culture” (Aaron Hatley)

“The Importance of Biography in Antebellum American Literature” (Jacob Spencer)

“Through the Looking Glass Darkly: Episodes from the History of Deviance” (Altin Gavranovic)

“‘If you see something, say something’: Islamism, Threat and Individual Rights in Two Liberal Democracies, France and the U.S. since 1976” (Catherine Romatowski)

“Domestic Pleasures: Dreams of Joy and Fulfillment in American Home Life” (Phyllis Thompson)

“Slavery and the Civil War in American Cultural Memory” (Christina Adkins)

“American Whaling in Culture and Memory, 1820-1930″ (Jamie L. Jones)

“Object Lessons in American Culture” (Sarah Carter)

“Like Me: Identity Immersion Journalism and the Dilemmas of Self-Making” (Sara Gebhardt)

“To the Heart of Europe: Americanism, the Salzburg Seminar, and Cultural Diplomacy” (George Blaustein)

“The Reusable Past: Abolitionist Aesthetics in the Protest Literature of the Long Civil Rights Movement” (Zoe Trodd)

“‘Social Intercession’: The Religious Nature of Public Activism among American Women Reformers in Boston, 1892 to 1930” (Lauren Brandt)

“Carrying the Mill: Steam, Waterpower and New England Textile Mills in the 19th Century” (Marti Frank)

“‘Ain’t Got No Home’: Race and American Narratives in the Depression Era” (Erin Royston Battat)

“Performing History: History and Politics in the Works of Suzan-Lori Parks, Anna Deavere Smith, Naomi Wallace, and Charles Mee” (Talaya Delaney)

“Figurations of Catastrophe: The Poetics and Politics of AIDS Loss” (Dagmawi Woubshet)

“The Nervous American” (Kevin Burke)

“History, Memory, and Myth: Children’s Literature and Classroom Conceptions of the Past” (Sara Schwebel)

“‘An American Type’: The Kikuchi Diaries, A Cultural Biography (1941-1947)” (Matthew Briones)

“Back to the Blanket: The Indian Fiction of Oliver La Farge, John Joseph Mathews, D’Arcy McNickle, Ruth Underhill, and Frank Waters, 1927-1944” (Nancy Elam Squires)

“Forging Memory, Hereditary Societies: Patriotism and the American Past, 1876-1898” (Woden Teachout)

Selected Publications

  • blackhearts1

    The Black Hearts of Men: Radical Abolitionists and the Transformation of Race (Harvard University Press, 2001), by John Stauffer

  • Stauffer - Giants

    Giants: The Parallel Lives of Frederick Douglass & Abraham Lincoln (Twelve, 2008), by John Stauffer

  • Stauffer - State of Jones

    The State of Jones: The Small Southern County that Seceded from the Confederacy (Doubleday, 2009), by John Stauffer, with Sally Jenkins