Sophie White

Sophie White

Associate Professor

1047 Flanner Hall / (574) 631 6529 On sabbatical leave, 2019-20

Research Interests

  • French Colonial America
  • Race and Slavery, African-American and Native-American History
  • Material Culture

Sophie White is Associate Professor of American Studies, Concurrent Associate Professor in the Departments of Africana Studies, History, and Gender Studies, and Fellow of the Nanovic Institute for European Studies at the University of Notre Dame.

She is an historian of early America with an interdisciplinary focus on cultural encounters between Europeans, Africans and Native Americans, and a commitment to Atlantic and global research perspectives.


Her newest book, Voices of the Enslaved: Love, Labor, and Longing in French Louisiana (Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture/University of North Carolina Press, 2019) foregrounds an exceptional set of source material about slavery in French America: court cases in which enslaved individuals testified and in the process produced riveting autobiographical narratives (for more click here).


With Trevor Burnard, she is co-editing a volume on slave testimony in French and British America 1750-1848 (under contract, Routledge) and she is preparing a digital humanities project, Hearing Slaves Speak in Colonial America, which is under contract with the Omohundro Institute for inclusion in their Ol Rader for "digital projects that expand our understanding of early American history intellectually, conceptually and rhetorically."


Her first book, Wild Frenchmen and Frenchified Indians: Material Culture and Race in Colonial Louisiana was published with the University of Pennsylvania Press/McNeil Series in Early American Studies in 2012. 


Her next, nascent book project, examines redhead myths, juxtaposing cultural history with the new genetic discoveries and biological implications of red hair, a project that falls within her purview as a scholar of appearance of and cultural constructions of otherness.  She is signed to the Dunow, Carlson & Lerner Literary Agency for this book.


In addition White is the author of numerous articles and essays, in journals such as The William and Mary QuarterlyGender and History and The Winterthur Portfolio. Among other grants and awards, White was a recipient of fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities for Wild Frenchmen  and Voices of the Enslaved.



  • Voices of the Enslaved: Love, Labor, and Longing in French Louisiana (Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture/University of North Carolina Press, Fall 2019)
  • Wild Frenchmen and Frenchified Indians: Material Culture and Race in Colonial Louisiana (University of Pennsylvania Press/ McNeil Series in Early American Studies, 2012, reprint 2014)
    Reviewed in: American Historical Review (featured review); American Indian Culture and Research Journal; American Literary History; American Studies; Canadian Journal of American History; Dalhousie French Studies; Ethnohistory; French Studies; Journal of American History; Journal of Illinois History; Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society; Journal of Jesuit Studies; Journal of Southern History; The Historian; Le Journal; Revue d’histoire moderne et contemporaine; Textile History; The William and Mary Quarterly; The Winterthur Portfolio

Edited Volumes

  • Slave Narratives in French and British America 1700-1848, co-edited with Trevor Burnard (forthcoming, Routledge 2020)

  • Guest Editor, special issue of Fashion Theory: The Journal of Dress, Body & Culture, on “Dress and Gender” Vol. 9, issue 2 (June 2005)

Digital Humanities Projects

  • Hearing Slaves Speak in Colonial America, OI Reader (under contract, Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture) 

Select Articles & Essays

Podcasts & Public History Publications

Recent Courses Taught

  • CSEM 23102  Clothes Make the Man
  • AMST 30126  Captives & Slaves
  • AMST 30143  Fashioning American Identities
  • AMST 30170  Laboring Women in Early America
  • AMST 43137  The Meaning of Things

Recent and Forthcoming Books

Voices Of The Enslaved

"This meticulously researched and lyrically written study offers a road map through the archives and a reconceptualization of the autobiography of the enslaved in the Atlantic world. Sophie White’s interpretive strategies wrest a vibrant and complex history of slavery from testimony, court proceedings, and the voices of the enslaved themselves. A genre-busting book." - Jennifer L. Morgan, New York University

"With subtle analysis and empathetic storytelling, Voices of the Enslaved uncovers a stunning level of detail about how enslaved people experienced and resisted their bondage, how they managed profound loss and imagined possible futures. In their own words, and with vivid flashes of personality, the enslaved reveal their inner worlds like never before. A remarkable achievement." - Brett Rushforth, University of Oregon

"White brings readers into the world slaves made for themselves, illuminating their attachments as well as their conflicts. With its remarkable anthropological sensitivity, her book is an insightful tribute to those who fought to make their voices heard." -Cécile Vidal, École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales, Paris

"In a marvelous act of recovery, translation, and storytelling, Sophie White resurrects the sounds and sights of enslavement on the edge of the French Empire, revealing a place we might have thought we would never see. An original and startling book." - David W. Blight, Yale University




"Historians dream of writing a book that will give us a new lens to make sense of the past. Sophie White has done that with Wild Frenchmen and Frenchified Indians. Her insistence on finding a way to look at colonial people allows the rest of us to see them with a new clarity that reveals how much we have missed in the contested process that made race in the Atlantic World." - Emily Clark, Tulane University

"Wild Frenchmen and Frenchified Indians is a brilliant book. With intelligence and precision, White examines a trove of fresh material culture evidence from the Upper Mississippi Valley and advances a new mode of analysis that goes deep into the possible meanings of Frenchness and Indianness, ultimately revealing a much slower timeline than scholars have claimed for the progression of racialized categories that foreclosed the possibility of identity transformation." - Kathleen Brown, University of Pennsylvania

"Drawing on French-language archival sources and an impressively interdisciplinary range of secondary literature, White argues that material culture—clothing and the clothed and groomed body—are central to understanding the complexity of the hybrid cultures of Upper and Lower Louisiana in the eighteenth century. Wild Frenchmen and Frenchified Indians is a wonderfully original contribution to the English-language scholarship." - Ann M. Little, Colorado State University