Sophie White

Sophie White


1047 Flanner Hall / (574) 631 6529

Research Interests

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

Sophie White is the Joseph and Elizabeth Robbie College Professor and Professor of American Studies. She also holds Concurrent Appointments as Professor of Africana Studies, of History, and of Gender Studies, and is a Fellow of the Nanovic Institute for European Studies, the Klau Institute for Civil and Human Rights, and the Institute for Race and Resilience 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, 2021) 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.


Voices of the Enslaved has won 7 book prizes, including the 2020 James A. Rawley Book Prize from the American Historical Association, the Association for the Study of the Wordwide African Diaspora’s Terborg-Penn Book Prize in Gender & Sexuality, and the Frederick Douglass Book Prize for most outstanding book on slavery published in 2019.


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, and was a finalist for the Berkshire Conference of Women Historians Book Prize. 


With Trevor Burnard, she has co-edited a volume on slave testimony in French and British America 1750-1848 (Routledge, 2020) She is completing a digital humanities project, Hearing Slaves Speak in Colonial America, that will launch in Spring 2022 with the Omohundro Institute and is collaborating on a number of other DH projects on race and slavery.


She has two new book projects. One, His Master’s Grace, is a study of slavery and extra-judicial violence. The other, Strangers Within, 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 and of cultural constructions of otherness. She is signed to the Dunow, Carlson & Lerner Literary Agency for this book.

In addition, White is the author of over twenty 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, Voices of the Enslaved, and Strangers Within.


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  • 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, 2021)
    • Winner, 2020 Frederick Douglass Book Prize
    • Winner, 2020 James A. Rawley Book Prize, American Historical Association
    • Winner, 2021 Biennial Summersell Prize for best book on the American South
    • Co-Winner, 2020 Association for the Study of the African Worldwide Diaspora Rosalyn Terborg-Penn Book Prize
    • Winner, 2020 Mary Alice and Philip Boucher Book Prize
    • Winner, 2019 Kemper and Leila Williams Book Prize
    • Co-Winner, 2020 Summerlee Book Prize
    • Honorable Mention, 2020 Merle Curti Social History Book Award, Organization of American Historians
    • Shortlisted, 2020 Kenshur Book Prize
    • Finalist, Association for the Study of the African Worldwide Diaspora Sterling Stuckey Book Prize


  • 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)
    • Finalist, Berkshire Conference of Women Historians Book Prize
    • 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
  • In progress: His Master's Grace: Slavery and Extrajudicial Violence

  • In progress“Strangers Within: A Cultural and Genomic History of Red Hair” (signed to the Dunow, Carson & Lerner Literary Agency)

Edited Volumes

Digital Humanities Projects

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

Select Articles & Essays

  • "Said, without being asked’: Slavery, Testimony and Autobiography,” in Sophie White and Trevor Burnard, eds., Hearing Enslaved Voices: African and Indian Slave Testimony in British and French America, 1700–1848 (Routledge, 2020)
  • “Marion, Eighteenth-Century French Louisiana,” in Erica L. Ball, Tatiana Seijas, and Terri L. Snyder, eds., Women in the African Diaspora: A Collective Biography of Emancipation in the Americas (Cambridge University Press, 2020)
  • “Dressing Enslaved Africans in Colonial Louisiana,” in Dressing Global Bodies: The Politics of Fashion in World History, 1600-2000, ed. by Beverly Lemire and Giorgio Riello (Routledge, 2019)    

  • “A la française:” Amérindiennes et Africaines dans un couvent de la Nouvelle Orleans,” in Interculturalité: La Louisiane au carrefour des cultures, ed. by Jean-Pierre Le Glaunec and Natalie Dessens (Presses Universitaires de Laval, 2016)

  • “Les Esclaves et le droit en Louisiane sous le régime français, carrefour entre la Nouvelle-France, les Antilles, et l'océan indien,” in Thémis Outre-Mer: Adapter le droit et rendre la justice aux colonies (16e–19e siècles), ed. by Eric Wenzel and Eric de Mari (Editions universitaires de Dijon, 2015)

  • “Creolized Frenchmen and Frenchified Amerindians in Louisiana,” in Creolization in the French Americas, ed. By Jean-Marc Masseaut, Jordan Kellman, and Michael Martin (University of Louisiana at Lafayette Press, 2015)

  • “Deep/South, Up/West” in south: A Scholarly Journal 48:1 (Fall 2015)

  • “Lured in by the Archives," in Collections: A Journal for Museum & Archives Professionals, special issue on “Atlantic World Archives of Louisiana” 11:3 (Summer 2015)

  • “Français créolisés et Amérindiens francisés au pays des Illinois en Haute-Louisiane” in Les Anneaux de la Mémoire/Shackles of Memory, special issue on "Creolisations aux Amériques françaises/Creolizations in the French Americas" (2014)

  • "Massacre, Mardi Gras, and Torture in Early New Orleans" The William and Mary Quarterly, 3rd Series, 70:3 (July 2013): 497-538

  • "Slaves' and Poor Whites' Informal Economies in an Atlantic Context,"in Louisiana: Crossroads of the Atlantic World, edited by Cecile Vidal (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2014)

  • Invited essay “Ask the Author: Wild Frenchmen & Frenchified Indians: Material Culture and Race in Colonial Louisiana," (Vol. 13 no. 4, July 2013,)

  • "To ensure that he not give himself over to the Sauvages: Cleanliness, Frenchification, and Whiteness," Journal of Early American History 2 (July 2012): 111-149

  • Clothing,” in Trevor Burnard, ed., Oxford Bibliographies in Atlantic History (New York: Oxford University Press, 2012

  • “Geographies of Slave Consumption: French Colonial Louisiana and a World of Things” Winterthur Portfolio 44 (2011): 229-48

  • “A Baser Commerce: Retailing, Class, and Gender in French Colonial New Orleans,”The William and Mary Quarterly, 3rd series, 63:3 (2006), 517-50

  • “This Gown ... Was Much Admired and Made Many Ladies Jealous”: Fashion and the Forging of Elite Identities in French Colonial Louisiana,” in George Washington’s South, edited by Greg O’Brien and Tamara Harvey (Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2004), 86-118

  • “Wearing three or four handkerchiefs around his neck, and elsewhere about him’: Slaves’ Constructions of Masculinity and Ethnicity in French Colonial New Orleans,”Gender & History 15: 3 (November 2003), 528-49, reprinted in Dialogues of Dispersal: Gender, Sexuality and African Diasporas, ed. by Sandra Gunning, Tera W. Hunter and Michele Mitchell (Oxford, Blackwell Publishing, 2004), 132-153

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
  • GSC 53701: Gender & Material Culture


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




"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

"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

"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


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