Ben Davidson Henry G. Fairbanks Visiting Humanities Scholar-in-Residence



PhD, New York University (History)
BA, Williams College (History and English)

Areas of Expertise

Nineteenth- and twentieth-century U.S. history; slavery and emancipation; Civil War and Reconstruction; African American history; memory; families and childhood; race and racism

Courses I Teach:

US History, 1865 to Present
19th Century Humanities



My current book project, “Freedom’s Generation: Coming of Age in the Era of Emancipation,” traces the lives of black and white children, in the North, South, and West, who grew up during the Civil War era. The book explores how young people across the nation learned persistent lessons, carried into adulthood, about complexities intrinsic to ideas and experiences of freedom. I argue that members of this generation were the most important actors involved in shaping the many meanings of emancipation into the mid-twentieth century, stemming precisely from the formative nature of growing up at the boundary of slavery and freedom.

Awards and Recognition

Mellon Fellowship, Huntington Library, 2019-2020
Justice Sandra Day O’Connor Postdoctoral Fellowship, James Smithson Fellowship Program, Smithsonian Institution (in residence, National Museum of American History), 2018-2019
Henry MacCracken Fellowship, New York University, 2015-2018
Jacob K. Javits Fellowship, U.S. Department of Education, 2011-2015

Recent News

Ben Davidson is the new Henry G. Fairbanks Visiting Humanities Scholar-in-Residence, having started work at Saint Michael’s in July 2020. He received his doctorate at New York University in 2018, and has held postdoctoral fellowships at the Huntington Library and the Smithsonian Institution.
(posted February 2021)