Roberto Saba Henry G. Fairbanks Visiting Humanities Scholar-in-Residence



Ph.D. University of Pennsylvania
M.A. University of Sao Paulo
B.A. University of Sao Paulo


Areas of Expertise:

19th and 20th Century American History; U.S. Foreign Relations; Transnational History; Imperialism; Immigration; Slavery and Emancipation.


Courses I Teach:

U.S. History since 1865
Nineteenth-Century Humanities
American Empire, American Colonies (1840s-1940s)
Immigrant America


My current book project, “American Mirror: The United States and Brazil in the Age of Emancipation,” traces the influence of American antislavery reformers on the second largest slave society of the western world, Brazil. Frustrated by the reactionary stands of Southern cotton planters, as the crises of secession and reunion unfolded, Northerners found in slaveholding Brazil a new chance to carry out the Republican project of gradual emancipation. Brazil also gave Northerners an opportunity to challenge the predominant influence of the British Empire in South America. Instead of patrolling the Brazilian seacoast with warships and imposing invasive antislavery treaties, as Great Britain had done for decades, the American North offered technology and expertise that would render slavery unnecessary in Brazil. From the 1850s to the 1880s, antislavery Northerners took part in projects to spread labor-saving machinery, advance technical education, diversify economic activities, develop urban centers, and expand transportation infrastructure in Brazil. In order to reinforce this partnership, Northerners also invited Brazilians to visit world’s fairs, travel by train, and study in the new land-grant universities in the United States. This binational antislavery campaign defeated proslavery ideology in the hemisphere, opened doors for the United States to become the major capitalist force in South America, and made the American North into a model of progress for developing countries.

Awards & Recognition

Hench Postdoctoral Fellowship, American Antiquarian Society, 2017-2018
Weatherhead Initiative on Global History Fellowship, Harvard University, 2017-2018
SAS Dissertation Completion Fellowship, University of Pennsylvania, 2016-2017
SAS Dissertation Research Fellowship, University of Pennsylvania, 2015-2016
SAS Dissertation Research Fellowship, University of Pennsylvania, 2014-2015
Teaching Assistant of the Year Award, Penn History Undergraduate Advisory Board, 2014
Benjamin Franklin Fellowship, University of Pennsylvania, 2011-2016

Recent News

I have recently signed a contract with Princeton University Press to publish “American Mirror: The United States and Brazil in the Age of Emancipation” in their American in the World Series.