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Kate Masur

Professor of History, Board of Visitors Professor

Ph.D., University of Michigan, 2001
Curriculum Vitae


Geographic Field(s):  American History, Before 1900

Thematic Field(s):  African Diaspora and African American History; Urban History; Gender and Sexuality History; Political and Policy History; Legal and Criminal History

Principal Research Interest(s):  U.S. history, Civil War and Reconstruction, anti-slavery movement, slavery, emancipation, race, politics, and the state


Kate Masur (Ph.D. University of Michigan, 2001) specializes in the history of race, politics, and law in the United States. Her recent book, Until Justice Be Done: America’s First Civil Rights Movement, from the Revolution to Reconstruction (W. W. Norton, 2021), was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in History and winner of the Littleton-Griswold Prize from the American Historical Association, the John Phillip Reid Book Award from the American Society for Legal History, and the John Nau Book Prize in American Civil War Era History.

Masur recently coordinated a team that produced Black Organizing in Pre-Civil War Illinois: Creating Community, Demanding Justice. Part of the Colored Conventions Project, this online exhibit highlights early Black communities and Black activism in Illinois and includes biographical profiles of 25 individual people.  

Masur’s other published scholarship includes An Example for All the Land: Emancipation and the Struggle over Equality in Washington, D.C. (UNC Press, 2010), and, with Gregory Downs, The World the Civil War Made (UNC Press, 2015). She has consulted extensively with museums and arts organizations, including the National Constitution Center and the Newberry Library. She was part of the editorial team that created Reconstruction: The Official National Park Service Handbook, and she co-authored, with Downs, The Era of Reconstruction, 1861-1900, a National Historic Landmark Theme Study published in 2017. She was also a key consultant for the 2019 documentary, Reconstruction: America after the Civil War and appeared in the recent CNN film, Lincoln: Divided We Stand. 

Masur was the 2023 faculty recipient of Northwestern’s Ver Steeg Award, which recognizes excellence in work with graduate students. She regularly consults with K-12 teachers and speaks with the media on topics including the Civil War and Reconstruction, Lincoln, the Constitution, and monuments and public memory. She has written historical commentary for the Chicago Tribune, the New York Times, the Washington Post’s Made By History, and other outlets. She also teaches US women’s history and recently wrote on op-ed on abortion rights and federalism in US history. She and Downs are co-editors of the Journal of the Civil War Era, a scholarly journal that maintains a blog called Muster.

With illustrator Liz Clarke, Masur recently completed Freedom Was In Sight! A Graphic History of Reconstruction in the Washington, D.C., Region, which will be published in fall 2024 by UNC Press.

Kate Masur’s personal website is



Select Articles

  • “State Sovereignty and Migration before Reconstruction,” Journal of the Civil War Era, 9, no. 4 (Dec. 2019): 588-611.
  • “Urban Battlegrounds: Reconstruction in Southern Cities,” Remembering the Memphis Massacre: An American Story, University of Georgia Press, 2020.
  • “Lincoln Biography and National Reconciliation in the films Birth of a Nation and Lincoln,” in Thomas S. Freeman and David Smith, eds. Reel Lives: Biography on Film, Palgrave, 2019.
  • “The People’s Welfare, Police Power, and the Rights of Free People of African Descent,” American Journal of Legal History, 27 (2017): 238-42.
  • “Color Was a Bar to the Entrance: African American Activism and the Question of Social Equality in Lincoln’s White House,” American Quarterly, 69 (March 2017), 1-22.
  • “The Problem of Equality in the Age of Emancipation,” in David W. Blight and Jim Downs, eds., Beyond Freedom: Disrupting the History of Emancipation, University of Georgia Press, 2017.
  • Chair and organizer, “Eric Foner’s Reconstruction at Twenty-Five,” Journal of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era, 14 (Jan. 2015), 13-27.
  • “Patronage and Protest in Kate Brown’s Washington,” Journal of American History, 99 (March 2013), 1047-1071.
  • Participant, “Historians’ Forum: The Emancipation Proclamation,” Civil War History, 59 (March 2013), 7-31.
  • “Civil, Political, and Social Equality: A Paradigm and a Problematic.” Marquette Law Review, 93, no. 4 (2010), 1399-1406.
  • “The African American Delegation to Abraham Lincoln: A Reappraisal.” Civil War History, 56 (June 2010), 117-144.
  • “A Rare Phenomenon of Philological Vegetation”: The Word “Contraband” and the Meanings of Emancipation in the United States, Journal of American History, 93 (March 2007), 1050-1084.

Teaching Interests 

  • Professor Masur regularly teaches undergraduate courses on the Civil War and Reconstruction, the anti-slavery movement, Abraham Lincoln, and U.S. Women’s History. In 2019, she became a teaching partner with the Colored Conventions Project, and on March 1, 2022, she and a team of undergrads, graduate students, and staff released Black Organizing in Pre-Civil War Illinois: Creating Community, Demanding Justice. She enjoys working closely with undergraduate students and has supervised several honors theses and worked with numerous Leopold Fellows. Many of her students have won Undergraduate Research Grants (URGs) to conduct independent research.
  • Masur served as the History Department’s Director of Graduate Studies for four years (2011-14, 2016-17). She helped apply for and implement a Teagle Foundation grant to promote excellence in graduate student teaching and served a three-year term on TGS’s Advisory Council for Academic Affairs. Her graduate teaching and advising fields include the Civil War and Reconstruction, African American history, legal history, political history, and the history of women and gender. Her current Ph.D. students are working in all those areas.

Awards and Honors 

  • Ver Steeg Award for excellence in graduate advising
  • Pulitzer Prize finalist for Until Justice Be Done, 2022
  • Littleton-Griswold Prize for Until Justice Be Done, 2022
  • John Phillip Reid Book Award for for Until Justice Be Done, 2022
  • John Nau Book Prize in American Civil War Era History for Until Justice Be Done, 2022
  • Lincoln Prize finalist for Until Justice Be Done, 2022
  • National Endowment for the Humanities faculty fellow, 2018-2019
  • Andrews Fellow, W.E.B. Du Bois Research Institute, Harvard University, 2014-2015
  • OAH Distinguished Lecturer, 2013-present
  • Lincoln Prize Honorable Mention for An Example for All the Land, 2011
  • Avery O. Craven Prize Honorable Mention for An Example for All the Land, 2011
  • Choice Outstanding Academic Title for An Example for All the Land, 2011
  • John T. Hubbell Prize for best article in the journal Civil War History, 2010
  • ACLS/Ryskamp Fellowship, 2010-2011
  • Binkley-Stephenson Award for Best Scholarly Article in the Journal of American History, Organization of American Historians, 2007
  • National Endowment for the Humanities Faculty Fellowship, 2007-2008
  • Kluge Postdoctoral Fellowship, Library of Congress, 2004-2005