School of Arts and Humanities News

Arts and Humanities Adds Expert on Race, 19th-Century American History


Whitney Nell Stewart

Dr. Whitney Nell Stewart, an expert on race and 19th-century American history, has joined the faculty of the School of Arts and Humanities in the department of Historical Studies and Philosophy.

Stewart’s work examines the role of material objects and structures, including homes, in debates over slavery and freedom throughout the 19th century.

“Dr. Stewart’s research addresses issues of urgent importance — race, slavery and the ways in which we create the historical narrative that both reflects and influences our national values,” said Dr. Dennis M. Kratz, dean of the school and Ignacy and Celina Rockover Professor of Humanities.

“The honors that she has already received, including prestigious fellowships, identify her as a rising young star among American historians. I look forward to her becoming a leader in our efforts to enhance the University’s commitment to public humanities — that is, outreach efforts to bring new levels of knowledge and understanding to the community,” Kratz said.

Stewart has received numerous fellowships from the nation’s leading research institutions, including the Barra Foundation Dissertation Fellowship in Early American Art and Material Culture from the McNeil Center for Early American Studies at the University of Pennsylvania and a Smithsonian Institution Predoctoral Research Fellowship.

Stewart said her interest in race and material culture in U.S. history “emerged from personal and practical considerations.”

“Growing up in the Deep South, I wanted to understand why and how this pernicious thing ‘race’ came into existence and shaped American life,” Stewart said. “Though the influence of race has been widely felt throughout American history, it has not always been widely written about. As such, I look to nonwritten sources like objects, structures and images to illuminate the ways that 19th-century Americans constructed and challenged racial structures.”

The school offers degree programs in art and performance, history and literature, and is home to the Ackerman Center for Holocaust Studies, the Asia Center, the Confucius Institute, the Center for Translation Studies, and the Center for Values in Medicine, Science, and Technology. In 2014, the University introduced the Edith O’Donnell Institute of Art History, a center for innovative research and graduate education in art history with an extensive partnership with the Dallas Museum of Art.

Read the entire story on the UT Dallas News Center.