Jennifer K Stinson

Associate Professor of History
Department of History
Arts & Behavioral Sciences
Academic and Student Affairs

SVSU Main Campus
Brown Hall 334


I am a historian of the United States, whose interests include race, gender, the environment, and public history. Much of my work focuses on the nineteenth century, but it also extends into other eras. The book I am writing is on African-American, African-French, and Ojibwe-African families, as well as those whose lives bridged African diasporic and southeastern Native American identities. I trace their lives along fur trade routes, in mining camps, on farms, and in small towns in the nineteenth-century rural Midwest. Some members of these families endured and resisted slavery or long-term indentured servitude; others lived and thrived in freedom. The stories I tell about them form part of my larger focus on social history—the history of ordinary women, men, and children. Social historians patiently piece the past together from census records, diaries, memoirs, newspapers, oral histories, old photographs, and every other hard to read piece of paper or blurry image you can imagine. We do so based upon the conviction that ordinary people’s lives had and still have intrinsic value. We strive particularly to better understand  groups whose histories have been partly erased by state-enforced illiteracy and by prejudices pertaining to poverty, gender, and race.

My public history work stems from a life-long love of museums, geneaology, and old houses. I am especially interested in the challenges that arise when people aim to represent their own or other people’s links to the past in the news, historic sites, museums, parks, and community spaces, particulary when race, ethnicity, women's lives, or migration is at stake. My emerging interest in environmental history is rooted in a passion for animals, farmers markets, and the great outdoors, as well as concerns out climate change, environmental racism, and natural disasters. Through innovative historic preservation efforts and community committment, I believe that preserving our past and sustaining our planet can go hand-in-hand.

I previously served as History Department liaison for the College of Education. In that capacity, I drew upon my years as a high school teacher and my experience working with middle-school-aged young people. At SVSU, I have lead MTTC preparation sessions, and I am also delighted to talk with aspiring history and social studies teachers about their goals in the classroom.    


Doctor of Philosophy
Indiana University

Bachelor of Arts
Oberlin College

Teaching Interests

Since joining the fulltime faculty of SVSU in 2011, Jennifer Stinson has offered courses on: the U.S. to 1877, Introduction to Historical Study, Michigan History, the History of Work (Problems in Modern History), the History of the Natural Disaster in the U.S. (Problems in Modern History), American Frontier History, Public History, and Western Environmental History (Honors College).  

Her other teaching experience includes African American History, U.S. Women’s History, the History of the American South, Gender Across Cultures in the U.S. and Africa, and Music History.


Recent Publications:

“Becoming Black, White, and Indian in Wisconsin Farm County,” Middle West Review: Special Issue-The Indigenous Midwest, James F. Brooks and Douglas Kiel eds., 2:2 (Spring 2016), 53-84.

“Black Bondspeople, White Masters and Mistresses, and the Americanization of the Upper Mississippi River Lead District,” Journal of Global Slavery, 1:2 (Oct. 2016), 165-95.

"Bondage and Resistance in the Land of Lead: Antebellum Upper Mississippi River Valley Mineral Country Landscapes," Slavery & Abolition, Forum: Slavery and Landscape,  Issue 1 (March 2017) online.

“Bondage and the Americanization of the Mississippi Valley” in Slaving Zones: Cultural Identities, Ideologies, and Institutions in the Evolution of Global Slavery, Jeff Fynn-Paul and Damian Alan Pargas, eds., Leiden, Netherlands: Leiden-Brill, 2018.

Book manuscript in progress: “They All Mixed in Together, the White and the Colored”: Freedom, Family, and the Emergence of Race in the Rural Upper Midwest, 1820-1920.

Selected Presentations:

“‘When I receive the peaces of your dress, it seems [like] some body that was dear and risen again’: Freedom, Migration and Loss for Antebellum African American Families,” Loss - A Symposium, McGill University, Montreal Canada, May 9-10 2019.

“‘That’s the Man for Me’: The Textual and Musical Abolitionism and Civil Rights Activism of Lewis Washington,” Slavery, Authorship and Literary Culture Workshop, Maison française, Columbia University, New York, Jan. 24-26, 2019.

Panel Chair, “Resistance, Borders, and the Politics of Slavery in the Great Lakes Region,” Society for Historians of the Early Republic Annual Meeting, Cleveland, July 11-22, 2019.

“Black Slaves and Indentured Servants, Indian Women Miners, White Masters and Mistresses, and the U.S. Americanization of New French and British North American Slaving and Quasi-Slaving Zones,” Cultural Identities, Ideologies and Institutions in the Evolution of Global Slavery Conference, University of Leiden, The Netherlands, June 2015.

"Black Slaves and Indian Women Miners: Making Race, Resisting Bondage, and Americanizing the Midwest,” Many Faces of Slavery: Non-Traditional Slave Holding in the Atlantic World conference, University of Montpellier, France, May 2015.

“Slavery, Servitude, and Race in the Northwest Territory, U.S. Midwest, and Canada, 1700s-1800s,” panel, Social Science History Association Annual Meeting, Toronto, Nov. 2014.

“Slavery in the Constitution and Everyday Life” SRC Hochschule (University), Heidelberg, Germany, Jan. 2013, Legal History Block Seminar Instructor.

“Bound to the Land and ‘Bound himself or herself to me’: African American Indentured Servants and Resistance in the Nineteenth-Century Frontier Midwest, North American Labor History Conference, Detroit, MI, Oct. 2012.

“The Work of Race: African American and African-Indian Farmers, Farm Laborers, and Indentured Servants in the Old Northwest,” Our Daily Work/Our Daily Lives series, Michigan State University, Lansing, MI, Feb. 2012.

“Singing Freedom on the Stage: Women, Gender and Resistance in Recent American Operas about Slavery,” Association for the Study of African American Life and History Convention, Richmond, VA, Oct. 2011.

 “Ties and Divides in the Great Lakes Fur Trade: Race, Gender, and the African-Ojibwe-French Bonga Family,” Organization of American Historians Conference, Houston, TX, March 2011.

“Mixed-Race Families, Malleable Identities, and Historical Memory: Rethinking Race in the Midwest and Beyond,” Organization of American Historians Conference, Seattle, WA, March 2009.

“The Cemetery in the Living History Museum: Race, Nostalgia, and Living Pasts in Midwestern African American History,” The International Conference on the Inclusive Museum, Leiden, The Netherlands, June 2008.

Community Engagement

Guest Scholar Presentation: "Unearthing the African American Dream in the Nineteenth-Century Rural Midwest," OLLI, Feb. 13, 2019.

Guest Scholar Presentation, “Enslaved African Americans in the Antebellum Midwest,” Castle Museum, Saginaw, MI, Feb. 2016.

Guest Scholar Presentation: “From Picnics and Parties to Midwives and Marriage: Women’s Social Worlds and the Making of African-Indian-European Families and Communities in Rural Wisconsin Cheyenne Valley Settlers Association Community Reunion, Hillsboro, Wisconsin, July 2009. 


College of Education Liason for the History Department, 2011-2017.

Honors and Awards

Faculty Association Scholarship Award, Saginaw Valley State University, 2017.

Faculty Research/Professional Growth Award, Saginaw Valley State University, 2013-2014 ; 2014-2015 ; 2015-2016.