Charles Gibson Distinguished University Professor of History and Professor of Law
Rebecca J. Scott is the Charles Gibson Distinguished University Professor of History and Professor of Law. In the History Department, she teaches a graduate seminar titled “Getting the Documents to Speak,” and co-teaches with Prof. Greg Dowd the undergraduate course “American Constitutional History.” At the Law School, she offers a course on civil rights and the boundaries of citizenship in historical perspective, as well as a seminar on the law in slavery and freedom. With Jean M. Hébrard she co-authored Freedom Papers: An Atlantic Odyssey in the Age of Emancipation (Harvard University Press, 2012), which traces one family's interaction with law and official documents across five generations, from West Africa to the Americas to Europe. Her most recent article is “Discerning a Dignitary Offense: The Concept of Equal ‘Public Rights’ during Reconstruction,” Law and History Review (2020).
Among Professor Scott's other essays are "María Coleta and the Capuchin Friar: Slavery, Salvation, and the Adjudication of Status," co-authored with Carlos Venegas, William and Mary Quarterly (October 2019); "How Does the Law put a Historical Analogy to Work?: Defining the Imposition of 'A Condition Analogous to that of a Slave' in Modern Brazil," co-authored with Leonardo Barbosa and Carlos Henrique Haddad, Duke Journal of Constitutional Law & Public Policy 13 (2017); "Social Facts, Legal Fictions, and the Attribution of Slave Status: The Puzzle of Prescription," Law and History Review (2017); and "Public Rights, Social Equality, and the Conceptual Roots of the Plessy Challenge," Michigan Law Review (2008).
Professor Scott is co-director of the University of Michigan Program in Race, Law, & History. She received an AB from Radcliffe College/Harvard University, an MPhil in economic history from the London School of Economics, and a PhD in history from Princeton University. She has been a visiting scholar at Yale Law School and at NYU Law School. She is the recipient of a MacArthur Prize Fellowship and a Guggenheim Fellowship, and is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. During the Fall semester of 2020, she will be the Richard R. Hudson Research Professor of History.
Visit Professor Scott's homepage.
Learn more about Professor Scott's scholarship.
Fields of Study
- Latin America
- Cuba, slavery and emancipation
- Labor systems
- Comparative citizenship
Awards and Honors
Foreign Corresponding Academician, Cuban Academy of History
President, American Society for Legal History. (2015–2017).
For Scott & Hébrard, Freedom Papers: An Atlantic Odyssey in the Age of Emancipation (2012):
- 2013 Albert Beveridge Award (American Historical Association)
- 2013 James Rawley Prize in Atlantic History (American Historical Association)
- 2013 Chinard Prize (Society for French Historical Studies)
For Degrees of Freedom: Louisiana and Cuba after Slavery (2005):
- 2006 Frederick Douglass Prize (Gilder-Lehrman Center, Yale)
- 2006 John Hope Franklin Prize (American Studies Association)
- 2006 Gulf South Historical Association Book Prize
- 2006 Kemper and Leila Williams Prize (Louisiana Historical Association).
2012 Surrency article prize, American Society for Legal History, for “Paper Thin: Freedom and Re-enslavement in the Diaspora of the Haitian Revolution,” Law and History Review.