Saint Louis University



Associate Professor



Ph.D., Stony Brook University, 2007;

M.A., Stony Brook University, 2002;

B.A., Our Lady of the Lake University, 2000.



My research explores the interplay between race, gender, and popular culture in nineteenth and twentieth century North America. The continual display of negative racial and gendered stereotypes in mass culture is an active part of my research and teaching interests. My book Ring Shout, Wheel About: The Racial Politics of Music and Dance in North American Slavery, examines the conceptualization and staging of race through the performance, sometimes coerced, of black dance from the slave ship to the minstrel stage. Drawing on a rich variety of sources, I explicate how black musical performance was used by white Europeans and Americans to justify enslavement, perpetuate the existing racial hierarchy, and mask the brutality of the domestic slave trade. Whether on slave ships, at the auction block, or on plantations, whites often used coerced performances to oppress and demean the enslaved. However, for the black community music and dance served quite a different purpose. Through creolization and other means, enslaved people preserved some native musical and dance traditions and invented or adopted new traditions that built community and even aided in rebellion. My research allows me to further understand the misconceptions of race and gender that are ever present in today's society.
My current research focuses on the complicated structure of race, class, status and gender in New Orleans after its incorporation into the United States, and how its heterogeneous populations of metropolitan women slowly transitioned into this new world, yet not harmoniously. I hope to uncover the women behind this port city and the ways in which they negotiated power in the continually changing environment of the city, thus touching on the intersectionality of sex, gender, class, and multiracial identities of women in nineteenth century New Orleans. Although in the early stages, research will focus on further understanding the black female experience, the image of black womanhood in the public sphere of popular culture and identity.

While I am a trained historian, I often take an interdisciplinary approach to my research and teaching by incorporating methods and theories from Cultural studies, American studies, Women and Gender studies, mass media, Performance studies, and Diaspora research and literature.

Honors and Fellowships

Rutgers University Race and Gender Postdoctoral Fellowship, 2013-2014
Jesuits Recognition "Most Impactful Person," SLU, 2013
Provost Faculty Research Leave, Saint Louis University, Fall 2010
Erskine A. Peters Fellow, Department of Africana Studies, University of Notre Dame,
W. Burghardt Turner Fellowship, State University of New York at Stony Brook, 2001-2005.



Ring Shout, Wheel About: The Racial Politics of Music and Dance in North American Slavery (Urbana, Chicago, & Springfield: University of Illinois Press, 2014).

Articles and Book Chapters

"Taking care a white babies, that what I do": The Help and Americans Obsession with the Mammy" chapter in When White Write Black, Claire Garcia and Vershawn Young, editors. (Palgrave Macmillan Press, 2014). (Forthcoming)

"Some were wild, some were soft, some were tame, and some were fiery": Female Dancers, Male Explorers, and the Sexualization of Blackness, 1600-1900," Black Women, Gender, and Families, Volume 6, Number 2 (Fall 2012).

"Distorted Images in Travel Literature: An Exploration of the Subjugation of Blackness in the Western World" chapter in America and the Black Body: Identity Politics in Print and Visual Culture, Carol E. Henderson, editor (Madison and Teaneck: FDU Press, 2009), 55-74.

Web Resources

You can follow all Professor Thompson research at