Kate Masur Associate Professor

Kate Masur (Ph.D., University of Michigan, 2001) is an historian of the United States. Examining the intersections of law, politics, and everyday life, her work explores how Americans grappled with questions of race and equality after the abolition of slavery in both the North and South.  Masur, a faculty affiliate of the Department of African American Studies, is author of An Example for All the Land: Emancipation and the Struggle over Equality in Washington, D.C. (2010) and several articles on emancipation and black politics during and after the Civil War. With Gregory P. Downs (UC-Davis), she recently co-edited The World the Civil War Made (2015), a collection of essays that charts new directions in the study of the post-Civil War Era.  They previewed some of their key arguments in "Reconstruction: Retrospect and Prospects," in the Civil War Book Review.

Committed to discussing American history with a broad range of audiences, Masur enjoys leading workshops for teachers and has been working with the National Park Service (NPS) on several projects related to the era of Reconstruction.  She was part of the editorial team that created Reconstruction: The Official National Park Service Handbook, and she and Greg Downs have recently written a National Historic Landmark Theme Study on Reconstruction, which will be published by NPS.  They have written about that work in The Atlantic Online and The New York Times, and they are currently editing a Reconstruction special issue of The Journal of the Civil War Era, of which they are associate editors.  Masur has separately written for The New York Times, The Chronicle of Higher Education, The Washington Post, and The Atlantic Online on various topics related to the Civil War, emancipation, the film Lincoln, and the history of the District of Columbia

Masur is the recipient of numerous fellowships and awards. Most recently (2014-15) she was an Andrews Fellow at the Hutchins Center for African & African American Research at Harvard University.  She spent the year working on a book about police powers, the anti-slavery movement, and the origins of Reconstruction-era constitutional change.  

She is also making a foray into twentieth-century literary history, writing a new introduction for They Knew Lincoln (1943), John E. Washington's unique exploration of the lives of African Americans who knew and worked for Abraham Lincoln. They Knew Lincoln will be republished by Oxford University Press. Before arriving at Northwestern, Masur was an associate editor at the Freedmen and Southern Society Project at the University of Maryland, where she was a co-editor of Freedom: A Documentary History of Emancipation, 1861-1867, ser. 3, vol. 2: Land and Labor, 1866-1867

Professor Masur is also affiliated with the Center for African American History, the Department of African American Studies, and the Program in American Studies.



  • with Gregory P. Downs, The World the Civil War Made, University of North Carolina Press, 2015.
  • with René Hayden, Anthony E. Kaye, Steven F. Miller, Susan E. O'Donovan, Leslie S. Rowland, and Stephen A. West, Freedom: A Documentary History of Emancipation, 1861-1867, Series 3, Volume 2, Land and Labor, 1866-1867.  University of North Carolina Press, 2013.
  • An Example for All the Land: Emancipation and the Struggle over Equality in Washington, D.C., University of North Carolina Press, 2010.

Select Journal Articles

  • "Color Was a Bar to the Entrance: Race and Respectability in Lincoln’s White House," American Quarterly, forthcoming March 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.
  • "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 and Abraham Lincoln, as well as U.S. Women's History.  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 Director of Graduate Studies for three years (2011-14) and is interim DGS in 2016-17.  She has served in leadership roles in graduate education at Northwestern, having helped implement a Teagle Foundation grant to promote graduate student teaching and serving 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 

  • 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