Luke E. Harlow


Ph.D., Rice University, 2009


Luke Harlow is a historian of slavery and abolition, race, and religion in nineteenth-century America. His first book, Religion, Race, and the Making of Confederate Kentucky, 1830–1880, was published by Cambridge University Press in 2014. It argues that ongoing conflict over the meaning of Christian “orthodoxy” constrained the political and cultural horizons available for defenders and opponents of American slavery. It shows how abolitionist and proslavery believers constructed arguments designed to provoke responses from their opponents and, in turn, shaped the arguments of the other side. The locus of these debates was the border slave state of Kentucky, but it was not a “middle ground” that produced an idealized and fantastical version of liberal toleration. Rather, it was a battleground where the drama of the American struggle over slavery and freedom played out in sharp relief. Although white Kentuckians remained with the Union, when the Civil War brought emancipation—through African American Union troop enlistment, which was the only path to freedom in the state—white Kentuckians found themselves in lockstep with the rest of the Confederate South. Racist religion thus paved the way for the making of Kentucky’s Confederate memory of the war, as well as a deeply entrenched white Democratic Party in the state.

Professor Harlow was co-editor, with Mark Noll, of Religion and American Politics: From the Colonial Period to the Present (Oxford University Press, 2007), and his published articles have appeared in Slavery and AbolitionOhio Valley History, and the Register of the Kentucky Historical Society. He regularly offers undergraduate and graduate courses on the Civil War and Reconstruction, the early American republic, slavery and emancipation, and American religious history.