Professor Twitty is a historian of the nineteenth-century United States with a particular focus on law and legal culture, slavery and freedom, and the history of the South and Midwest. She is also a public historian interested in understanding slavery and its legacy at institutions of higher learning and Confederate memory and memorialization.
Her first book, Before Dred Scott: Slavery and Legal Culture in the American Confluence, 1787-1857, was published by Cambridge University Press in 2016. It draws upon a remarkable collection of nearly 300 freedom suits filed in the St. Louis circuit court to examine the legal history of slavery and freedom in the American Confluence, a site where portions of present day Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Kentucky, and Missouri meet. In this fluid region, it argues, ordinary people—including masters, slaves, indentured servants, and all those they came into contact with—developed a distinctive legal culture characterized by a sophisticated and widespread knowledge of formal law, the hallmark of which was the landmark United States Supreme Court case Scott v. Sandford. You can listen to Professor Twitty discuss this research on podcasts with New Books Network and the Institute for Justice’s Bound by Oath episode on “John Rock and the Birth of Birthright Citizenship.”
She is currently pursuing two new book projects. The first examines the multiple forms of unfreedom that persisted across the putatively “free North” in the first half of the nineteenth century. The second explores the strange career of ratification in the making of state constitutions.
Professor Twitty has also been active in efforts to study and contextualize the practice of slavery on college campuses generally and at the University of Mississippi, specifically. A founding member of the University of Mississippi Slavery Research Group, she has presented her own research on student slaveholding wealth and the memory of Reconstruction at the University of Mississippi, represented the UMSRG at national conferences, advised UMSRG graduate student researchers, and helped establish a campus slavery tour program. Professor Twitty has likewise worked to help the University of Mississippi confront its racially divisive past. In the Spring of 2016 she was at the forefront of the history department’s efforts to persuade the administration to revise the text on a plaque it had placed in front of the Confederate monument on the University’s campus and co-authored a departmental report detailing the historical context and meaning of the Confederacy and the Confederate monument at the University. She was subsequently appointed to serve on the Chancellor’s Advisory Committee on History and Context, which produced a comprehensive set of recommendations about how the University should contextualize important historical sites on campus in the Summer of 2017 and resulted in the creation of six historical markers on campus.
As part of her on-going research into the history of the University of Mississippi, Professor Twitty discovered the full text of the address that was given by Mississippian Charles Scott at the 1906 unveiling of the Confederate monument on the University of Mississippi’s campus. This speech was reprinted by the Vicksburg Herald on May 11, 1906, and has been transcribed in full. Professor Twitty subsequently wrote about the discovery and its significance for The Atlantic.
Professor Twitty has also served as Secretary for the American Society for Legal History and currently serves on the editorial board of the Journal of American Constitutional History and on board of directors of the Freedom Suits Memorial Foundation.
She joined the faculty at Stanford University in the fall of 2023 after teaching at the University of Mississippi and the Kinder Institute for Constitutional Democracy at the University of Missouri. She holds a bachelor’s degree in political science from The George Washington University and a master’s and doctoral degree in history from Princeton University.