"Facing the Future of Early American Studies"

Philadelphia: July 10-12, 2023

Please join us for “Facing the Future of Early American Studies,” a conference reflecting on the scholarship and mentorship of Daniel K. Richter, director emeritus of the McNeil Center for Early American Studies. While this event will certainly be celebratory in tone, including sessions for Dan’s students and other colleagues to share heartfelt memories and punny wordplay, we hope to do more than simply contemplate Dan’s far-reaching influence. We aim to truly honor his legacy by featuring intellectually rigorous and ground-breaking research by scholars at all stages of their careers. We further charge panelists and audience members alike to think together about the future of our shared field, and – inspired by the generosity, innovation, and resourcefulness that has marked Dan’s career – about where we may take Early American Studies next.

This conference is co-sponsored by the McNeil Center for Early American Studies, the American Philosophical Society, the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, and the Department of History at the University of Pennsylvania.

Facing the Future of Early American Studies

All sessions will be hybrid.
All times are Eastern Time.

Monday, July 10

McNeil Center for Early American Studies, 3355 Woodland Walk, Philadelphia, PA


3:30-5 p.m.                 Looking Back and Facing the Future: Dan’s Students Reflect

Chair:  Laura Keenan Spero (McNeil Center for Early American Studies)

Featuring Dan’s graduate students from the University of Pennsylvania reflecting on their time at Penn and Dan’s lasting influence on their lives (and maybe even their research).

5-6 p.m.                       Reception                


Tuesday, July 11

Historical Society of Pennsylvania, 1300 Locust Street, Philadelphia, PA

9:30-10 a.m.                        Coffee and Light Breakfast

10-11:30 a.m.                      Panel 1: People in Motion, Enslaved and Free

Chair: Seth Perry (Princeton University)

Justin Grossman (University of Rochester)
Who Saved Edinbur Randall? Wampanoag Racial Identity and the Telling of a Fugitive Slave Escape

Deborah Hamer (New Netherland Institute)
Women at Sea: A Spatial Inquiry

Christine Mertens (Roosevelt Institute for American Studies & Leiden University)
“There is no Asylum to which we can go”: Black Exclusion Laws, Freedom, and Illegality in the U.S. Antebellum South, 1790s-1840s”

Alec Zuercher Reichardt (University of Missouri)
Beyond the Covenant Chain: Path Diplomacy and New Roads into Haudenosaunee and Early American History

Comment: Bradley L. Craig (Concordia University)

11:30 a.m.-1 p.m.                Lunch (on own)

1-2:30 p.m.                          Panel 2: Facing East and Other Critical Methodologies in Early American Studies

Chair: Elizabeth Ellis (Princeton University)

Jenny Hale Pulsipher (Brigham Young University)
Documents and Decolonization: From Facing East to Indigenous Methodologies

Hayley Negrin (University of Illinois at Chicago)
Indigenous Feminisms and Histories of Early American Plantations

Ana Schwartz (University of Texas-Austin)
“Were you there?”: “Pre-postmodernism” and the “Early” in “Early America”

Owen Stanwood (Boston College)
Facing East from the Land of the Acaaniba: Mathieu Sagean's Extraordinary Journey and the Imaginative Construction of America

Comment: Alyssa Mt. Pleasant (ATW Research + Consulting)


2:30-3 p.m.                          Break


3-4:30 p.m.                          Panel 3: Property and Proprietary (Or, Race and Power in Early America)

Chair: Marisa J. Fuentes (Rutgers University-New Brunswick)

Marcy J. Dinius (DePaul University)
William Apes and the Question of Distinction

A. Kristen Foster (Marquette University)
Finding Cato Adams

Scott Heerman (University of Miami)
Prerogatives of Ownership and the Challenge of Narrative in American Slavery

Andrea C. Mosterman (University of New Orleans)
From Dutch to English Property: Enslavement During Periods of Colonial Crisis and Change in Early America

Comment: Nora Slonimsky (Iona University)


4:30-4:45 p.m.                      Break


4:45-5:45 p.m.                      Roast and Toast

Chair: Andrew Lipman (Barnard College)

Please take this opportunity to roast and/or toast our illustrious and beloved colleague! Prepare your witty wordplay and most tortured puns now! Featuring the audience.



Wednesday, July 12

American Philosophical Society, Franklin Hall, 427 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia, PA


9:30-10 a.m.                        Coffee and Light Breakfast


10-11:30 a.m.                      Panel 4: New Approaches to Indigenous Histories

Chair:  Maggie Blackhawk (New York University)

Patricia Dawson (Mount Holyoke College)
“The Mother of Our Nation Has Left”: Centering Women in the Cherokee Revival Movement of 1811-1812

Alice King (University of Virginia)
Tribute and Power in Seventeenth-Century Connecticut

John Paul Paniagua (California Polytechnic State University-San Luis Obispo)
“Facing East” from the Indigenous Indies: The Encomienda-Slavery Nexus and Indigenous Survival

Malinda Maynor Lowery (Emory University)
Christina Snyder (Pennsylvania State University)
The Native South: New American Origin Stories of Place and People

Comment: Brooke Bauer (University of Tennessee)


11:30 a.m.-1 p.m.                 Lunch (on own)


1-2:15 p.m.                           Roundtable 1: Political Violence in Early America

Moderator: Gerald Charles Horne (University of Houston)

Ned Blackhawk (Yale University)

Nicole Eustace (New York University)

Rob Harper (University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point)

David W. Houpt (University of North Carolina Wilmington)

Shira Lurie (St. Mary’s University)


2:15-2:30 p.m.                    Break


2:30-3:45 p.m.                         Roundtable 2: Confronting Language and Meaning: Reconsidering Early America Through Keywords

Moderator: Michael L. Dickinson (Virginia Commonwealth University)

Paul Barba (Bucknell University)

María Esther Hammack (The Ohio State University)

Adam McNeil (Rutgers University-New Brunswick)

Jackson Pearson (Texas Christian University)

Jane Plummer (Texas Christian University)


3:45-4 p.m.                          Break


4-5:15 p.m.                     Roundtable 3: Advising and Mentoring: Lessons from Dan Richter

Chair: Kathleen Brown (University of Pennsylvania)

Lori Daggar (Ursinus College)

Jack Dwiggins (Westover School)

Rachel Herrmann (University of Cardiff)

Joseph Rezek (Boston University)

Brian Rouleau (Texas A&M University)


5:15-5:30 p.m.                       Break


5:30 p.m.                               Keynote: Daniel K. Richter                                                           
                                               “Facing the Consequences”


To register for the conference, please CLICK HERE.

Your registration confirmation will include access information for the conference materials.

International attendees: the Zoom confirmation email may not include the conference paper access information. Please email mceas@sas.upenn.edu if you do not receive the information.

The conference will be held at a different location on each day of the conference. The conference locations are:

Monday, July 10: McNeil Center for Early American Studies, 3355 Woodland Walk, Philadelphia, PA

Tuesday, July 11: Historical Society of Pennsylvania, 1300 Locust Street, Philadelphia, PA

Wednesday, July 12: American Philosophical Society, Franklin Hall, 427 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia, PA

For more information on the locations, please click on the sites below.

Established as the Philadelphia Center for Early American Studies in 1978, and renamed in honor of its benefactor Robert L. McNeil, Jr., in 1998, the McNeil Center facilitates scholarly inquiry into the histories and cultures of North America in the Atlantic world before 1850, with a particular but by no means exclusive emphasis on the mid-Atlantic region.

Visit our home page for more information. 

Founded in 1824, HSP is one of the largest history libraries in the nation, showcasing collections on regional and national history, and offering a manuscript collection renowned for its holdings that span from the 16th - 21st centuries. HSP also contains one of the largest family history collections on the east coast, containing genealogical material from every state east of the Mississippi River. The collection consists of some 600,000 books, pamphlets, serials, and microfilm reels; 20 million manuscripts; and over 300,000 graphics items, making it one of the nation’s largest non-governmental repositories of documentary materials. 

For more information, please visit here.

The American Philosophical Society is the oldest learned society in the United States. Founded by Benjamin Franklin in 1743, it continues its mission of "promoting useful knowledge" through research, fellowships, and public outreach.

For more information, please visit here.