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Wilma King

Arvarh E. Strickland Distinguished Professor
College of Arts and Science

Areas of Expertise



King, Wilma

When many people think of blacks in early America, they think in terms of slavery, but Wilma King has helped to shed more light on an often understudied topic, the experiences of free African American women before the general emancipation in 1865. “In many instances, free black women have not been included to any great extent in general histories of African Americans, but my research will help to fill that void,” said King.

That is just one of the fresh perspectives Professor King has explored in her work on African American history. She has also written about the experiences of women and children during slavery, and the high tide of abolitionism. Her book Stolen Childhood: Slave Youth in Nineteenth Century America received the 1997 Outstanding Book Award from the National College of Black Political Scientists. The recently published African American Childhoods in Historical Perspective examines the lives of black boys and girls beginning with the African background through the modern Civil Rights Movement.

King, who is concerned about producing a body of work focusing on African American children, is currently working on a manuscript based upon the diary of a fifteen-year-old African American girl who came of age in Cleveland, Ohio during the Great Depression. Although King has written two books for young readers, her work-in-progress will appeal to post-secondary readers.

Dr. King, a distinguished professor, received the B.A. in U.S. History from Jackson State University and both the M.A. and Ph.D. in Recent U.S. History at Indiana University. She is the recipient of the first Arvarh E. Strickland chair in Black History and Culture, and arrived at the University of Missouri-Columbia in 1999.

The Strickland endowed professorship was established after the retirement of Arvarh Strickland, the first African-American hired as a full-time faculty member at MU. Strickland taught history from 1969 until 1995. The professorship was funded from campus resources and state matching funds from the Missouri Endowed Chair and Professorship Program.

Professor King’s books include The Essence of Liberty: Free Black Women During the Slave Era (Columbia, MO: University of Missouri Press, 2006); African American Women in United States History, co-authored with Linda Reed, (Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishers, forthcoming); We Specialize in the Wholly Impossible: A Reader in Black Women’s History, edited by Darlene Clark Hine, Wilma King, and Linda Reed (Brooklyn: Carlson Publishing, 1995); Stolen Childhood: Slave Youth in Nineteenth-Century America; A Northern Woman in the Plantation South: Letters of Tryphena Blanche Holder Fox 1856-1876, ed. (Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1993); Children of the Emancipation, (Carolrhoda Press, 2000); and Toward the Promised Land: From Uncle Tom’s Cabin to the Onset of the Civil War, 1851-1861, (New York: Chelsea House Publishers, 1995).

Professor King’s regularly scheduled courses include: History 1100-Survey of American History to 1865; History 1001-Undergraduate Topics in History-Free African American Women; and History 8401-Seminar in U.S. She also teaches courses in American and women’s history.

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