Kristen Oertel - Faculty & Adjuncts

Kristen Oertel, PhD

Kristen Oertel
Kristen Oertel, PhD
Chairperson, Department of History
Mary Frances Barnard Professor of 19th Century American
College of Arts & Sciences
918-631-2221 Chapman Hall Room 229


PhD – University of Texas-Austin MA – State University of New York-Binghamton BA – Cornell College


Kristen Oertel teaches classes on the Civil War and Reconstruction, African-American history, the history of race and gender in America, and the history of sexuality. She writes about how race and gender influenced social and cultural relations in the 19th century, especially during the Civil War era. Her first book, Bleeding Borders, examines how Native Americans, African Americans and women shaped the conflict between proslavery and antislavery settlers on the Kansas-Missouri border immediately before the Civil War. Her second book, Frontier Feminist, narrates the life of Clarina Nichols, a remarkable woman who advocated for temperance, antislavery, and woman's suffrage in the 19th century. Oertel's most recent book, Harriet Tubman: Slavery, the Civil War, and Civil Rights in the 19th Century, chronicles the life of this iconic leader of the Underground Railroad. Tubman escaped from slavery and then returned to Maryland to guide dozens of her fellow slaves to freedom, but she also served as a scout and spy for the Union army during the Civil War, advocated for woman's suffrage, and worked tirelessly for economic justice for freedmen and women after the war. While many of us learned about Tubman as school children by reading one of the more than forty youth biographies of her, Oertel's biography provides a scholarly, yet accessible account of her life for college students and the adult reading public.

Research Interests

The intersection of race and gender during the Civil War era.

Teaching Interests

African American History
Colonial America
Revolutionary America
Civil War and Reconstruction
History of Race and Gender
History of Sexuality



  • Harriet Tubman: Slavery, the Civil War, and Civil Rights in the Nineteenth Century (New York: Routledge, 2016).

  • Bleeding Borders: Race, Gender, and Violence in Pre-Civil War Kansas (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2009/paper 2013).

  • Frontier Feminist: Clarina Howard Nichols and the Politics of Motherhood.
    Co-authored with Marilyn Blackwell (Lawrence: The University Press of
    Kansas, 2010).

Journal Articles

  • “From Columbus to Lincoln: The Conflict Over Slavery in the West,” in Unlocking the History of the Americas (Tulsa, OK: HCAR, 2016).

  • “‘Nigger-worshipping fanatics’ and ‘villain[s] of the blackest dye’: Racialized Manhoods and the Sectional Debates,” in Jonathan Earle and Diane Mutti-Burke, eds., Bleeding Kansas and Bleeding Missouri: The Long Civil War on the Border (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2013).

  • “How Did Northern White Women Participate in the Bleeding Kansas Conflict of the 1850s?” Women and Social Movements in the United States (Alexander Street Press and the Center for the Historical Study of Women and Gender at Binghamton University, 2010).

  • “‘A large-hearted, brave, faithful woman’: Clarina Howard Nichols,” in Virgil Dean, ed., John Brown to Bob Dole: Movers and Shakers in Kansas History (Lawrence: The University Press of Kansas, 2005).

  • “From Brown to Brown: A Century of Struggle for Equality in Kansas,” coauthored with Rusty Monhollon for special sesquicentennial issue of Kansas History: A Journal of the Central Plains(Spring-Summer 2004); reprinted in The Kansas Territorial Reader (Topeka: The Kansas Sesquicentennial Commission and the Kansas State Historical Society, 2005).

  • “‘The free sons of the North’ versus ‘the Myrmidons of border ruffianism’: What Makes a Man in Bleeding Kansas?” Kansas History: A Journal of the Central Plains (Autumn 2002).

  • “‘The Ladies of Lawrence are Arming!’: The Gendered Nature of Sectional Violence in Early Kansas, 1854-1861,” in John R. McKivigan and Stanley Harrold, eds., Antislavery Violence: Sectional, Racial and Cultural Conflict in Antebellum America (Knoxville, TN: The University of Tennessee Press, 1999).

  • Oertel , K. “‘The First Emancipation Proclamation: Black Seminole Rebellion and Removal’ ”. Seeking Freedom in Indian Country: Slavery and Black Resistance in Antebellum Indian Territory, Civil War History.
  • Oertel , K., R. Harvey, and D. Folsom. From Parchment to Podcast: The Collaborative Process of Building and Unlocking an Archive. Anglia: Journal of English Philology.

Book Chapters

  • Oertel, Kristen T. “Bleeding Kansas: a Call to Arms,” in Earl Hess and Lorien Foote, eds., The Oxford Handbook of the Civil War (New York: Oxford University Press, 2021).

  • “Bleeding Kansas,” The Oxford Encyclopedia of American Social History, ed. Lynn Dumenil (New York: Oxford University Press, 2012).

  • “Blazing a Path to Freedom: African Americans and Their White Allies in Bleeding Kansas,” Perspectives (March 2011),

  • “From Border War to Civil War: Bleeding Kansas as a Call to Arms,” in eds., Earl Hess and Lorien Foote, Oxford Handbook of the Civil War (New York: Oxford University Press, forthcoming 2020).

Book Reviews

  • OERTEL, KRISTEN. “Sharp Flashes of Lightning Come from Black Clouds: The Life of Josiah Henson.” Journal of Southern History 86, no. 2 (May 2020): 465–66. doi:10.1353/soh.2020.0107.

  • “John Brown Still Lives! America’s Long Reckoning with Violence, Equality, and Change,” Kansas History (Summer 2012).

  • “Border War: Fighting over Slavery before the Civil War,” Civil War History: A Journal of the Middle Period (March 2012).

  • “The Making of a Southerner: William Barclay Napton’s Private Civil War,” Ohio Valley History (Fall 2010).

  • “The Nebraska-Kansas Act of 1854,” Western Historical Quarterly (Winter 2009).

  • “Abolitionists Remember: Antislavery Autobiographies and the Unfinished Work of Emancipation,” Civil War Book Review (Fall 2008).

  • “The Border between Them: Violence and Reconciliation on the Kansas-Missouri Line,”
    The Journal of American History (March 2008).

  • “An American Planter: Stephen Duncan from Antebellum Natchez and New York,” Journal of Mississippi History (Fall 2007).

  • “How the Vote Was Won: Woman Suffrage in the Western United States,” Journal of Women and Social Movements (Fall 2007).

  • “Beyond Garrison: Antislavery and Social Reform,” Civil War History: A Journal of the Middle Period (Winter 2007).

  • “Revolutionary Heart: The Life of Clarina Howard Nichols and the Pioneering Crusade for Women’s Rights,” Kansas History: A Journal of the Central Plains (Autumn 2006).

  • “Peacekeeping on the Plains: Army Operations in Bleeding Kansas,” Civil War Book Review (Spring 2005).

Courses Taught

  • Independent Study
  • Revolutionary America, 1750-1800
  • The Liberal Arts and Real Life
  • Africans in Americas Slavery to Freedom To Freedom
  • Colonial America
  • Research and Thesis
  • The Roots of Hamilton: Relics of Resistance in the Black Atlantic World
  • Research in Comparative Social and Cultural History
  • The Civil War

Professional Affiliations

  • Western History Association
  • Society of Civil War Historians
  • Organization of American Historians
  • Southern Historical Association

Awards & Honors

  • Outstanding Teacher Award
  • Thomas Buckley Teaching Award
  • Medicine Wheel Award