Michael Vorenberg Associate Professor of History

Michael Vorenberg received his A.B. and Ph.D. from Harvard University, which awarded him the Bowdoin Prize for the best graduate essay, the Harold K. Gross Prize for the best dissertation in history, and the Delancey Jay Prize for the best work on human liberties. After receiving his Ph.D., Professor Vorenberg was a postdoctoral fellow at the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute at Harvard, and then an Assistant Professor of History at the State University of New York at Buffalo. He began teaching at Brown University in 1999, became the Vartan Gregorian Assistant Professor in 2002, and was promoted to Associate Professor with tenure in 2004. His first book, Final Freedom: The Civil War, the Abolition of Slavery, and the Thirteenth Amendment was published by Cambridge University Press in 2001.  It was a Finalist for the Lincoln Prize and was used liberally for Steven Spielberg's film Lincoln (2012). He is also the author of The Emancipation Proclamation: A Brief History with Documents (St. Martin's/Bedford, 2010).  Currently, he is at work on a book about the ending of the Civil War (under contract with Alfred A. Knopf), and also one on the impact of the Civil War on American citizenship. The projects have received funding from various sources, including the American Council of Learned Societies and the National Endowment for the Humanities. He has published numerous essays and articles on topics ranging from Lincoln's plans for the colonization of African Americans to the meaning of rights and privileges under the Fourteenth Amendment. From 2004 to 2007, Professor Vorenberg was a member of Brown University's Steering Committee on Slavery and Justice.

Brown Affiliations

Research Areas

scholarly work


The Emancipation Proclamation: A Brief History with Documents (Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2010).

Final Freedom: The Civil War, the Abolition of Slavery, and the Thirteenth Amendment.  Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001.  (Paperback edition, 2004.)


Chapters in Books

“The Thirteenth Amendment,” in 1865: America Makes War and Peace in Lincoln’s

            Final Year (Carbondale, Ill.: Southern Illinois University Press), 2015

“Liberté, Égalité, and Lincoln: French Readings of an American President,” in Richard

            Carwardine and Jay Sexton, eds., The Global Lincoln (New York: Oxford

            University Press, 2011), 95-106.

“Was Lincoln’s Constitution Color-Blind?,” in Thomas A. Horrocks, Harold Holzer, and

            Frank J. Williams, eds., The Living Lincoln (Carbondale, Ill.: Southern Illinois

            University Press, 2011), 115-27.

“Citizenship and the Thirteenth Amendment: Understanding the Deafening Silence,” in

             Alexander Tsesis, ed., The Promises of Liberty: The History and Contemporary

             Relevance of the Thirteenth Amendment (New York: Columbia University Press,  2010).

“Did Emancipation Create American Citizens?: Abraham Lincoln’s View” (in Russian),

               in Victoria Zhuravleva, ed., Abraham Lincoln: Lessons of History and the

               Contemporary World (Moscow: Russian State University for the Humanities

                Press, 2010).

“Abraham Lincoln’s ‘Fellow Citizens’—Before and After Emancipation,” in

                William A. Blair and Karen Fisher Younger, eds., Lincoln’s

                Proclamation: Emancipation Reconsidered (Chapel Hill: University of

                North Carolina Press, 2009), 151-169.

“The Thirteenth Amendment Enacted,” in Harold Holzer and Sara Vaughn

            Gabbard, eds., Lincoln and Freedom: Slavery, Emancipation, and

            The  Thirteenth Amendment (Carbondale, Ill.: Southern Illinois

            University Press, 2007).

“After Emancipation: Abraham Lincoln’s Black Dream,” in John Y. Simon,

            Harold Holzer, and Dawn Vogel, eds., Lincoln Revisited (New York:

            Fordham University Press, 2007)

“Slavery Reparations in Theory and Practice: Lincoln’s Approach,” in Brian

            Dirck, ed., Lincoln Emancipated: The President and the Politics of Race

             (DeKalb: Northern Illinois Univ. Press, 2007).

 “Reconstruction as a Constitutional Crisis,” in Thomas J. Brown, ed.,

              Reconstructions: New Directions in the History of Postbellum America

              (New York: Oxford University Press, 2006).

 “The World Will Forever Applaud: Emancipation,” in Aaron Sheehan-Dean, ed.,

              The Struggle for a Vast Future: The American Civil War (Oxford, UK:  Osprey, 2006).

 “Emancipating the Constitution: Francis Lieber and the Theory of Amendment,”

              in Charles R. Mack and Henry H. Lesesne, eds., Francis Lieber and the

             Culture of the Mind (Columbia: Univ. of South Carolina Press, 2005).

  “The Chase Court (1864-1873): Cautious Reconstruction,” in Christopher

              Tomlins, ed., The United States Supreme Court: The Pursuit of Justice  (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2005).

“Bringing the Constitution Back In: Amendment, Innovation, and Popular  Democracy during the Civil War Era,” in Meg Jacobs,

               William Novak, and Julian Zelizer, eds., The Democratic Experiment: The Promise of

                American Political History (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2003).

“The King’s Cure: Abraham Lincoln and the End of Slavery,” in Charles Hubbard, ed., Lincoln Reshapes the Presidency

               (Mercer, Penn.: Mercer Univ. Press, 2004).

“Rutherford B. Hayes,” in Alan Brinkley and Davis Dyer, eds., The Reader’s Companion to the American

                Presidency.  Boston: Houghton Mifflin,  2000.

“Abraham Lincoln and the Politics of Black Colonization,” in Thomas F. Schwartz, ed., “For a Vast Future Also”: Essays from the Journal of the

                                    Abraham Lincoln Association.  New York: Fordham University Press, 1999. (Reprint of article listed below


Refereed Journal Articles

“Spielberg’s Lincoln: The Great Emancipator Returns,” Journal of the Civil War Era, 3 (December 2013), 549-72.

“Imagining a Different Reconstruction Constitution,” Civil War History, 51 (December 2005), 416-26.

“‘The Deformed Child’: Slavery and the Election of 1864.”  Civil War History, 47 (September 2001), 240-257.

“Abraham Lincoln and the Politics of Black Colonization.”  Journal of the Abraham Lincoln Association, 14 (Summer 1993): 23-46.


Non-Refereed Journal Articles

“Emancipation—Then What?,” New York Times, “Disunion” series , January 15, 2013

“Hearts of Blackness: Reconsidering the Abolitionists—Again,” Reviews in American History, 32 (March 2004), 33-40.

“The Battle Over Gettysburg: What Lincoln Would Have Said about September 11, 2001.” Brown Alumni Magazine, 103 (Jan./Feb. 2003), 27.

“Recovered Memory of the Civil War,” Reviews in American History, 29 (Dec. 2001), 550-58.


research statement

My research takes place at the intersection of three fields in American history: Civil War and Reconstruction; Legal and Constitutional History; and Slavery, Emancipation, and Race. My first book, Final Freedom: The Civil War, the Abolition of Slavery, and the Thirteenth Amendment (Cambridge, 2001), dealt with the making and meaning of the Thirteenth Amendment, the measure that outlawed slavery in the United States, but the larger subject was the way that popular attitudes toward race and the law collided with unanticipated effects of the Civil War to create a movement for a reworking of the constitutional order. Under this new order, Americans came to believe that they were empowered to change the Constitution, even though it was viewed by many as the product of irretrievable wisdom if not divine inspiration. With this new appreciation of the legitimacy of altering or amending the Constitution, Americans gained faith in their ability to shape the power of the state and the definition of who was American.  My next two books deal with many of the same issues.  One examines the Appomattox myth: the American belief in a clean ending of the Civil War and later wars in the face of the reality of the chaos of the endings of all these wars.  The other book examines the impact of the Civil War on American citizenship, reflecting on the way that the Civil War, like all major wars, forced people, often against their will, into a national identity.

funded research

American Council of Learned Societies, 2002-03
American Antiquarian Society Short-Term Fellowship, 2002
Brown University Salomon Research Award, 2002-03
National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Stipend, 2001