Episode 070: Jennifer Morgan, How Historians Research


How did enslaved African and African American women experience slavery?

What were their daily lives like?

And how do historians know as much as they do about enslaved women?

Today, we explore the answers to these questions with Jennifer L. Morgan, a Professor of History and Social and Cultural Analysis at New York University and our guide for an investigation into how historians research history.

About the Series

Doing History episodes will introduce you to historians who will tell you what they know about the past and reveal how they came to their knowledge.

Each episode will air on the last Tuesday of each month in 2016.

This series is part of a partnership between Ben Franklin’s World and the Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture.

About the Show

Ben Franklin’s World is a podcast about early American history.

It is a show for people who love history and for those who want to know more about the historical people and events that have impacted and shaped our present-day world.

Each episode features a conversation with a historian who helps us shed light on important people and events in early American history.

Episode Summary

Jennifer MorganIn this episode, we investigate how historians research history by exploring the experiences of 17th- and 18th-century enslaved African and African American women. Our guide for this exploration is Jennifer L. Morgan, a Professor of History and Social and Cultural Analysis at New York University.

During our conversation, Jennifer reveals information about the daily lives of enslaved African and African American women; How women’s reproductive capabilities both impacted early American slavery and the way African and African American women experienced slavery; And, how she researches and recovers the lives and experiences of enslaved women.

What You’ll Discover

  • The daily lives of enslaved African and African American women in early America
  • Differences between the experiences of enslaved men and women
  • The impact slavery had on early American women’s lives
  • Whether slave owners tried to control the reproductive capabilities of female slaves
  • How women impacted the development of slavery
  • How Europeans used the bodies of women to mark the boundaries of African and European societies
  • How Jennifer started her research for Laboring Women
  • Jennifer’s research process and how it has matured
  • The role historical questions play in historians’ research
  • How historians form historical questions
  • How Jennifer chooses archives for her research
  • How historians use the internet to research their topics
  • How Jennifer researches enslaved women
  • How enslaved women experienced motherhood
  • The role of objectivity in historians’ research
  • How Jennifer handles researching and teaching the emotional and violent topic of slavery
  • How being interdisciplinary helps Jennifer think about and find information
  • Jennifer’s tips for selecting archives and conducting research
Slave Traffic
Slave Transport in Central Africa


Links to People, Places, and Publications


Time Warp PlainTime Warp Question

In this Time Warp, we let Jennifer use a time machine.

For the purposes of our investigation on how historians research, if you could travel back in time and ask the people of the past to create a record about the experiences of enslaved African and African American women, what type of record would you ask the people of the past to keep and what information would that record hold?

Questions, Comments, Suggestions

Do you have a question, comment, or suggestion?

Get in Touch! Send me an e-mail, tweet, or leave a comment.



Enjoy the Podcast?

Why Not Subscribe?

Listen on Apple Podcasts | Listen on Google Podcasts | Listen to Stitcher


Ratings & Reviews

If you enjoy this podcast, please give it a rating and review.

Positive ratings and reviews help bring Ben Franklin's World to the attention of other history lovers who may not be aware of our show

Click here to rate & review on iTunes | Click here to rate & review on Stitcher

  • Jennifer is incredibly articulate and precise, but doesn’t get too academic for us non-academics.

  • 070 – fantastic guide for researching. I am attempting my family research. Dr. Jennifer Morgan’s presentation is truly an aid for me. Certainly wished I’d discovered this site earlier.

    • I’m glad you found Jennifer’s advice helpful. You may also enjoy future episodes of the Doing History series as they will feature more historians talking about different aspects of how they work. Episodes in this series air on the last Tuesday of each month throughout 2016.

More from this show