Amrita Chakrabarti Myers

Associate Professor, Department of History

Department of History

IU, IU Bloomington

Full Biography

I am a historian of the black female experience in the United States, and my research interests revolve around issues and ideas of race, gender, freedom, and citizenship, and the ways in which these constructs intersect with one another in the lives of black women in the Old South.

My first book, Forging Freedom: Black Women and the Pursuit of Liberty in Antebellum Charleston, (UNC Press, 2011) examines the lives of free black women, both legal and de facto, in Charleston, South Carolina, from 1790-1860. At its heart, the project analyzes the tactics that black female Charlestonians utilized to acquire, define, and defend their own vision of freedom, methods which included the acquisition of wealth, networking with people in positions of power, and utilizing the state's judicial apparatus. Examining life, liberty, and ideas about civil rights from the perspective of those invested with the least formal power in the Old South, this study concludes that antebellum black women used all the resources at their disposal to enjoy a freedom of their own design as opposed to one that was shaped for them by white southerners. Drawing on family papers, legislative documents, probate records, parish registers, census data, tax lists and city directories, this project thus restores black women to their rightful place as social, economic, and political actors in the pre-war South.

Honors and Awards

  • Julia Cherry Spruill Book Award, best monograph in Southern Women’s History, Southern Association of Women Historians (2012)
  • Anna Julia Cooper-CLR James Book Award, best monograph in Africana Studies, National Council for Black Studies (2012)
  • George C. Rogers Jr. Book Award, best monograph on South Carolina History, South Carolina Historical Society (2012)
  • Letitia Woods Brown Book Award: Honorable Mention, best monograph published in Black Women’s History, Association of Black Women Historians (2012)
  • Frances Marshall Achievement Award for excellence in teaching and mentoring, Alpha Phi Alpha-Gamma Eta Chapter, Indiana University (2011)
  • Letitia Woods Brown Memorial Prize--Best Article in African American Women’s History for “The Bettingall-Tunno Family and the Free Black Women of Antebellum Charleston: A Freedom Both Contingent and Constrained”, Association of Black Women Historians (2009)
  • Trustees’ Teaching Award, Department of History, Indiana University (2009)

Research Interests

  • Black women
  • African American history
  • 19th-century U.S.
  • The old South
  • Social history
  • Race, gender, sexuality and violence
  • Freedom and citizenship


  • Ph.D. at Rutgers University-New Brunswick, 2004
  • M.A. at University of Alberta-Edmonton, 1995
  • B.A. at University of Alberta-Edmonton, 1993

Courses Taught


  • Wenches, Witches, and Welfare Queens: Images of Black Women in U.S. History
  • Sex, Lies, and Diaries: Untold Southern Stories
  • African American History: To 1865
  • African American History: Since 1865
  • U.S. Survey- to 1865


  • Slavery in the Americas: Comparisons and Contrasts
  • Readings in African-American History: The Classics


  • Forging Freedom: Black Women and the Pursuit of Liberty in Antebellum Charleston (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2011).
  • "Black Women, Religious Rhetoric, and the Legacy of Abraham Lincoln," Journal of African American History, Vol. 94 No. 4 (2009): 561-570.
  • "The Bettingall-Tunno Family and the Free Black Women of Antebellum Charleston: A Freedom both Contingent and Constrained," in Marjorie Julian Spruill et al., eds., South Carolina Women: Their Lives and Times, Volume One (Athens: University of Georgia, 2009): 143-167.