Button Menu

Gellman, David N., Ph.D. - Faculty Bio

Gellman, David N., Ph.D.



(765) 658-6273

Harrison Hall, Room 232
Greencastle, IN


Professor of History and Co-Director of the Asher Office of Undergraduate Research

Professional Interests  

I am an Early American Historian, with a particular focus on efforts to abolish slavery from the Age of Revolution through the Civil War and on colonial North American society. My new book Liberty's Chain: Slavery, Abolition, and the Jay Family of New York was published in Spring 2022 by Three Hills, an imprint of Cornell University Press. This multi-generational biography tells the story of John Jay, his descendants, and enslaved and formerly enslaved members of their households. It traces personal, regional, and national arcs from the colonial period to the early 20th century, from slaveholding to radical abolitionism, and from enslavement to emancipation. The book builds upon two of my previous books--a monograph on the abolition of slavery in New York and, with David Quigley, a document collection on debates about race and citizenship in New York from the American Revolution through Reconstruction. In addition, I co-authored the textbook American Odysseys: A History of Colonial North America. As a teacher, I have developed a wide array of courses on colonial North America and Atlantic History, as well as on the U.S. Constiution, on the American Revolution, and on urban history. I also have taught a Winter Term course on Bruce Springsteen, about whom I have published two essays.


Courses Regularly Taught

HIST100: Historical Encounters: Abolishing Slavery Link to recent syllabus
HIST100: Historical Encounters: Unsolved Colonial Mysteries Link to recent syllabus
HIST197: Pirates, Sailors, and Revolutionaries Link to recent syllabus
HIST263: Founding US Civilizations Link to recent syllabus
HIST264: Nineteenth Century US Link to recent syllabus
HIST281: History of the Black Atlantic Link to recent syllabus
HIST300: Topics: Law, Constitution, and Society in US History Link to recent syllabus
HIST362: Voices of a Revolutionary Age Link to recent syllabus
HIST373: Chicago and New York Link to recent syllabus
HIST490: Senior Seminar Link to recent syllabus


Select Publications 

Liberty's Chain: Slavery, Abolition, and the Jay Family of New York (Ithaca: Three Hills, and imprint of Cornell University Press, 2022).

Order Liberty's Chain: Slavery, Abolition, and the Jay Family of New York here

American Odysseys: A History of Colonial North America, co-author, Timothy J. Shannon (New York: Oxford University Press, 2014).  

Emancipating New York: The Politics of Slavery and Freedom 1777-1827 (Baton Rouge: LSU Press, 2006).  Link to publication

Jim Crow New York:  A Documentary History of Race and Citizenship, 1777-1877, co-author, David Quigley (New York University Press, 2003). 

"Sharing the Founders' Flame: John Jay, Missouri, and Memory," in A Fire Bell in the Past: The Missouri Crisis at 200, Volume 1:Western Slavery, National Impasse, ed. Jeffrey L. Pasley and John Craig Hammond (Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 2021).

"'The master and the man must change places for a season': Untangling Historical Narratives of Race and Loyalty in The Spy," The James Fenimore Cooper Society Journal 32 (Fall/Winter 2021): 5-27.

"Going Nowhere: Bruce, the Beatles, Neil Young, Talking Heads and Others" to Bruce Springsteen and the American Soul: Essays on the Songs and Influence of a Cultural Icon, ed. David Garrett Izzo (McFarland Publishing, 2011). Link to McFarland Website 



Huntington Library, San Marino, California (March 2015). Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Fellow for one-month residence.

The Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance and   Abolition, Yale Center for International and Area Studies, Yale University, postdoctoral Associate Fellowship for one-month residence (Jan./Feb. 2005).

American Antiquarian Society, Worcester, Massachusetts, Kate B. and Hall J. Peterson Fellowship for one-month residence (March 2005). 

Choice Outstanding Academic Titles, 2007. Emancipating New York:  The Politics of Slavery and Freedom, 1777-1827.

Choice Outstanding Academic Titles, 2004. Jim Crow New York:  A Documentary History of Race and Citizenship, 1777-1877.

Journal of the Early Republic/Society for Historians of the Early American Republic (2001) Winner of the Ralph D. Gray Prize for outstanding article appearing in Volume 20; "Race, the Public Sphere, and Abolition in Late Eighteenth-Century New York."

Asher Fund in the Social Sciences DePauw University (2014-2015).

John J. & Elizabeth Bowden Baughman Faculty Fellowship DePauw University (2009-2010, 2011-2013).

Edwin L. Minar Jr. Scholarship Award DePauw University (2007).



Blog Posts

 “Mastering Paradox: John Jay as a Slaveholding Abolitionist”: The Gotham Center for New York City History https://www.gothamcenter.org/blog/mastering-paradox-john-jay-as-a-slaveholding-abolitionist

“The Long Selma Moment”: Historians Against Slavery website 

 “Abolitionists Unfrozen”: Historians Against Slavery website