Fighting for Their Places: Race and Settlement in the Early Republic

Join us for an OI Author Conversation with Samantha Seeley and Michael Witgen.

Westward expansion is a central theme in the history of the United States.  But the movement of people across the continent, forced and voluntary, was more complicated and more fraught than popular narratives suggest.  Indigenous peoples in the Old Northwest struggled to retain their homelands, with more success than we might imagine. Black Americans struggled both for the right to move west and for the right to stay put.  Telling their stories demands that we look past a simple eastwest trajectory. Instead, we must follow them as they moved east and west, north and south, from the continental interior to the corridors of power in Washington D.C.  

 Please join Samantha Seeley and Michael Witgen for a discussion about how Indigenous and Black Americans fought for their places in the founding decades of the Early Republic and how their histories might reshape a national narrative. Samantha Seeley’s forthcoming Race, Removal, and Right to Remain: Migration and the Making of the United States, argues that the nation took shape as a white republic as a consequence of negotiations over movement. Michael Witgen’s new book Seeing Red: Indigenous Land, American Expansion, and the Political Economy of Plunder in North America (forthcoming 2021) explains how, against long odds, the Anishiniaabeg people of what is now Wisconsin, Michigan, and Minnesota resisted removal. 

Samantha Seeley is an assistant professor of History at the University of Richmond. Her book, Race, Removal, and the Right to Remain: Migration and the Making of the United States, is forthcoming from the Omohundro Institute of Early American History & Culture/University of North Carolina Press in 2021. She is the co-editor of “The Question of Recovery: Slavery, Freedom, and the Archive,” a special issue of Social Text (December 2015). Her work has been supported by fellowships from the Library of Congress, the Newberry Library, the Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, and Freedom, and the McNeil Center for Early American Studies, among others. She holds a BA in History from Brown University and a PhD in History from New York University.

Michael Witgen is a professor in the departments of History and American Culture as well as the Native American Studies program at the University of Michigan, and he is a member of the Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Ojibwe. On July 1, 2021, he will become a professor in the department of History and the Center for the Study of Ethnicity and Race at Columbia University. His publications include “An Infinity of Nations: How the Native New World Shaped Early North America, (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2012), and “American Indians in World History,” in the Oxford Handbook of American Indian History, ed., Fred Hoxie, (Cambridge: Oxford University Press, April 2016). Professor Witgen’s work explores the juxtaposition of Native and European experiences and responses to the process of mutual discovery that created the New World in North America, with a particular focus on the Great Lakes and Great Plains. His current research examines the intersection of race, national identity, and state making in the Old Northwest of the early republic, and includes the essay “Seeing Red: Race, Citizenship, and Indigeneity in the Old Northwest,” published in Journal of the Early Republic in 2018, and awarded the Ralph D. Gray prize for best original article by the Society for Historians of the Early American Republic. He is also the author of Seeing Red: Indigenous Land, American Expansion, and the Political Economy of Plunder in North America forthcoming from the Omohundro Institute for the Study of Early American History and Culture with partner University of North Carolina Press.