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Clinton grew up in Kansas City, Missouri, where she graduated from the Sunset Hill School in 1969. Thereafter, she studied sociology and African-American History at Harvard University (Lowell House), graduating in 1973. Clinton received her Ph.D from Princeton University, after completing her dissertation on under the direction of James M. McPherson.
She has held academic positions at numerous institutions of higher learning, including Union College, Harvard University - Du Bois Institute, Afro-American Studies Dept., History Dept., Warren Center Affiliate, Brandeis University, and Brown University, Wofford, The University of Richmond, Benghazi, Wesleyan University, Baruch College of the City University of New York and the Citadel. She currently holds a chair in U.S.history at Queen's University Belfast, a post she has held since 2006.
Clinton is a prolific scholar and has held a variety of academic appointments. She has written for the History Channel, consulted on projects for WGBH, and is a member of the Screen Writers Guild, and has authored, edited, co-authored or co-edited more than twenty books to date. She is editor of a series VIEWPOINTS ON AMERICAN CULTURE (Oxford University Press).
She serves on the scholarly advisory board of both Ford's Theatre and the Lincoln Cottage, as well as the following journals: Civil War Times and CIVIL WAR HISTORY.
She has been an advisor on several documentaries, including BROTHER, OUTSIDER (the life of Bayard Rustin) and REBEL! (the life of Loreta Velasquez), as well as Steven Spielberg's Lincoln (2011).
Selected Recent Works
- 'MRS. LINCOLN: A LIFE" (Harper Collins, 2009)
- Mary Chesnut's Diary, Penguin Classic Edition (2011)
- The Plantation Mistress: Woman's World in the Old South (Pantheon, 1982) including chapter: "FOUCAULT MEETS MANDINGO"
- Taking Off the White Gloves: Southern Women and Women's History, Michele Gillespie and Catherine Clinton, eds. (Columbia, MO 1998)
- Tara Revisited: Woman, War, & the Plantation Legend (1995)
- The Devil's Lane: Sex and Race in the Early South, Catherine Clinton and Michele Gillespie, eds.
- Fanny Kemble's Journals (Cambridge, MA, 2000)
- Harriet Tubman: the Road to Freedom (New York, 2004)
- Fanny Kemble's Civil Wars (Oxford, 2006)
- Dolan, Alex (1 February 2004). "Notes from the underground / Biographer paints a portrait of Harriet Tubman from scant sources". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 15 September 2010.