Barbara J. Fields

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Barbara Jeanne Fields (born 1947[1] in Charleston, South Carolina) is a professor of American history at Columbia University.[2] Her focus is on the history of the American South, 19th century social history, and the transition to capitalism in the United States.


Barbara Fields was raised in Washington, D.C., where she attended Morgan Elementary School, Banneker Junior High School, and Western High School.[3] She received her B.A. from Harvard University in 1968, and her Ph.D. from Yale University in 1978. At Yale, she was one of the last doctoral students of C. Vann Woodward, one of the preeminent American historians of the twentieth century. She appears in Ken Burns' documentary series, The Civil War and The Congress.[4][5]

Fields was the first African American woman to receive tenure at Columbia University. She has also taught at Northwestern University, the University of Michigan, and the University of Mississippi. She is widely known for her 1990 essay, "Slavery, Race and Ideology in the United States of America."[6] She authored the 2012 book Racecraft: The Soul of Inequality in American Life (along with her sister Karen Fields, a sociologist).[7][8][9][5] The book argues that race is a product of racism; that racism is an ideology and a way of misunderstanding social reality; and that racecraft in American society serves to obfuscate the actual dynamics of inequality.[9]

Bard College awarded Fields an honorary doctorate in May 2007. She received the Philolexian Award for Distinguished Literary Achievement in 2017.



  • "Slavery, Race and Ideology in the United States of America", New Left Review, Issue 181, May/June 1990
  • "Whiteness, Racism and Identity", International Labor & Working-Class History, Issue 60, Fall 2001
  • "Origins of the New South and the Negro Question", Journal of Southern History, Vol 67 No 4, November 2001
  • "Of Rogues and Geldings", American Historical Review, Vol 180 No 5, December 2003
  • Slavery and Freedom on the Middle Ground: Maryland during the Nineteenth Century (Yale University Press, 1985), ISBN 0-300-04032-6
  • The Destruction of Slavery (Cambridge University Press, 1985), Editors Ira Berlin, Barbara J. Fields, Thavolia Glymph, Joseph P. Reidy, Leslie S. Rowland, ISBN 978-0-521-13214-5
  • Slaves No More: Three Essays on the Emancipation and the Civil War (Cambridge University Press, 1992) ISBN 978-0-521-43102-6
  • Free At Last: A Documentary History of Slavery, Emancipation, and the Civil War (The New Press, 1992) ISBN 978-1-56584-015-7
  • Racecraft: The Soul of Inequality in American Life (Verso, 2012), with Karen Fields, ISBN 978-1844679942


  1. ^ "MacArthur Foundation". Retrieved 2018-05-11.
  2. ^ "Fields, Barbara". 31 August 2016.
  3. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2011-04-11. Retrieved 2010-04-14.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  4. ^ "Barbara Fields". IMDb. Retrieved 2020-10-06.
  5. ^ a b c Torres, Mo (2022). "Against Race, Toward the Abolition of Racism". Sociology of Race and Ethnicity. 9: 124–127. doi:10.1177/23326492221136168. ISSN 2332-6492. S2CID 253329204.
  6. ^ Fields, Barbara Jeanne (1990). "Slavery, race and ideology in the United States of America". New Left Review. 181: 95–118.
  7. ^ Denvir, Daniel (17 Jan 2018). "Barbara and Karen Fields discuss their new book, "Racecraft"". Retrieved 2020-10-06.
  8. ^ Magubane, Zine (2022). "Exposing the Conjuror's Tricks: Barbara Fields's Sociological Imagination". Sociology of Race and Ethnicity. 9: 128–132. doi:10.1177/23326492221136165. ISSN 2332-6492. S2CID 253342715.
  9. ^ a b Heideman, Paul (2022). "Racecraft as a Challenge to the Sociology of Race". Sociology of Race and Ethnicity. 9: 119–123. doi:10.1177/23326492221136164. ISSN 2332-6492. S2CID 253326167.

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