Stephanie M. H. Camp (1967-2014)

University of Washington history professor Stephanie M. H. Camp passed away on April 2nd. Camp was the author of Closer to Freedom: Enslaved Women and Everyday Resistance in the Plantation South (University of North Carolina Press, 2004, also profiled on #ADPhD here). Camp also edited, with Edward Baptist, New Studies in the History of Slavery (University of Georgia Press, 2006).

Selections from her obituary in The Seattle Times:

“She was a well-known feminist historian who wrote a groundbreaking book on enslaved women in the antebellum South, and a social-justice activist who dared to take controversial stands. But Stephanie Camp was also known for her love of popular culture and her sense of adventure and for hosting great parties.

The University of Washington history professor died April 2 of cancer at the age of 46.

Professor Camp’s book, “Closer to Freedom: Enslaved Women and Everyday Resistance in the Plantation South,” which is in its second printing, led to a new understanding of how enslaved women resisted their captivity in the 19th century. It was cited not only for the quality of its scholarship but also for the beauty of the writing.

The book “transformed the field of American social history,” said Chandan Reddy, an associate professor of English at the UW….”

“…Professor Camp was part of a cohort of young African-American historians who were asking new and different questions about the black experience in America, Reddy said.

Recently, she had begun to work on a book about race and beauty. “It was a big book, with a big narrative arc,” Thomas said. “She was basically saying it was impossible to think about conceptions of race without thinking of beauty.”

In a prospectus for her book, Professor Camp wrote that her aim was to chronicle “the debates among and between English, white American and, most of all, black American writers about whether or not black was beautiful — and about what the answers to that question meant.”

Professor Camp also taught a course on the history of beauty and race, and “the students just fell in love with her course,” Reddy said. “One student said the class opened her mind, and changed her life.”

She was a creative and effective teacher who was welcoming and gracious to all of her colleagues, and gave lectures at the Monroe State Prison because she believed it was important to share her work with a wider audience, said Jordanna Bailkin, a UW professor of British history….

…In 2007, she and a graduate student at the UW organized a protest about Woodland Park Zoo’s Maasai Journey program, which featured Maasai cultural elements in a zoo setting. She argued that it referenced a time when African people were grouped together with animals at world fairs….

….She is survived by her son, Luc Ade Mariani, and his father Marc Mariani of Seattle; and her parents, Donald Eugene Camp and Marie Josephe (Dumont) Camp, and sister Dorothea Rae Camp, of Philadelphia.

A public memorial is planned for early June. A memorial fund has been set up for Luc Mariani c/o Chandan Reddy, 2205 E. Terrace St., Seattle 98122. Donations in Professor Camp’s honor may also be made to the nonprofit Friends of the Children, P.O. Box 22801, Seattle 98122, or to the UW’s Stephanie M. Camp Lecture Fund for the History of Race & Gender, c/o the UW Department of History, Box 353560, Seattle, Wa 98195-3560”

Rice University posted a statement:

 “Professor Stephanie Camp, a former associate professor in the History Department here at Rice (2008-2010), passed away April 2nd 2014 from a year-and-a-half-long battle with cancer.  Although Professor Camp was only with us for two years before she returned to the University of Washington, she made an impact as a member of our Rice family.  Professor Camp was a leading scholar of mid-Atlantic slavery, gender, and the American south.  In addition to being valued in the discipline, she was a dedicated colleague in her home department, a beloved faculty affiliate of the Center for the Study of Women, Gender and Sexuality, and a dedicated mentor.  She worked with many graduate students here at Rice in various capacities even after she returned to UW, and after she became ill, right up to what turned out to be the last weeks of her life.  She was a fantastic colleague, a great intellectual and wonderful friend.  She will truly be missed.”

W. Caleb McDaniel reflected on Camp’s collegiality and generosity:

“But most of all, what I found in my email were constant reminders of Stephanie’s support for me as a junior colleague struggling through the completion of a book and beginning to find my way in the profession. The impact of Stephanie Camp’s scholarship on the history of American slavery will rightly reverberate for a long time, as I was reminded again when teaching Closer to Freedom to my undergraduates this semester. But if my experience knowing her is in any way typical of the experience of others (and the outpouring of grief on Twitter and Facebook suggests that it is), her impact on the historical profession will go far beyond the pages of her scholarship. For she was also an extraordinary colleague who taught me a great deal about what collegiality means.”

Many thanks to Caleb for sharing the link to them with us.

Ann M. Little honors Camp at Historiann (click here). On Closer to Freedom, Little writes:

It’s a book that every time I recommended it to a graduate student or assigned it in class was a revelation to my students.  They raved about Closer to Freedom because of the ways in which it challenged our traditional understandings of slave resistance and made convincing arguments about how women’s lives and work in slavery demanded that we take a broader view of what “counted” as resistance to enslavement.

On Camp herself, Little also shares:

Stephanie was a friend of mine–we didn’t keep up regularly, but she was the kind of friend who if I were coming to Seattle or if we would be at the same conference, we’d try to get together for a meal or a cup of coffee.  I have known her since she came to Penn to begin her Ph.D. work in 1991.  Even then, she seemed so cool–so tall, lovely, trim, and smart.  She and I enjoyed playing fashionista together–I remember her taking me to her favorite consignment shop in Seattle when I was there for the 2009 OAH meeting.  (Associate Professor fashionistas have to operate on a budget, natch!)

Little also shares the following email from Lynn Thomas, Chair of the History Department at University of Washington:

I’m writing with information about where people may send condolence cards to Stephanie Camp’s family and to which funds people may contribute in memory of Stephanie’s rich life as a mother, friend, citizen, and scholar.  Condolence cards may be sent to:  Chandan Reddy, 2205 E. Terrace St., Seattle, WA 98122.  Please indicate on the back of the envelope, if the card is for the Camp family (parents Don and Marie Camp, sister Dottie Camp, and son Luc Mariani) or just Luc.  Chandan will then see that they get forwarded accordingly.

The following funds welcome contributions in honor of Stephanie’s life:

  1. College Fund for Luc:  Checks may be made out to Luc Mariani and mailed to Chandan Reddy at 2205 E. Terrace St, Seattle, WA, 98122.
  2. Friends of the Children – King County:  Stephanie formerly served on the board of this terrific organization that provides long-term mentoring for some of the most vulnerable kids in the greater Seattle area. To make a donation in her honor, please go to their donation page at In the “Dedication” field simply write “Stephanie Camp.”
  You may also call 206-328-3535 to make a donation over the phone or mail it to PO Box 22801, Seattle, WA 98122.
  3. Stephanie M. H. Camp Lecture Fund for the History of Race & Gender:  This fund will support the University of Washington Department of History to offer an annual lecture on the history of race and gender in honor of Stephanie’s innovative and important contributions to this field of scholarship. To contribute, please go to  Alternatively, you can make a check out to “University of Washington” (with “Stephanie Camp” in the “for” line) and mail it to the UW Department of History (attn: Lynn Thomas), Box 353560, Seattle, WA 98195-3560.

On Saturday [April 5] , family and close friends held a small memorial service that was a heartfelt celebration of Stephanie’s life.  Later this spring, a larger public memorial service will be held on the University of Washington campus.  I will be in touch again as soon as the date and time for that event has been set.

Jessica Marie Johnson reflected on Camp’s scholarship at the Organization of American Historians annual meeting (as did many others). Her tribute was reblogged to #ADPhD and can also be found here.

Rest in Peace.



One thought on “Stephanie M. H. Camp (1967-2014)

  1. Pingback: Gender, Slavery, and the Archive in Cuba: An Interview with Aisha Finch

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