BHC trustee and member spotlight

Justene Hill Edwards, Assistant Professor of History, University of Virginia, is a 2022 Andrew Carnegie Fellows Recipient.

Justene Hill Edwards is an assistant professor in the Corcoran Department of History at the University of Virginia. She holds degrees from Swarthmore College, Florida International University, and Princeton University. A historian of the African American experience, her scholarship investigates slavery’s role in the long history of economic inequality in America, focusing on the 18th and 19th centuries. Always highlighting the lives of enslaved and formerly enslaved people, Hill Edwards studies the complicated relationship between economic and political freedom for people of African descent in the United States.

She is the author of Unfree Markets: The Slaves’ Economy and the Rise of Capitalism in South Carolina (Columbia University Press, 2021). Unfree Markets explores the economic lives of enslaved people, not as property, but as active participants in their local economies. It provides the fullest account to date of the strategies that enslaved people used to create their own networks of entrepreneurship, from the colonial period to the Civil War.

Her project, “The Freedman’s Bank: The Challenges to Black Economic Equality in Reconstruction America,” delves into the history of the Freedman’s Savings and Trust Company and locates the bank’s failure within conversations about the racial wealth gap in America. Read more about her project here: