John Frederick Bell, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor of History

508-767-7278 Founders Hall - Room 112

Degrees Earned

Ph.D. History of American Civilization (American Studies), Harvard University, Cambridge, MA

M.A., History, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA

B.A. Religious Studies and History, Summa Cum Laude, The College of William and Mary, Williamsburg, VA

Undergraduate Courses Taught

HIS 180: History of the United States to 1877

HIS 181: History of the United States since 1877

HIS 269: The African American Dream

HIS 362: The Civil War and Reconstruction in the US

HIS 400: Historical Methods


Degrees of Equality: Abolitionist Colleges and the Politics of Race. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2022.    

Peer-reviewed Articles

“Confronting Colorism: Interracial Abolition and the Consequences of Complexion,” Journal of the Early Republic 39: 2 (Summer 2019): 239-265.

“When Regulation Was Religious: College Philanthropy, Antislavery Politics, and Accreditation in the Mid-Nineteenth-Century West,” History of Education Quarterly 57:1 (February 2017): 68-93.

“Poetry’s Place in the Crisis and Compromise of 1850,” Journal of the Civil War Era 5:3 (September 2015): 399-421.

“Time Out of Mind: Bob Dylan and Paul Nelson Transformed,” in Eugen Banauch, ed., Refractions of Bob Dylan: Cultural Appropriations of an American Icon (Manchester University Press, 2015), 125-134.

Book Reviews

Mark Boonshoft, Aristocratic Education and the Making of the American Republic (UNC Press, 2020) for American Nineteenth-Century History 22:2 (2021), 222-224.

"An Education in Black Women's Activism," review essay on Kabria Baumgartner, In Pursuit of Knowledge: Black Women and Educational Activism in Antebellum America (New York: New York University Press, 2019) for Reviews in American History 48:4 (December 2020)

Gary Kornblith and Carol Lasser, Elusive Utopia: The Struggle for Racial Equality in Oberlin, Ohio (LSU Press, 2018) for Civil War History 66:3 (September 2020): 319-321.

John Demos, The Heathen School: A Story of Hope and Betrayal in the Early Republic  (Vintage, 2013) for H-Net: H-AmRel (September 2016).

J. Brent Morris, Oberlin, Hotbed of Abolitionism: College, Community, and the Fight for Freedom and Equality in Antebellum America (UNC Press, 2014) for Journal of the Civil War Era 5:3 (September 2015): 442-444.

“Race, Power, and Education in Early America,” review essay on Craig Steven Wilder, Ebony and Ivy: Race, Slavery, and the Troubled History of America’s Universities (Bloomsbury Press, 2013) for Education’s Histories (February 2015).

Fellowships and Awards

Faculty Member of the Year, Student-Athlete Advisory Council, Assumption University, 2022

Discourse Initiative Grant, Institute for Humane Studies, George Mason University, 2021

Summer Research Assistance Fellowship, Honors Program, Assumption College, 2020

Postdoctoral Fellowship, Kilachand Honors College, Boston University, 2017-2019

Spencer Dissertation Fellowship, National Academy of Education, 2016

College Teaching Certificate, Derek Bok Center for Teaching & Learning, Harvard University, 2016

Honorable Mention, American Alliance of Museum Publications Design Competition, 2016

Loeb Initiative on Religious Freedom Fellowship, Harvard University, 2015

Center for American Political Studies Graduate Research Seed Grant, Harvard University, 2015

Charles Warren Center for Studies in American History Travel Grant, Harvard University, 2014

Bordin/Gillette Researcher Travel Fellowship, University of Michigan, 2014

Frederick B. Artz Summer Research Grant, Oberlin College, 2014

Certificates of Distinction in Teaching, Harvard University, 2013, 2014

Ashford Dissertation Fellowship in the Humanities and Social Sciences, Harvard University, 2011

Phi Beta Kappa, The College of William and Mary, 2007

Conference Presentations

“A Black Student Periodical and the Literary War for Emancipation,” Society of Civil War Historians, Philadelphia, PA, June 2022.

“Family Feud: Abolitionist Colleges Debate the Limits of Reconstruction,” Organization of American Historians, Chicago, IL, April 2021.

“Oberlin’s Black Alumnae and the New Birth of Freedom, 1864-1868,” History of Education Society, Columbus, OH, November 2019.

“The Consciences of Their Campuses: Black Protest and the Abolitionist College Legacy,” Organization of American Historians, Philadelphia, PA, April 4, 2019.

“Defining Equality in an Age of Slavery: Race and the Boundaries of Campus Reform,” History of Education Society, Albuquerque, NM, November 1-4, 2018. (Panel co-organizer)

“Black Minds and Blood Lines: Genealogy, Theology, and the Jim Crow Professoriate,” African American Intellectual History Society, Waltham, MA, March 30-31, 2018.

“Sowing the Mustard Seed: Fanny Jackson Coppin’s Pedagogy of First Principles,” American Studies Association, Chicago, IL, November 9-12, 2017.

“Assault in the Midst of Abolitionism: Mary Edmonia Lewis and the Oberlin Poisoning Case,” Society for Historians of the Early American Republic, Philadelphia, PA, July 20-23, 2017.

“An Interracial Impasse: The American Missionary Association and the Social Equality     Controversy at Berea College,” History of Education Society, Providence, RI, November 3-6, 2016.       

“To Be Young Again: Race, Age, and the Abolitionist Classroom,” Society for Historians of the Early American Republic, New Haven, CT, July 21-24, 2016.                                                

“Abolitionist Colleges and the Transatlantic Education of West African Students,” American Historical Association, Atlanta, GA, January 7-10 2016.

“Civil Rights and Civic Priorities: Local Control and the Demise of New York Central College,” Researching New York: Perspectives on Empire State History, University at Albany, SUNY, New York, November 19-20, 2015.

“Eastern Money, Western Colleges: Religious Philanthropy and Institutional Independence at Knox and Grinnell,” History of Education Society, Indianapolis, IN, November 6-9, 2014.

Public History Projects

“Early Black Collegians and the Fight for Full Inclusion,” Black Perspectives, blog of the African American Intellectual History Society:

"LaurelX: A Non-Traditional Festschrift in Celebration of Laurel Thatcher Ulrich"

"How Not to Respond to Threats to Diversity" (Editorial), Inside Higher Ed,    

At the Center of Revolutions (Capital Campaign Viewbook), Concord Museum

A Beacon on the Hill: New York Central College , 1849-1860 (Documentary), McGraw Historical Society,

“This Is Not A Chair” (Instructional Video), Chipstone Foundation,