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Kelly Kennington

Kelly Kennington

Draughon Associate Professor of Southern History

Associate Professor


Kelly Kennington

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320-B Thach Hall

Office Hours

Tuesday and Thursday, 2:00-3:00 or by appointment

In the news


PhD, Duke University

MA, Duke University

BA, Tulane University

About Me

Kelly Kennington is a historian of slavery in the antebellum American South, with a particular focus on how enslaved persons interact with formal and informal systems of law. Her first book, In the Shadow of Dred Scott: St. Louis Freedom Suits and the Legal Culture of Slavery in Antebellum America ​​(University of Georgia Press, 2017), looks at the cases of enslaved men, women, and children who sued for freedom in St. Louis. Kennington uses these legal suits for freedom to trace the broader legal culture of St. Louis and to argue for the importance of enslaved people's participation in that legal culture.

Kennington is currently researching two book-length projects. The first is a study of the domestic slave trade in Montgomery and Mobile, Alabama, focusing on local legal regulations of the trade. The second project, currently titled The Mind of Susan Wray, weaves together themes of slavery, violence, sex, and insanity to tell the story of the plantation South through the life of one extraordinary woman.

Kennington joined Auburn's Department of History in 2009 and began teaching at Auburn in the fall of 2010 after her year as the Law and Society Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Wisconsin's Law School. At Auburn, she teaches courses in the history of the South to 1877, American slavery, and American legal history, in addition to survey courses in world history and United States history to 1877.

Research Interests

African American history; history of the American South; legal history; U.S. history from the colonial period until 1865



  • In the Shadow of Dred Scott: St. Louis Freedom Suits and the Legal Culture of Slavery in Antebellum America ​​(University of Georgia Press, 2017)


  • Guest Blogger, Legal History Blog, January 2018,


  • “‘To Favor the Side of Freedom’: Judicial Opinions and the Law of Slavery,” Slavery & Abolition, 40:2, June 2019, 225-239.
  • “Forum Introduction: Slavery, Freedom, and Law in the Civil War Era,” co-author Melissa Milewski, Slavery & Abolition, 40:2, June 2019, 219-222.
  • “Geography, Mobility, and the Law: Suing for Freedom in Antebellum St. Louis,” Journal of Southern History, August 2014, 575-604.