Rachel Stephens

Rachel Stephens

Assistant Professor of Art History, American Art and Architecture


  • PhD, University of Iowa, 2010
  • MA, Art History, Vanderbilt University
  • BA, Art History, The University of the South: Sewanee

Research Areas

  • American Art and Architecture


Book cover for "Selling Andrew Jackson: Ralph E. W. Earl and the Politics of Portraiture" by Dr. Rachel StephensRachel Stephens joined the Department of Art and Art History at The University of Alabama as Assistant Professor in 2013. Her research focuses on nineteenth-century American art, specifically antebellum southern art; race, representation and slavery; and Jacksonian-era portraiture.

Her book, Selling Andrew Jackson: Ralph E. W. Earl and the Politics of Portraiture, published in June 2018 with the University of South Carolina Press, explores the critical role of Earl and his dozens of portraits of Jackson within the circle and career of Old Hickory. Her current book project investigates the implications of abolitionism and pro-slavery justification on antebellum visual culture. Dr. Stephens was a Tyson Fellow at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in the fall of 2018 and a fellow at Yale’s Gilder Lehrman Center in the spring of 2019.

Stephens is an active member of SECAC, where she served as Editor-in-chief of Art Inquiries from 2014-2017.

Courses Taught

  • ARH 253: Survey of Western Art II
  • ARH 374: Art of the American South
  • ARH 375: 19th-century Art
  • ARH 376: American Architecture
  • ARH 377: American Painting and Sculpture
  • ARH 377: American Art to 1815
  • ARH 379: American Art 1815 to 1880
  • ARH 477: Southern Architecture
  • ARH 477: Slavery and American Art
  • ARH 477/577: Undergrad/graduate seminar, Archiving Lyon Hall
  • ARH 550: Graduate seminar in Theory and Methodologies
  • ARH 575: Graduate seminar in Civil War and American Art
  • ARH 575: Graduate seminar in Slavery and American Art

Recent Presentations

  • November 15, 2018, Food for Thought lecture series, Alabama Department of Archives and History, Montgomery, AL, “The Portrait that Created a President: Ralph E. W. Earl’s Andrew Jackson”
  • October 20, 2018, paper presentation, SECAC, Birmingham, AL, “White Heroes, Loyal Slaves: Pre-Civil War Virginia Paintings and the Origins of the Lost Cause”
  • September 24, 2018, invited guest lecture, Roanoke College, Virginia, “’Whatever is un-Virginian is Wrong’: Pro-South Paintings on the Eve of the Civil War”
  • February 23, 2018, Paper presentation, College Art Association, Los Angeles, CA, AHAA-sponsored session, “America is (Still) Hard to See;” Paper: “Seeing the Unseen: Suppression within the Visual Culture of American Slavery.”
  • April 22, 2017: Speaker, Tennessee Decorative Arts Symposium: “Making a Display: Adelicia Acklen’s Tennessee Family Portraits.”
  • February 15, 2017: Paper presentation, College Art Association: “From Invisible Slave to Comforting Mammy: The Evolution of Nursemaid Imagery in Nineteenth-Century American Art,” New York, N.Y.

Recent AwardsDr. Rachel Stephens

  • Spring 2019, Gilder-Lehrman Center, Yale University 4-month Faculty Fellowship
  • Fall 2018, Tyson Scholars Fellowship, Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art
  • 2017 Breaux Fellowship, Filson Historical Society, Louisville, Kentucky
  • 2017 Mellon Research Fellowship, Virginia Historical Society, Richmond
  • 2016 NEH Summer Institute Participant, The Visual Culture of the Civil War and its Aftermath, CUNY, New York
  • 2015 CARSCA grant, The University of Alabama
  • 2015 President’s Faculty Research Award
  • (co-awardee) 2014 Educator of the Year, Tuscaloosa County Preservation Society

Recent Publications


Watch a video of Dr. Stephens describing her teaching and research:

Rachel Stephens from CIT Multimedia Services on Vimeo.

In a 2017 article on President Andrew Jackson and comparisons with President Donald Trump, Rachel Stephens was interviewed by the Christian Science Monitor about Jackson’s portrait artist and her area of expertise, Ralph E. W. Earl.