Rachel Stephens

Assistant Professor of Art History
American Art and Architecture
(615) 525-1649
Office Location:
Garland 309
(205) 348-0287

Rachel 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 southern art; race, representation and slavery; and Jacksonian-era portraiture. Her first book, Selling Andrew Jackson: Ralph E. W. Earl and the Politics of Portraiture is forthcoming in the spring of 2018 from the University of South Carolina Press. She is currently developing a manuscript that traces abolitionist depictions of violence in slavery and the pro-slavery response. Stephens is an active member of SECAC and Editor-in-chief of Art Inquiries (formerly the SECAC Review).

Dr. Rachel Stephens' ARH 477 class at Bluff Hall in Demopolis, Alabama. The students toured several structures around Hale, Perry and Marengo counties in the Black Belt as part of their studies. Dr. Rachel Stephens' ARH 477 class at St. John's-in-the-Prairies (1859), Forkland, Alabama. ARH 477 students at the Pie Lab in Greensboro. Dr. Rachel Stephens' ARH 477 class at Gaineswood in Demopolis, Alabama. The students toured several structures around Hale, Perry and Marengo counties in the Black Belt as part of their studies.

Courses Taught:

ARH 374: Art of the American South
ARH 375: 19th-century Art
ARH 376: American Architecture
ARH 377: American Painting and Sculpture
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 and Upcoming Presentations:

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.

October 2016: Session chair, SECAC: American Art open sessions, co-organizer; chair, “American Art Open Session: Building a National Identity,” Roanoke, Virginia

September 30, 2016: Hope College, Arts and Humanities Symposium: “Am I not Human? Racial Identities in Modern America.” Invited guest lecture: “Aunt Chloe to Aunt Jemima: The Static Image of the African American Housemaid,” Holland, Michigan

April 15, 2016: Paper presentation, 19th-century Studies Association, “Abolition and Justification in Slavery Photography: Two Case Studies,” Lincoln, Nebraska

February 3, 2016: Paper presentation, College Art Association, “From the Wounds of Slavery to the Wounds of War: Visual Culture in Support of the American Civil War,” Washington D.C.

October 2015: Paper presentation, SECAC, “Subtle Abolitionism in Thomas Waterman Wood’s African American Paintings,” Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Recent Awards:Dr. Rachel Stephens

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
2014 Educator of the Year, Tuscaloosa County Preservation Society

Recent and Upcoming Publications:

“Curious Men and their Curiosities: Ralph E. W. Earl’s Nashville Museum and the Precedent of Charles Willson Peale,” Early American Studies (accepted for publication)

“’Making a Display’: Adelicia Acklen’s Tennessee Family Portraits” Tennessee Historical Quarterly (forthcoming spring 2017)

Selling Andrew Jackson: Ralph E. W. Earl and the Politics of Portraiture
. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, forthcoming 2018.

Exhibition Review of Purchased Lives and To Be Sold,” Panorama: Journal of the Association of Historians of American Art (Fall 2015).

“Portraits of Early Tennesseans by Ralph E.W. Earl: A Case Study in Southern Art” Tennessee Historical Quarterly LXXIII:3 (November 2014): 178-208.

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

Rachel Stephens from CIT Multimedia Services on Vimeo.


Ph.D., University of Iowa (2010)
M.A., Art History, Vanderbilt University
B.A. Art History, The University of the South: Sewanee