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 June 2018 from the University of South Carolina Press. Her current book project investigates the role of censorship in the art and visual culture of slavery. 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 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 and Upcoming Presentations:

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 Awards:Dr. Rachel Stephens

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
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 (forthcoming summer 2018)

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

“‘Making a Display’: Adelicia Acklen’s Tennessee Family Portraits,” Tennessee Historical Quarterly LXXVI:1 (Spring 2017): 80-102.

Review of Enduring Truths: Sojourner’s Shadows and Substance by Darcy Grimaldo Grigsby (Chicago, 2015) in Panorama: Journal of the Association of Historians of American Art 3:2 (Fall 2017).

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.

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.


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