Hard Histories Book Talks: William G. Thomas III

Webcast recording

Join Hard Histories at Hopkins for a conversation with historian William G. Thomas III, author of A Question of Freedom: The Families Who Challenged Slavery from the Nation’s Founding to the Civil War (Yale University Press, 2020). Thomas’ book explores the lives and experiences of enslaved individuals who sued for freedom in Maryland and Washington, D.C., in the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. His book is also a personal account about coming to terms with difficult family histories around slavery. A Question of Freedom raises broader questions about reckoning and reconciliation surrounding JHU’s relationship with slavery and its long-lasting aftereffects. Thomas will be in conversation with Martha S. Jones, Hard Histories’ project director. Their conversation will be followed by an audience Q&A.

Johns Hopkins affiliates can find Thomas’ book in the JHU library catalog. Community members can access the book at the Pratt Library. The book can also be purchased through Red Emma’s bookstore, located in Baltimore, at this link.



William G. Thomas III is the Angle Chair in the Humanities and Professor of History at the University of Nebraska.  He was co-founder and director of the Virginia Center for Digital History at the University of Virginia. A Guggenheim Fellow and a Lincoln Prize Finalist, he has collaborated across disciplines to create imaginative forms of history.


Professor Martha S. Jones is the Society of Black Alumni Presidential Professor, a Professor of History, and a Professor at the SNF Agora Institute at Johns Hopkins University. She is a legal and cultural historian whose work examines how black Americans have shaped the story of American democracy. Professor Jones is the author of Vanguard: How Black Women Broke Barriers, Won the Vote, and Insisted on Equality for All (2020), selected as one of Time’s 100 must-read books for 2020.

This event is the second in a series of related book panel discussions to be hosted by Hard Histories in spring 2021, exploring the histories of slavery and racism in the Maryland area. Launched in fall 2020, the Hard Histories at Hopkins Project examines the role that racism and discrimination have played at Johns Hopkins. Blending research, teaching, public engagement, and the creative arts, Hard Histories aims to engage our broadest communities—at Johns Hopkins and in Baltimore—in a frank and informed exploration of how racism has been produced and permitted to persist as part of our structure and our practice.