Karen Woods Weierman
Phone: (508) 929-8699
EducationKaren Woods Weierman is Professor of English and Director of the Commonwealth Honors Program at Worcester State. She holds a B.A. in American Studies from Georgetown University and a Ph.D. in English from the University of Minnesota.
B.A., Georgetown University;
Ph.D., University of Minnesota
An avid archival detective, she specializes in U.S. literary history, law and literature studies, and antislavery literature. In her book One Nation, One Blood: Interracial Marriage in American Fiction, Scandal, and Law, 1820–1870 (University of Massachusetts Press, 2005), she explores the taboo against interracial marriage by investigating the traditional link between marriage and property. Her research reveals that the opposition to intermarriage originated in large measure in the nineteenth-century desire for Indian land and African labor. She brings this historical perspective to her work as a scholarly advisor for Crossing Borders, Bridging Generations, an ongoing public programming series and oral history project at the Brooklyn Historical Society; it is one of the first public history efforts in New York City to explore what mixed-heritage identity and cultural hybridity means in practice for Brooklyn residents today and historically.
Her current project has the working title, Slaves Cannot Breathe in Boston: Free Soil and “The Case of the Slave-Child, Med.” Six-year-old Med had been brought to Boston from New Orleans by her owner on a family visit, and while Massachusetts was indeed a free state, the status of “slaves in transit” had not been settled by the courts. In Commonwealth v. Aves (1836), Chief Justice Lemuel Shaw of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled in that enslaved people brought to Massachusetts by their owners were automatically free. The case had a lasting impact: Shaw’s decision became incorporated into the law of almost every free state and a wave of freedom suits followed. While Commonwealth v. Aves is mentioned briefly in legal scholarship and antislavery histories, this project offers a fuller understanding of the case: the legal triumph, the tragic aftermath, and the subsequent fiction.
Professor Weierman teaches a wide range of courses in American literature, always from an American Studies perspective, and she teaches in face-to-face, online, and hybrid formats. She also teaches first-year writing courses with a particular emphasis on critical thinking, rhetorical strategies, and information literacy.