Brandi C. Brimmer, 2020–21

The Other Douglass: Frederick C. Douglass, A Black Freedom Fighter in the Post-Reconstruction South

Mellon-HBCU Fellowship, 2020-21

Associate Professor of History, Spelman College


Brandi C. Brimmer

Brandi C. Brimmer (she/her/hers) is an associate professor of history at Spelman College in Atlanta, Georgia. Her research recovers poor and working-class Black women’s social justice vision and battles for citizenship during the nineteenth century. She is the author of Claiming Union Widowhood: Race, Respectability, and Poverty in the Post-Emancipation South (Duke University Press, December 2020), as well as scholarly articles that have appeared in the Journal of Southern History and the Journal of the Civil War Era. Brimmer’s research has been supported by the African American History, Culture, and Digital Humanities Project at the University of Maryland, College Park, the Benjamin Quarles Humanities Institute at Morgan State University, the College of Liberal Arts at Case Western University, the Ford Foundation, and the North Caroliniana Society.

Brimmer’s current project expands her earlier study by analyzing the work of attorneys and claims agents who represented the petitions of disabled black veterans and the widows of black soldiers to the U.S. Pension Bureau. The narrative is anchored around the life history of Frederick C. Douglass, a self-taught freedman, who emerged as an influential community leader and successful claims agent in New Bern, North Carolina, after the Civil War. She employs intersectional analysis and digital mapping tools to recover the autonomous black spaces that prepared a cadre of Reconstruction-era Black professionals to mediate the relationships between the black poor, the black middle class, and the federal government.

Selected Publications

Claiming Union Widowhood

  • Brimmer, Brandi Clay. Claiming Union Widowhood: Race, Respectability, and Poverty in the Post-Emancipation South. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2020. Forthcoming.
  • Brimmer, Brandi Clay. “Black Women’s Politics, Narratives of Sexual Immorality, and Pension Bureaucracy in Mary Lee’s North Carolina Neighborhood.” The Journal of Southern History 80, no. 4 (November 2014): 827-58.
  • Brimmer, Brandi Clay. “‘Her Claim for Pension Is Lawful and Just’: Representing Black Union Widows in Late-Nineteenth Century North Carolina.” Journal of the Civil War Era 1, no. 2 (June 2011): 207-36.
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