Anna-Lisa Cox ’94

As a scholar of 19th-century U.S. history, Anna-Lisa Cox ’94 isn’t accustomed to being in the spotlight. With the publication of her book The Bone and Sinew of the Land: America’s Forgotten Black Pioneers and the Struggle for Equality, however, she found herself the subject
of numerous media interviews, recipient of multiple invitations to discuss her work and on a month-long book tour. Amazon named The Bone and Sinew of the Land a June Best Book of the Month in history, Smithsonian magazine included it among the Best History Books of 2018, and well-known scholar Professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. of Harvard University has
described it as “a revelation of primary historical research that is written with the beauty and empathic powers of a novel.”

Focusing on the Northwest Territory (modern Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin) between 1800 and 1860, Anna-Lisa found that African Americans played a larger role in settling the frontier than previously believed. She identified more than 300 African American farming settlements that were home to land-owning farming families in the region
before the Civil War. There were tens of thousands of free African American pioneers who came to settle this early American frontier in what was the nation’s first Great Migration.

Anna-Lisa is a nonresident fellow with Harvard University’s Hutchins Center for African and African American Research and is based in Michigan. She is also back at Hope, as a visiting faculty member, teaching a course on Michigan history. Please visit the college online for more about her and her book.

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