- Humanities Chair
- Distinguished Professor, History
- Distinguished Professor, American Studies
- Distinguished Professor, Africana Studies
- American History
- Ph.D. University of California, Berkeley
James Oakes, one of the leading historians of nineteenth-century America, has an international reputation for path-breaking scholarship. In a series of influential books and essays, he tackled the history of the United States from the Revolution through the Civil War. His early work focused on the South, examining slavery as an economic and social system that shaped Southern life. His pioneering books include The Ruling Race (1982; 2nd ed., 1998); Slavery and Freedom: An Interpretation of the Old South (1990); The Radical and the Republican: Frederick Douglass, Abraham Lincoln, and the Triumph of Antislavery Politics (2007); and his latest, Freedom National: The Destruction of Slavery in the United States, 1861–1865 (2012). The latter two garnered, respectively, the 2008 and 2013 Gilder Lehrman Lincoln Prize, an annual award for the finest scholarly work in English on Abraham Lincoln or the American Civil War era. His most recent book is The Crooked Path to Abolition: Abraham Lincoln and the Antislavery Constitution, published by W. W. Norton in January 2021.
An alumnus of Baruch College, Dr. Oakes holds M.A. and Ph.D. degrees from the University of California–Berkeley. He has been on the faculty of the Graduate Center since 1997 and the holder of the Graduate School Humanities Chair since 1998. Before coming to the Graduate Center, he taught at Princeton and Northwestern Universities.