Graduate Students

Jake Calhoun studies the history of emancipation and is advised by Professor Justene Hill Edwards. He is originally from Alabama and received his B.A. from Loyola University New Orleans. He received his M.A. from the University of Maryland where he undertook a thesis project that explored how early emancipation in the sugar parishes of Louisiana shaped the ensuing political contests in the region.


Daniele Celano studies legal history and the Civil War era with Professors Elizabeth Varon and Cynthia Nicoletti. Her current research focuses on the repeal of the fugitive slave laws in connection with larger Constitutional issues of military emancipation and federal war powers. She is originally from New Jersey and graduated from Purdue University with a BA in 2018. 


Brianna Kirk Frakes studies the Civil War and Reconstruction, with a focus on the immediate post-war period and Civil War memory, under the direction of Elizabeth Varon. Her master's thesis examines the Norfolk race riot in April 1866 and its implications for the course of Reconstruction. Originally from Philadelphia, she graduated from Gettysburg College in 2015 and worked at the American Civil War Museum in Richmond, Virginia, for two years before beginning the graduate program at UVA.


Jesse George-Nichol is a PhD candidate advised by Elizabeth Varon, Gary Gallagher, and Caroline Janney.  Her dissertation, Nativism and Conciliation: Border South Unionism and the Road to Civil War, examines the attempts of former Whigs in Kentucky, Tennessee, and Virginia to rally a conservative party against the forces of radicalism in the years before the Civil War.  She is originally from North Carolina and has a B.A. from Princeton University.


Jeremy Nelson is studying environmental history with a focus on the Civil War Era, guided by Professor Caroline E. Janney. With roots in Hampton Roads, he graduated from Princeton University in 2020 with a bachelor’s degree in history, completing a pair of independent research projects on Virginia's Readjuster Party and on American meteorological disasters. His master’s thesis argues that the human devastation of the Civil War allowed a brief but significant recovery of ecosystems, especially in the Upper South.


Carrington OBrion studies race, culture and performance and is advised by Professor Justene Hill Edwards. Originally from Virginia, she holds a B.A. in American Studies from Wellesley College, and an M.Phil. in American History from the University of Cambridge. At Cambridge, her research focused on conceptions of Shakespeare’s Othello in mid-nineteenth century America. 


Chloe Celeste Porche is a doctoral candidate studying the emancipationist tradition of Civil War memory and its connection to the Black Freedom Struggle Movement. Working with Professors Elizabeth Varon and Kevin Gaines, her dissertation uses a gendered examination of the emancipationist tradition to examine a range of black female and male activists’ myriad approaches to remembering the demise of slavery and to mobilizing those memories toward political and social ends. Originally from southern California, Chloe graduated from California State University, Northridge in 2014 with a Bachelor’s in History and minors in Dance and German Language.  Before joining the program, Chloe taught K-12 in Yangsan, South Korea for a year and also worked at Moorpark Community College in the Teaching and Learning Center for three years.


Presley McKalyn Ramey studies 19th century U.S. women's history, specifically focusing on sex work in the South, and is advised by Drs. Caroline Janney and Elizabeth Varon. She received her bachelor's degrees in History and Anthropology with minors in World Religion and International Studies from the University of Kentucky and her master's degree in Public History with a concentration in Historic Preservation from the University of South Carolina. Her master's thesis analyzed the relationship between Columbia, South Carolina's red-light district to the larger city from 1860 to 1880. 


Katie Wu studies notions of repair in post-Civil War America, focusing on intergenerational memory and land redistribution during Reconstruction with Professors Caroline E. Janney and Grace Hale. She is originally from Newton, Massachusetts, and received her bachelor's degree from Harvard in 2017. Prior to coming to UVA, Katie worked as the Project Manager of Exhibits for the Equal Justice Initiative's Legacy Museum: From Enslavement to Mass Incarceration expansion in Montgomery, Alabama, and conducted field work on the memory of slavery in rural parts of the state.