Dr. McDaniel is an historian of slavery, abolitionism, transatlantic reform, and the nineteenth-century United States.
His first book, The Problem of Democracy in the Age of Slavery, won the Merle Curti Award from the Organization of American Historians and the James Broussard prize from the Society for Historians of the Early American Republic. It demonstrates that in challenging American slavery, nineteenth-century abolitionists like William Lloyd Garrison and Wendell Phillips joined Europeans like John Stuart Mill, Giuseppe Mazzini, and Alexis de Tocqueville in complex, related debates about democracy, nationalism, and the nature of “public opinion.” These debates and their own experiences as transatlantic reformers led Garrisonian abolitionists to believe that constant agitation and cosmopolitan ideals were essential to democracy. By abolishing slavery and defending the freedom to dissent, they hoped to vindicate popular government itself on a global stage, but they also identified problems with democracy that would not be easy for them or their heirs to solve.
Dr. McDaniel's most recent book, Sweet Taste of Liberty, was published by Oxford University Press in 2019. It tells the story of Henrietta Wood, a woman who was born enslaved, freed before the Civil War, kidnapped and re-enslaved, and then freed again by the war. In 1870, she sued the man who had kidnapped and enslaved her in a federal court---and won. A jury awarded her $2,500 in a rare case of restitution that has relevance to ongoing debates about reparations for slavery. To write the book, Dr. McDaniel received support from a Public Scholar grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities.
He teaches graduate courses in nineteenth-century American history and social and cultural history methods, and also accepts students who wish to work on more specific subjects related to his primary research interests in American radicalism and reform, antislavery, slavery, transnational history, and American intellectual history. He also serves on examinations and dissertations committees for students working in these and related areas.