Wesleyan portrait of Jesse  Nasta

Jesse Nasta

Assistant Professor of the Practice in African American Studies

Center for African American St, 223


BA Wesleyan University
MA Northwestern University
PHD Northwestern University

Jesse Nasta

Jesse Nasta (PhD, Northwestern University; BA, Wesleyan University) specializes in the social and legal histories of slavery, emancipation, and African American mobility during the eight decades before the Civil War. His current manuscript project, “Making Slavery’s Borders,” examines how ordinary people, black and white, enslaved and free, gradually gave force and meaning to Congress’s Northwest Ordinance of 1787. Although the Ordinance ostensibly banned slavery in the present-day Midwest, Nasta finds that it was the cross-border movement and the resulting legal claims of those present on the western frontier, especially of African Americans themselves, that made a slavery-free West a reality by the mid-19th century.

Nasta’s research has received support from the American Historical Association, the Illinois State Historical Society, the Missouri State Archives, and from fellowships at the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Hurst Summer Institute in Legal History and Northwestern University’s Center for Historical Studies.

He began his teaching, for which he received the Lacey Baldwin Smith Prize for Teaching Excellence at Northwestern University, as a Ford Fellow in the Writing Programs at Wesleyan University. His research on 19th-century African American history also began at Wesleyan University, where he wrote an honors thesis on the Beman Triangle, a pre-Civil War activist community of free, property-owning African Americans on what is now Wesleyan’s campus.

Academic Affiliations

Office Hours

Mon, 4:30-5:30

Wed, 4:30-5:30

And by appointment


Spring 2024
AFAM 316 - 01
Carceral Connecticut