Jeff Forret, 2021 Distinguished Faculty Lecturer

Lamar University is pleased to announce Dr. Jeff Forret is the recipient of the prestigious Distinguished Faculty Lecturer award for 2021. 

Forret’s Distinguished Faculty Lecture, “Williams' Gang and the Legacies of Slavery," will be Wed., Mar. 31

Jeff Forret
Dr. Jeff Forret

at 4 p.m. The lecture is free and will be live streamed at

“Williams' Gang and the Legacies of Slavery,” Forret’s lecture, chronicles the story of Washington, D.C., slave trader William H. Williams and his shipment of twenty-seven enslaved convicts to New Orleans in 1840 and relates them to the police state of the pre-Civil War South and the current quest for racial justice before the law. 

“Wrongful convictions, the use of incarceration as a form of racial oppression and protests in the public streets: The story of William H. Williams and his shipment of enslaved prisoners in 1840 has a familiar ring in our own time,” said Forret.

The Distinguished Faculty Lecturer award was initiated in 1987 and is one of the highest honors accorded a Lamar University faculty member. Each year since that time, the entire university and the general community nominate prospective lecturers, and a committee of faculty members and representatives from the student body, staff, administration, alumni, faculty retirees and the community select the honoree based on the professor’s proposed topic and on his/her professional background and recognized teaching/presentation skills.

“Dr. Forret exemplifies all of the qualities of a Distinguished Faculty Lecturer,” said Dorothy Sisk, a Lamar University professor in the College of Education and Human Development and chair of the Distinguished Faculty Lecture Series selection committee. “He searches for knowledge through critical inquiry and research in his discipline and supports and appreciates critical inquiry in the other disciplines of the university. We are so pleased to recognize him and showcase this fascinating and relevant topic to our university and to the community.”

Williams GangForret is a professor of history and a Distinguished Faculty Research Fellow. He is the author of several books, including “Williams’ Gang: A Notorious Slave Trader and His Cargo of Black Convicts” (2020), “Slave against Slave: Plantation Violence in the Old South” (2015), “Race Relations at the Margins: Slaves and Poor Whites in the Antebellum Southern Countryside” (2006), and the textbook “Slavery in the United States” (2012). His current project, “Slave Ships to Freedom,” examines British emancipations of enslaved Americans and reparations in the nineteenth-century Atlantic world. Forret also co-edited “New Directions in Slavery Studies: Commodification, Community, and Comparison” (2015) and the forthcoming “Southern Scoundrels: Grifters and Graft in the Nineteenth Century” (2021). His work has been published in Time, Smithsonian Magazine, the Journal of Southern History, the Journal of the Early Republic, Slavery & Abolition, American Nineteenth Century History and several anthologies. The National Endowment for the Humanities, the William Nelson Cromwell Foundation and the Institute for Southern Studies have supported Forret’s research.

In 2016, Forret’s “Slave against Slave” won the 18th Annual Frederick Douglass Book Prize awarded by Yale University’s Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, and Abolition, for the best book on slavery or abolition published in the English language during the preceding year. “Slave against Slave” was also a finalist for the 1st Annual Harriet Tubman Book Prize awarded by the Lapidus Center for the Historical Analysis of Transatlantic Slavery at the New York Public Library’s Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. Forret also earned an honorable mention in the U.S. history category at the 2016 PROSE Awards for excellence in professional and scholarly writing.

Lamar University named Forret a University Scholar in 2016. He has given keynote speeches and papers in the United Kingdom, the Netherlands and the U.S.

Forret serves on the editorial board for the Journal of Southern History and on the advisory board for the H-Slavery listserv. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Delaware in 2003 and has been at Lamar University since 2005. He teaches courses on slavery and the American South, nineteenth-century U.S. history and historical methods.