Menu Close

Ernest Freeberg

Professor of History, University of Tennessee

Dr. Freeberg’s teaching and research interests center on the cultural and intellectual history of the United States in the 19th and early 20th century. His most recent book, The Age of Edison (Penguin, 2013), explores the impact of electric light on the development of modern American culture.

In Spring 2008 he published Democracy’s Prisoner: Eugene V. Debs, The Great War, and the Right to Dissent (Harvard University Press). The book explores the trial and imprisonment of the socialist leader, who was given a ten-year sentence for making an anti-war speech, and the role this controversy played in promoting a civil liberties movement in post-WWI America. Democracy’s Prisoner was a Los Angeles Times Book Prize finalist, and winner of the David J. Langum, Sr. Prize in American Legal History and the Eli M. Oboler Award from the American Library Association’s Intellectual Freedom Roundtable.

Dr. Freeberg’s first book, The Education of Laura Bridgman, explores the philosophical and religious controversies raised in antebellum America by the education of the first deaf-blind person to learn language. The book won the American Historical Association’s Dunning Prize for 2002.

He offers graduate and undergraduate courses on American social and cultural history from 1870-1930, American religion, antebellum reform and abolitionism, historical methods, and the history of the First Amendment and the impact of war on democracy.

Freeberg is a Distinguished Lecturer for the Organization of American Historians, has served on the editorial board of the History of Education Quarterly, and has produced a number of public radio documentaries on historical themes. His research has been supported by grants from the American Council of Learned Societies, the Huntington Library, the Winterthur Museum, Newberry Library, the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, the Spencer Foundation, Emory University’s Center for Humanistic Inquiry, and others. He has served as Chief Reader and test development committee member for the College Board’s Advanced Placement U.S. History exam.

Ph. D., Emory University, 1992
BA, Middlebury College, 1980


  • –present
    Professor of History, University of Tennessee