Ellen Holmes Pearson, Ph.D.

Professor of History and Roy Carroll Professor of Arts & Sciences

Contact Information

  • epearson@unca.edu
  • 251-6651
  • 219 Whitesides Hall


Dr. Holmes Pearson is the Roy Carroll Professor of Arts & Sciences at the University of North Carolina Asheville. She holds a Ph.D. in early American history from The Johns Hopkins University and is the author of Remaking Custom: Law and Identity in the Early American Republic, published by the University of Virginia Press. She is also a scholar/teacher of the Digital Liberal Arts and serves as a Faculty Fellow on the UNC System’s Digital Learning Initiative. Dr. Holmes Pearson is co-director of “The 828 Digital Archives for Historical Equity,” a project with a mission to craft an inclusive digital history of Asheville and Western North Carolina.


  • Ph.D History, The Johns Hopkins University, 2001
  • M.A. History, The Johns Hopkins University, 1998
  • M.A. History, The University of New Orleans, 1996
  • B.A. Spring Hill College, 1984, summa cum laude

Teaching Interests

  • Colonial, Revolutionary and Early National America/U.S.
  • Early American legal culture
  • Early Native American History
  • Digital History
  • History of the Atlantic World
  • Public History


Dr. Ellen Pearson is the recipient of the 2012 Board of Governors Award for Excellence in Teaching.

Research Interests and Publications

Professor Pearson is the author of Remaking Custom: Law and Identity in the Early American Republic (University of Virginia Press, 2011) and several articles and book chapters on American legal culture. Her current research project explores three generations of the Kent family, prominent lawyers and judges in early national New York, their personal and political networks, and their relationship to the urban and rural spaces of New York.

In addition, Dr. Pearson is also a scholar/teacher of the Digital Liberal Arts. She is co-Principal Investigator on "Digital Liberal Arts at a Distance," a Council of Public Liberal Arts Colleges (COPLAC) initiative supported by a grant from the Mellon Foundation. Recent publications on the digital humanities include “Neither Here nor There: Testing the Boundaries of Place and Pedagogy,” in Roads Taken: The Professorial Life, Scholarship in Place, and the Public Good (Truman State University Press, 2014). She has also co-authored “Digital Liberal Arts at a Distance: A Consortium-Wide Approach,” in Change Magazine (summer 2016) and a forthcoming book chapter on undergraduate research in the digital humanities as a high-impact teaching practice.

Some of her other publications include book chapters on the legal rights of free people of color in antebellum New Orleans and American legal scholars' interpretations of the common law, published by Louisiana State University and Johns Hopkins University Presses, and she is a contributor to the The Blackwell Companion to American Legal History, (Wiley-Blackwell, forthcoming 2013).

Lastly but not least, Professor Pearson has served as faculty for a National Endowment for the Humanities Workshop entitled "Wiping Away the Tears: Renewing Cherokee Culture and American History through the Cherokee Heritage Center and the Trail of Tears." She has given papers at conferences for the New England American Studies Association, the American Society for Legal History, and the Organization of American Historians.