Participant Info

First Name
Last Name
Website URL
Material culture studies, History of Clothing and Dress, History of Textiles, U.S. women, U.S. slavery, African American history, Nineteenth century U.S.
Additional Contact Information

Personal Info

About Me

Katie Knowles holds a PhD in history from Rice University. She has fifteen years of museum curatorial and collections experience, including doing work for the Smithsonian American Women’s History Initiative, the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, the Avenir Museum of Design and Merchandising at Colorado State University, Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library, and the Bayou Bend Collection and Gardens of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.

Recent Publications

Public Writing

Consumerism and Curation: Sarah Tate’s Resistance,” Black Perspectives, African American Intellectual History Society, 2021.

Graduate, Suffragist, and Community Builder: Exhibiting Libbie Coy’s Wedding Outfit,” History Colorado Blog, History Colorado, 2020.

A Tree with Many Branches,” Collection Stories, Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, 2017.

Ease on Down the Road,” Collection Stories, Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, 2016.

Float Like A Butterfly: In Memory of Muhammad Ali (1942-2016),” Collection Stories, Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, 2016.

We are Family,” Collection Stories, Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, 2016.

The Fabric of the Frontier: How Textiles Help Us Understand the American West,” Oh Say Can You See?: Stories from the Museum, Smithsonian Institution National Museum of American History, 2014.

Academic Publications

The Fabric of Fast Fashion: Enslaved Wearers and Makers as Designers in the American Fashion System.” In Black Designers in American Fashion, edited by Elizabeth Way. London: Bloomsbury, 2021.

Patches of Resistance on the Badges of Enslavement: Enslaved Southerners, Negro Cloth, and Fashionability in the Cotton South.” In Clothing and Fashion in Southern History, edited by Ted Ownby and Becca Walton. Oxford: University Press of Mississippi, 2020.

The Anti-Craft Activism of Enslaved Americans: Conspicuous Consumption as Resistance.” In Crafting Dissent: Handicraft as Protest from the American Revolution to the Pussyhats, edited by Hinda Mandell. Lanham, Md.: Rowman & Littlefield, 2019.

Expressions of Self and Belonging: Enslaved People and Race-Based Fashion in the Antebellum U.S. South.” In Writing History from the Margins: African Americans and the Quest for Freedom, edited by Claire Parfait, Hélène Le Dantec-Lowry, and Claire Bourhis-Mariotti. London: Routledge, 2017.

“No Cotton in the Kingdom: Textiles in the Civil War South.” The Civil War and the Material Culture of Texas, the Lower South, and the Southwest, vol. 3, The David B. Warren Symposium. Houston: Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, 2012.

Fashioning Slavery: Slaves and Clothing in the United States South, 1830-1865.” Dress: The Journal of the Costume Society of America. Stella Blum Research Grant final report. 38, no. 1 (2012): 24-36.

“Clothing and Footwear.” In Vol. 1: A-I, World of a Slave: Encyclopedia of the Material Life of  Slaves in the United States, edited by Martha B. Katz-Hyman and Kym S. Rice. Santa Barbara: Greenwood, 2011: 123-128.

Curated Exhibitions

“Threads of Our Community: A History of the Avenir Museum,” Virtual Exhibition, launched Oct. 2, 2020.

“R.E.S.P.E.C.T. the Dress: Clothing and Activism in U.S. Women’s History,” Large Gallery at the Avenir Museum, CSU, Jan. 21–May 23, 2020.

“Proud to Wear: CSU 150,” The Richard Blackwell Gallery at the Avenir Museum, CSU, Co-curated with Courtney Morgan, Aug. 20–Dec. 21, 2019 (rotation) Jan. 28–June 27, 2020.

“Women Wear at CSU,” The Lucile E. Hawks Gallery at the Avenir Museum, CSU, Aug. 3, 2019–Jan. 4, 2020 (rotation) Jan. 21–May 23, 2020.

“Teaching with Textiles: Collections in the Classroom and the Community,” Large Gallery at the Avenir Museum, CSU, Jan. 22–May 24, 2019.

“‘Armed with Proverbs’: Khanga Cloth in Africa,” Avenir Museum Gallery in the University Center for the Arts, CSU, Aug. 27, 2018–Jan. 18, 2019.

“Dior’s ‘New Look’ in the Everyday American Closet,” The Richard Blackwell Gallery at the Avenir Museum, CSU, Aug. 6, 2018–Jan. 4, 2019 (rotation) Jan. 14–June 14, 2019.

“Betsy Ross: The Life behind the Legend,” Winterthur Museum, Garden, & Library, Winterthur, Delaware, Co-curated with Linda Eaton, John L. & Marjorie P. McGraw Director of Collections & Senior Curator of Textiles, and Dr. Marla R. Miller, Professor, University of Massachusetts Amherst, Oct. 2, 2010–Jan. 2, 2011.

Selected Presentations

“Assembling a Life: Sarah Tate’s Things.” Costume Society of America 47th Annual Symposium, Virtual, May 25–30, 2021. Winner of the Betty Kirke Excellence in Research Award.

“Is It Spelled Kanga or Khanga?: A Critical Self-Reflection on Curating and Inclusivity.” Salon Session: Elevating Curatorial Scholarship. International Textile and Apparel Association           Annual Conference, Virtual, November 18–20, 2020.

“Object(ified) Biographies: The Material Archive of U.S. Slavery.” Co-presented with Sarah Weicksel. Rice University IV Biennial History Department Graduate Student Conference, Rice University, Houston, Texas, February 21–22, 2020.

“Dyeing in America: Colors from Nature as Resistance to Enslavement.” Western Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies Annual Conference. Colorado State University, Fort Collins,        Colorado, February 14–15, 2020.

“Exhibiting Women: Inclusion, Exclusion, and the Seriousness of Fashion.” Co-presented with Heather Gottschalk. 19th Annual Colorado State University Diversity Symposium. Colorado State University, Fort Collins, Colorado, October 14–18, 2019.

“Buying Brooks Brothers to Clothe Enslaved Men: Slavery and the Ready-Made Industry in the Antebellum United States,” Clothing the Enslaved in the Eighteenth-Century Atlantic World, National Museum of Wales, Presenter, Cathays Park, Cardiff, Wales, United Kingdom, July 2019.

“The Politics and Economics of the Academic Museum; Academic Museums as Agents of Change: Negotiating the Politics and Realities of Higher Education,” Association of Academic Museums and Galleries Annual Meeting, University of Minnesota, Co-presenter with Jodi Kovach and Roundtable Discussant, Minneapolis, Minnesota, June 2019.

Altered; Faded; Bleeding; Surviving: An African American Family Story of Slavery and Freedom as Told by a Calico Skirt,” Fashion Unraveled: Memory, Wear, and Imperfection in Dress, Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology, Presenter, New York City, New York, September 2018.

“‘slave apron worn when working’: Women, Race, and Collecting Slavery,” Southern Association of Women Historians Triennial Conference, Southern Association of Women Historians, Presenter, Charleston, South Carolina, June 2015.

“Race-Based Fashion in the New Nation: Re-Centering African Influences within American Culture,” Textile and Costume Symposium: Stitching Together a National Identity, Colonial Williamsburg, Presenter, Williamsburg, Virginia, March 2015.

“Material Culture without the Material: Combining Sources to Study Slave Clothing,” American Historical Association Annual Meeting, American Historical Association, Panel Organizer and Presenter, New York City, New York,January 2015.

“Fashioning Slavery: Slaves and Clothing in the U.S. South,” Material Culture and the Writing of History: The Case of African-Americans, Université Sorbonne Nouvelle, Presenter, Paris, France, November 2014.

Media Coverage
Washington Post; Fox31/Channel 2 News Denver; Colorado Public Radio; CSU Source; KCSUFM
Country Focus
United States
Expertise by Geography
Atlantic, United States
Expertise by Chronology
4, 5, 8
Expertise by Topic
American Civil War, Gender, Material Culture, Museums, Public History, Race, Sexuality, Slavery, Women