Professor Wirzbicki is an intellectual historian of Nineteenth-Century United States. His scholarship focuses on the relationship between American intellectual life, political movements, and cultural expression. His first book—Higher Laws: Black and White Transcendentalists and the Fight Against Slavery—examines how Transcendentalist ideas influenced the political strategies, ideologies, and struggles of the abolitionist movement. It is particularly interested in the ways that black abolitionists engaged with and helped to shape Transcendentalism. It thus stresses the political legacies of famous Concord Transcendentalists like Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, and Margaret Fuller, while also demonstrating the intellectual importance of black abolitionists like William C. Nell, Charlotte Forten, and Thomas Sidney.
Wirzbicki is working on a second book project that will examine how American intellectuals in the 18th and 19th centuries debated the relationship between democracy and slavery. It will examine ideas of democracy as they developed in the crucible of a slave-nation.
Wirzbicki received his Ph.D. from New York University in 2012. He has received a postdoctoral fellowship from the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and been a Harper-Schmidt Fellow in the University of Chicago Society of Fellows. He has held fellowships from the American Antiquarian Society, the American Council of Learned Societies, and the New England Regional Fellowship Consortium.