William G. Thomas III is an award-winning historian, author, and digital media producer. A native of Alexandria, Virginia, he writes about American history, law, slavery, and the Civil War.
A 2016 Guggenheim Fellow, he is currently working on a book called Ordeal for Freedom: The White Marsh Trials and the Fate of American Slavery, 1789-1861 (Yale University Press), about enslaved families in Maryland who sued for their freedom in the decades after the American Revolution. A digital media historian, Thomas is co-producing a series of live action animated documentary films. The first of these films, Anna, was released in 2018 and won Best Animation at the New Media Film Festival in Los Angeles.
Thomas’s research and writing endeavor to demonstrate the full capability of digital scholarship to give voice to people whose lives have been out of reach and to send their histories into the public and scholarly realms through digital media. He served as the co-founder and Director of the Virginia Center for Digital History at the University of Virginia, where he was an Assistant and Associate Professor of History in the Corcoran Department of History. He was a co-editor the award-winning digital project, Valley of the Shadow: Two Communities in the American Civil War. With Edward L. Ayers, he co-authored “The Differences Slavery Made: A Close Analysis of Two American Communities,” one of the first pieces of digital scholarship published in the American Historical Review.
A dedicated teacher and mentor, as Chair he guided the department to the University-wide Departmental Teaching Award in 2017. Thomas received the Hazel R. McClymont Distinguished Teaching Fellow Award in 2012 from the College of Arts and Sciences at Nebraska, the highest award for teaching in the College. He was named a Mead Honored Faculty member in the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Virginia in 2004-05 in recognition for his dedication to undergraduate teaching.
Thomas has published essays in Civil War History, The Journal of Historical Geography, The New York Times, The Washington Post, EDUCAUSE Review, and Inside Higher Education. His previous books include The Iron Way: Railroads, the Civil War, and the Making of Modern America (Yale University Press, 2011), a shortlist finalist in 2012 for the Lincoln Prize. Thomas is a graduate of Trinity College (Connecticut) and received his M.A. and Ph.D. in History from the University of Virginia. He currently serves on the National Historical Publications and Records Commission of the National Archives and Records Administration and on the Board of Fellows at Trinity College.