Finalists Announced for the 2011 Frederick Douglass Book Prize

New Haven, CT (August 8, 2011)—Yale University’s Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, and Abolition, sponsored by the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, has announced the finalists for the thirteenth annual Frederick Douglass Book Prize, one of the most coveted awards for the study of the African American experience.

The finalists are: Nicholas Draper for The Price of Emancipation: Slave-Ownership, Compensation, and British Society at the End of Slavery (Cambridge University Press), Stephanie McCurry for Confederate Reckoning: Power and Politics in the Civil War South (Harvard University Press), and Christina Snyder for Slavery in Indian Country: The Changing Face of Captivity in Early America (Harvard University Press).

The $25,000 annual award for the year’s best non-fiction book on slavery, resistance, and/or abolition is the most generous history prize in its field. The winner will be announced following the Douglass Prize Review Committee meeting and the award will be presented at a celebration in New York City on February 23, 2012.

This year’s finalists were selected from a field of over ninety entries by a jury of scholars that included Edward Alpers (UCLA), Thavolia Glymph (Duke University), and Seth Rockman (Brown University).

The Frederick Douglass Book Prize was established in 1999 to stimulate scholarship in the field by honoring outstanding accomplishments. Previous winners are Ira Berlin and Philip D. Morgan in 1999; David Eltis, 2000; David Blight, 2001; Robert Harms and John Stauffer, 2002; James F. Brooks and Seymour Drescher, 2003; Jean Fagan Yellin, 2004; Laurent Dubois, 2005; Rebecca J. Scott, 2006; Christopher Leslie Brown, 2007; Stephanie Smallwood, 2008; Annette Gordon-Reed, 2009; and Siddharth Kara, Judith Carney, and Richard N. Rosomoff, 2010.

The award is named for Frederick Douglass (1818–1895), the one-time slave who escaped bondage to emerge as one of the great American abolitionists, reformers, writers, and orators of the nineteenth century.

In The Price of Emancipation: Slave-Ownership, Compensation, and British Society at the End of Slavery, Nicholas Draper documents the scramble for reparations in the aftermath of emancipation in the British West Indies. Draper’s meticulous research documents the largest financial undertaking of the British government to date and reveals the degree to which financial arrangements shielded many Britons from the outright ownership of slaves while nonetheless providing wealth from the exploited labor of enslaved workers thousands of miles away. Analyzing the records of the Slave Compensation Commission, Draper meticulously addresses questions that have bedeviled scholars since the publication of Eric Williams’s Capitalism and Slavery in 1944; nearly 100 pages of appended data will provide an invaluable resource for future scholars.

Stephanie McCurry’s Confederate Reckoning: Power and Politics in the Civil War South traces the rise and fall of “a modern proslavery and antidemocratic state, dedicated to the proposition that all men were not created equal.” McCurry unravels the deadly consequences of the Confederate project to build a slaveholding nation. What previous scholars would have called the social history of the homefront, McCurry reconceptualizes as the political history of the Confederacy wherein “unfranchised” white women and slaves drove events in ways never anticipated by the slaveholding regime’s architects. McCurry deepens our understanding of the slaves’ self-emancipation, while also clarifying the radical nature of the Confederate project. Deeply researched and rich in analytical and comparative insights, McCurry offers a dramatic account befitting this year’s observance of the Civil War sesquicentennial.

In Slavery in Indian Country: The Changing Face of Captivity in Early America, Christina Snyder surveys the practices and politics of human bondage over four centuries in the American South. Rejecting a straightforward story of European colonization and racial oppression, Snyder instead shows the uses of captivity to numerous Natives nations vying for political supremacy, as well as seeking advantage over recent European arrivals and the African slaves accompanying them. Arguing that familiar dichotomies like slave/free and black/white scarcely do justice to the complexity of Southern history, Snyder intertwines the ambitions and vulnerabilities of Indians, Europeans, and Africans to the effect of a new origins story for American slavery.


The Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance and Abolition, a part of The Whitney and Betty MacMillan Center for International and Area Studies at Yale University, was launched in November 1998 through a generous donation by philanthropists Richard Gilder and Lewis Lehrman and the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History. Its mission is to promote the study of all aspects of slavery, especially the chattel slave system and its destruction. The Center seeks to foster an improved understanding of the role of slavery, slave resistance, and abolition in the founding of the modern world by promoting interaction and exchange between scholars, teachers, and public historians through publications, educational outreach, and other programs and events. For further information on events and programming, contact the center by phone (203) 432-3339, fax (203) 432-6943, or e-mail gilder.lehrman.center@yale.edu.

The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization supporting the study and love of American history through a wide range of programs and resources for students, teachers, scholars, and history enthusiasts throughout the nation. Gilder Lehrman creates and works closely with history-focused schools through its Affiliate School Program; organizes teacher seminars and development programs; produces print and digital publications and traveling exhibitions; hosts lectures by eminent historians; administers a History Teacher of the Year Award in every state and US territory; and offers national book prizes. The Gilder Lehrman website, www.gilderlehrman.org, serves as a gateway to American history online with rich resources for educators designed specifically for K–12 teachers and students.

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