University of Pennsylvania professor wins $25,000 Frederick Douglass Book Prize

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New Haven, CT (October 17, 2011)—Stephanie McCurry, Professor of History at the University of Pennsylvania, has been selected as the winner of the 2011 Frederick Douglass Book Prize for her book, Confederate Reckoning: Power and Politics in the Civil War South (Harvard University Press). The Douglass Prize is awarded annually by Yale University’s Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, and Abolition for the best book written in English on slavery or abolition. The $25,000 prize will be presented to McCurry at a dinner sponsored by the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History in New York City in February 2012.

In addition to McCurry, the other finalists for the prize were Nicholas Draper for The Price of Emancipation: Slave-Ownership, Compensation, and British Society at the End of Slavery (Cambridge University Press) and Christina Snyder for Slavery in Indian Country: The Changing Face of Captivity in Early America (Harvard University Press).

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 winners were selected by a review committee of representatives from the Gilder Lehrman Center, the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, and Yale University.

“McCurry’s Confederate Reckoning traces the rise and fall of ‘a modern proslavery and antidemocratic state, dedicated to the proposition that all men were not created equal,’” noted Rockman, the 2011 Douglass Prize Jury Chair and Associate Professor of History at Brown University. “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.”

The Frederick Douglass Book Prize was established in 1999 to stimulate scholarship in the field of slavery and abolition by honoring outstanding books. The award is named for Frederick Douglass (1818–1895), the slave who escaped bondage to emerge as one of the great American abolitionists, reformers, writers, and orators of the nineteenth century.

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 established in November 1998. Its mission is to promote the study of all aspects of slavery and its destruction. The Center seeks to foster an improved understanding of the role of slavery 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 Gilder Lehrman Center events and programming, contact the center by phone (203) 432-3339, fax (203) 432-6943, or e-mail [email protected].

The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that promotes the study and love of American history, by focusing on document-based history education and working through an array of national programs. The Institute seeks to instill in every individual an understanding of America’s past, and its value in today’s world and the future. 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,, 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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Confederate Reckoning cover