University of Washington, Seattle, Professor Wins $25,000 Frederick Douglass Book Prize
Stephanie E. Smallwood, Associate Professor of History at the University of Washington, Seattle, has been selected as the winner of the 2008 Frederick Douglass Book Prize, awarded for the best book written in English on slavery or abolition. Smallwood won for her book, Saltwater Slavery: A Middle Passage from Africa to American Diaspora. The book examines the transatlantic slave trade and the relationships between Africa and the new world. The prize is awarded by Yale University's Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, and
Abolition, sponsored by the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History.
In addition to Smallwood, the other finalists for the prize were Anthony E. Kaye for Joining Places: Slave Neighborhoods in the Old South; Kristin Mann for Slavery and the Birth of an African City: Lagos, 1760-1900; and Chandra Manning for What this Cruel War was Over: Soldiers, Slavery, and the Civil War. The $25,000 annual award is the most generous history prize in the field. The prize will be presented to Smallwood at a dinner in New York City in February 2009. This year's finalists were selected from a field of over seventy five entries by a jury of scholars that included Barrymore Anthony Bogues (Brown University), Christopher Clark (University of Connecticut), and Rebecca J. Scott (University of Michigan School of Law). The winner was selected by a review committee of representatives from the Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance and Abolition, the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, and Yale University.
"Saltwater Slavery is a remarkable account of the transatlantic slave trade
that will lead scholars to rethink their understanding of the 'middle passage,' Africa's diaspora, and the relationships between Africa and the New World, says Clark, the 2008 Douglass Prize Jury Chair and Professor of History at the University of Connecticut. "Stephanie Smallwood uses records of the English Royal African Company's trade with the Gold Coast to provide insights into the lives of the men and women the company bought, transported, and offered for sale in the Americas. Tracing the steps that led from captivity in Africa to final sale in the New World, Smallwood gets behind the generalities that often characterize studies of the slave trade. She shows how at each stage captives found themselves transformed and re-presented as commodities - for purchase by merchants; for confinement aboard ship; and for resale as plantation workers or servants."
"Above all, Smallwood depicts the estrangement that removed captives not only from the social and familial circles of kinship, but also from the spiritual connections with kin that could sustain a good life and a good death. Slaves built new kinship networks to save themselves from social death, but often their efforts were cut off by resale or premature mortality. Deploying slaves' own metaphor of "saltwater slavery" to illuminate the meanings of the Atlantic slave system, Stephanie Smallwood
opens up new avenues for historians and anthropologists to explore. This is a subtle, powerful study of the deep horrors of slavery and the slave trade."
The Frederick Douglass Book Prize was established in 1999 to stimulate scholarship in the field of slavery and abolition by honoring outstanding books. Previous winners were 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, and Christopher Leslie Brown, 2007.
Founded in 1994, the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History promotes
the study and love of American history. The Institute serves teachers,
students, scholars, and the general public. It helps create history-centered
schools, organizes seminars and programs for educators, produces print and
electronic publications and traveling exhibitions, sponsors lectures by
eminent historians, and administers a History Teacher of the Year Award in
every state through its partnership with Preserve America. The Institute
also conducts awards including the Lincoln, Frederick Douglass, and George
Washington Book Prizes, and offers fellowships for scholars to work in the
Gilder Lehrman Collection. The Institute maintains two websites,
www.gilderlehrman.org and the quarterly online journal www.historynow.org.
Text Source: The Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, and Abolition Yale University. Some sentences were deleted from original text for the purpose brevity by CWL.