2022 George Washington Prize Awarded to Bruce A. Ragsdale for “Washington at the Plow”
May 26, 2022, MOUNT VERNON, VA — Bruce A. Ragsdale has been awarded the 2022 George Washington Prize for his work Washington at the Plow: The Founding Farmer and the Question of Slavery. The annual award recognizes the past year’s best works on the nation’s founding era, especially those that have the potential to advance a broad public understanding of early American history.
Ragsdale said about the award, “The George Washington Prize is the greatest recognition I could receive for my book on Washington as a farmer and an enslaver. I am especially honored and gratified to follow the notable historians who have won this prize in the past. My book examines the ways in which Washington’s commitment to innovative farming shaped the demands he made of enslaved laborers and ultimately contributed to his decision to emancipate the enslaved in his will, and I hope that my study of Washington’s reckoning with slavery in the years following independence will contribute to public understandings of the contradictions of slavery and liberty in the founding era.”
“We can’t understand the founding of our nation without getting to know George Washington, and you cannot understand the man without studying his great passion—the farming of Mount Vernon. Bruce Ragsdale’s book will be the seminal guide to George Washington’s enthusiastic and innovative approach to American agriculture, which shows our first President and leading General was also the nation’s preeminent farmer,” said Mount Vernon President and CEO, Dr. Douglas Bradburn.
Created by the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, George Washington’s Mount Vernon, and Washington College, the $50,000 George Washington Prize is one of the nation’s largest and most notable literary awards.
“By honoring the best books on Washington and the founding era, the George Washington Prize not only elevates the work of great historians, it provides teachers, students, and general readers with a guide to the best books about our country’s early history—at a time when we need them more than ever,” said James Basker, President and CEO of the Gilder Lehrman Institute.
As has happened every year since the Prize was created in 2005, an independent jury evaluated between 50 and 100 books published in the past year that explore the history of the American founding era. The five books named as finalists for the Prize are outstanding examples of just how rich and robust this field of study has become.
“At a time when questions about America’s past are so central to discussions of our nation’s present and future, books like these are essential reading,” said Adam Goodheart, Director of Washington College’s Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience.
The 2022 George Washington Prize finalists are (in alphabetical order):
Max M. Edling, Perfecting the Union: National and State Authority in the US Constitution (Oxford University Press)
Julie Flavell, The Howe Dynasty: The Untold Story of a Military Family and the Women behind Britain’s Wars for America (Liveright Publishing Corporation, A Division of W.W. Norton & Company)
Jeffrey H. Hacker, Minds and Hearts: The Story of James Otis, Jr. and Mercy Otis Warren (Bright Leaf, Amherst and Boston, an imprint of the University of Massachusetts Press)
Bruce A. Ragsdale, Washington at the Plow: The Founding Farmer and the Question of Slavery (The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts and London, England)
David O. Stewart, George Washington: The Political Rise of America's Founding Father (Dutton, An imprint of Penguin Random House LLC)
The announcement of the 2022 winner was made at a ceremony held at Mount Vernon, George Washington’s home in Virginia, on May 25, 2022. The event also recognized past winners, 2021 winner Mary Beth Norton, 1774: The Long Year of Revolution (Knopf) and 2020 winner Rick Atkinson, The British Are Coming: The War for America, Lexington to Princeton, 1775–1777 (Henry Holt and Co.).
More information about the George Washington Prize is available from the Gilder Lehrman Institute and Mount Vernon.
ABOUT THE SPONSORS OF THE GEORGE WASHINGTON PRIZE
The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History
The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History was founded in 1994 by Richard Gilder and Lewis E. Lehrman, visionaries and lifelong supporters of American history education. The Institute is the leading nonprofit organization dedicated to K–12 history education while also serving the general public. Its mission is to promote the knowledge and understanding of American history through educational programs and resources.
As a 501(c)(3) nonprofit public charity the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History is supported through the generosity of individuals, corporations, and foundations. The Institute’s programs have been recognized by awards from the White House, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Organization of American Historians, Daughters of the American Revolution, and the Council of Independent Colleges. Learn more at gilderlehrman.org.
George Washington’s Mount Vernon
Since 1860, more than 85 million visitors have made George Washington’s Mount Vernon the most popular historic home in America. Through thought-provoking tours, entertaining events, and stimulating educational programs on the estate and in classrooms across the nation, Mount Vernon strives to preserve George Washington’s place in history as “First in War, First in Peace, and First in the Hearts of His Countrymen.” Mount Vernon is owned and operated by the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association, America’s oldest national preservation organization, founded in 1853. In 2013, Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association opened the Fred W. Smith National Library for the Study of George Washington, which safeguards original books and manuscripts and serves as a center for research, scholarship, and leadership development. Learn more at mountvernon.org.
Washington College was founded in 1782, the first institution of higher learning established in the new republic. George Washington was not only a principal donor to the college, but also a member of its original governing board. He received an honorary degree from the college in June 1789, two months after assuming the presidency. The college’s Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience explores the American experience in all its diversity and complexity, seeks creative approaches to illuminating the past, and inspires thoughtful conversation informed by history. Learn more at www.washcoll.edu.