Yale and the Gilder Lehrman Institute Announce 2020 Frederick Douglass Book Prize Winner

New Haven, Connecticut, December 9, 2020 — Yale University’s Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, and Abolition announces the winner of the 22nd annual Frederick Douglass Book Prize. The 2020 winner of the prize is Sophie White for Voices of the Enslaved: Love, Labor, and Longing in French Louisiana (Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture and the University of North Carolina Press). White is Professor of American Studies, Concurrent Professor in the Departments of Africana Studies, History, and Gender Studies, and Fellow of the Nanovic Institute for European Studies at the University of Notre Dame.

One of the most coveted awards for the study of global slavery, the Frederick Douglass Book Prize is sponsored jointly by the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History and the Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, and Abolition at the MacMillan Center at Yale University. The $25,000 award for the best book published in English on slavery, resistance, or abolition will be presented to White in an online celebration on February 23, 2021.

In addition to White, the other three finalists for the prize were Kellie Carter Jackson for Force and Freedom: Black Abolitionists and the Politics of Violence (University of Pennsylvania Press); Keila Grinberg for A Black Jurist in a Slave Society: Antonio Pereira Rebouças and the Trials of Brazilian Citizenship (University of North Carolina Press); and Stephanie E. Jones-Rogers for They Were Her Property: White Women as Slave Owners in the American South (Yale University Press). The February ceremony will recognize the four books for their original archival research, the quality of scholarship and writing, and their broad relevance to contemporary readership.

A jury of scholars that included Jane Landers (Chair) of Vanderbilt University, Roquinaldo Ferreira of the University of Pennsylvania, and Martha Jones of Johns Hopkins University selected this year’s finalists from a field of more than 60 nominations. The winner was selected by a review board of representatives from the Gilder Lehrman Center, the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, and Yale University.

Jury chair Jane Landers noted that Sophie White’s Voices of the Enslaved: Love, Labor, and Longing in French Louisiana is a deeply researched and beautifully written book that paints a “global picture of the intimate lives of enslaved people.” Landers observed that the book’s impressive use of French court records is a useful balance to the dominance of English-language sources, providing “new insights into the French Atlantic World.” The prize committee praised the book for bridging the Atlantic and Indian Oceans, thereby making a significant contribution to understanding both North American continental and transnational histories. Gilder Lehrman Center Director David W. Blight added that White’s detailed exploration of the testimonies of a variety of actors within the French imperial world made “the notion of the past as a foreign country,” which we can visit through historical research, come alive.

The Frederick Douglass Book Prize was established by the Gilder Lehrman Institute and Gilder Lehrman Center in 1999 to stimulate scholarship in the field by honoring outstanding accomplishments. 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.

The Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, and Abolition, which is supported by 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 advance the study of all aspects of slavery and its destruction across all borders and time. The Center seeks to foster an improved understanding of the role of slavery, slave resistance, abolition, and their legacies 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, and to find out how you can support the continuing work of the GLC, visit https://glc.yale.edu/ or contact the Center by phone at (203) 432-3339 or e-mail gilder.lehrman.center@yale.edu.

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, and the Council of Independent Colleges. For further information, visit gilderlehrman.org or call (646) 366-9666.

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