Announcing the 2022 Frederick Douglass Book Prize Winners

Yale University’s Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, and Abolition and the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History are pleased to announce the winners for the twenty-fourth annual Frederick Douglass Book Prize, one of the most coveted awards for the study of slavery in world history.

The 2022 prize will be shared by two scholars: Tiya Miles for All That She Carried: The Journey of Ashley’s Sack, a Black Family Keepsake (Random House) and Jennifer L. Morgan for Reckoning with Slavery: Gender, Kinship, and Capitalism in the Early Black Atlantic (Duke University Press).

Both of the winning books, Gilder Lehrman Center Director David Blight notes, use different scholarly approaches to examine “the complications and persistence of kinship within the commercial and social history of slavery in the Atlantic World.”

Jointly sponsored 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, this annual prize recognizes the best book written in English on slavery, resistance, and/or abolition published in the preceding year. The $25,000 prize, shared by the two winners, will be presented to Miles and Morgan at an award ceremony sponsored by the Gilder Lehrman Institute at Trinity Church in New York City on February 16, 2023.

In All That She Carried, Tiya Miles focuses on a tangible piece of material culture—a cotton sack given by an enslaved mother to her daughter—to remind readers that everyday objects dismissed as mundane brim with spirit and significance. Through marvelous writing built on creative archival research, Miles offers a moving account of what this sack meant to the women who made, received, and treasured it through generations. Narrating the story of the discovery and preservation of this object, Miles explores the symbolic values of the sack and its contents not just to the circle of women to whom it belonged but to all of us and American history at large. Crafted with original scholarship and poignant prose, the book engages the deep history of slavery in the United States alongside the nourishing power of love in an inhumane and unloving world.

All That She Carried, Gilder Lehrman Institute President James Basker notes, is a “terribly important book that helps teachers, students, and the public at large care about history.”

Jennifer L. Morgan’s Reckoning with Slavery builds on decades of archival research. Inspired by a generation of Black Feminist writing, Morgan has written an “instant classic,” in the words of jury member Sasha Turner. Placing women and reproduction at the center of what David Brion Davis called the “heart of slavery,” Morgan examines how racial slavery became a core part of capitalism and Western culture. Through a careful reading of early books on travels to Africa and the Americas, slavery, and women, Morgan writes that in the English-speaking world of the 1600s, the ideas of “race” and the “economic practice” of slavery developed concurrently, before the creation of colonies. A rich, interdisciplinary study of the early modern Atlantic world, Reckoning with Slavery will be essential reading in the fields of demography, economics, and women’s studies as well as history.

Review committee member Edward Rugemer, associate professor of history and of African American studies at Yale, observed that Reckoning with Slavery is a book that “makes powerful arguments and will be read and debated for a very long time.”

In addition to Miles and Morgan, the third finalist for the prize was Alexis Wells-Oghoghomeh for The Souls of Womenfolk: The Religious Cultures of Enslaved Women in the Lower South (University of North Carolina Press). Combining exemplary historical research and analysis, all three finalists put gender and the experiences of enslaved Black women, children, and families at the center of their work.

The Gilder Lehrman Institute and Gilder Lehrman Center are pleased to celebrate these books as outstanding examples of scholarship and writing about slavery and its ongoing legacies.

Read the full press release here.