New York – October 3, 2016.
The Lapidus Center for the Historical Analysis of Transatlantic Slavery is pleased to announce the finalists of the first annual Harriet Tubman Book Prize. The prize of $7,500 is awarded to the best nonfiction book published in the United States on the slave trade, slavery, and anti-slavery in the Atlantic World.
A Readers Committee of scholars and librarians selected the five finalists: Alex Borucki for From Shipmates to Soldiers: Emerging Black Identities in the Rio de la Plata (University of New Mexico Press); Aisha K. Finch for Rethinking Slave Rebellion in Cuba: La Escalera and the Insurgencies of 1841-1844 (University of North Carolina Press); Jeff Forret for Slave Against Slave: Plantation Violence in the Old South (LSU Press); Patrick Rael for Eighty-Eight Years: The Long Death of Slavery in the United States, 1777-1875 (The University of Georgia Press); and Calvin Schermerhorn for The Business of Slavery and the Rise of American Capitalism, 1815-1860 (Yale University Press).
Alex Borucki analyzes the lives of Africans and their descendants in Montevideo and Buenos Aires from the late colonial era to the first decades of independence. In “From Shipmates to Soldiers: Emerging Black Identities in the Rio de la Plata,” Borucki links specific regions of Africa to the Río de la Plata region, the author explores the ties of the free black and enslaved populations to the larger society in which they found themselves.
Envisioning La Escalera–an underground rebel movement largely composed of enslaved Africans living in western Cuba–in the larger context of the long emancipation struggle in Cuba, Aisha Finch demonstrates how organized slave resistance became critical to the unraveling of both slavery and colonial systems of power during the 19th century. In “Rethinking Slave Rebellion in Cuba: La Escalera and the Insurgencies of 1841-1844,” Finch teases apart the organization, leadership, and effectiveness of the black insurgents across western Cuba.
Jeff Forret challenges notions of slave communities as sites of unwavering harmony and solidarity in “Slave Against Slave: Plantation Violence in the Old South.” Generations of scholars have examined violence in the South as perpetrated by and against whites, the internal clashes within the slave quarters have remained largely unexplored. Forret’s analysis of slave conflicts in the Old South examines narratives of violence in slave communities, opening a new line of inquiry into the study of American slavery.
Patrick Rael immerses readers in the mix of social, geographic, economic, and political factors that shaped the unique decline of American slavery in “Eighty-Eight Years: The Long Death of Slavery in the U.S., 1777-1865.” Rael shows how African Americans played the central role in ending slavery in the United States. Fueled by new Revolutionary ideals of self-rule and universal equality both slaves and free blacks slowly turned American opinion against the slave interests in the South.
In “The Business of Slavery and the Rise of American Capitalism, 1815-1860,” Calvin Schermerhorn views the development of modern American capitalism through the window of the 19th century interstate slave trade. Schermerhorn details the anatomy of slave supply chains and the chains of credit and commodities that intersected with them in the pre–Civil War United States, and explores how an institution that destroyed lives and families contributed to the growth of the American capitalist economy.
The winner of the 2016 Harriet Tubman Prize will be chosen by a Selection Committee in November. The members of the Committee are Kathleen Bethel, African American Studies Librarian at Northwestern University; Greg Grandin, award-winning Professor of History at New York University, and Charles R. Johnson, award-winning novelist, essayist, and playwright and Professor Emeritus of Creative Writing and English at the University of Washington.
The prize will be awarded on December 12 at the Schomburg Center.
The Lapidus Center for the Historical Analysis of Transatlantic Slavery is part of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, The New York Public Library. It is funded by a generous $2.5 million gift from Ruth and Sid Lapidus matched by The New York Public Library and is the only facility of its kind based in a public research library. The initial gift also included over 450 rare items of printed material, making the Schomburg Center home to one of the world’s premier collections of slavery material. Sid Lapidus continues to donate items as he acquires them.
The Center’s mission is to generate and disseminate scholarly knowledge on the slave trade, slavery, and anti-slavery pertaining to the Atlantic World. The Center supports the work of researchers with long-term and short-term fellowships. To raise awareness and historical literacy, the Lapidus Center engages the public with a variety of programs, an annual nonfiction prize, exhibitions, conferences, and partnerships with local, national, and international institutions. Contact: Lapiduscenter@nypl. Visit: lapiduscenter.org