2018 Harriet Tubman Prize Finalists

The Dawn of Detroit

2018 Harriet Tubman Prize Finalists

The Lapidus Center for the Historical Analysis of Transatlantic Slavery is pleased to announce the finalists of the annual Harriet Tubman Prize. In December, the prize of $7,500 will be awarded to the best nonfiction book published in the United States on the slave trade, slavery, and anti-slavery in the Atlantic World in 2017.

A Readers Committee of scholars and librarians selected the three finalists: Leigh Fought’s Women in the World of Frederick Douglass (Oxford UP); Tiya Miles’ The Dawn of Detroit: A Chronicle of Slavery and Freedom in the City of the Straits (The New Press); and Tamara J. Walker’s Exquisite Slaves: Race, Clothing, and Status in Colonial Lima (Cambridge UP).

In Women in the World of Frederick Douglass, Leigh Fought illuminates the life of the famed abolitionist off the public stage. She begins with the women he knew during his life as a slave as well as Douglass’s varied relationships with white women who were crucial to the success of his newspapers, were active in the antislavery and women’s movements, and promoted his work nationally and internationally. By examining the circle of women around Frederick Douglass, this work brings these figures into sharper focus and reveals a fuller and more complex image of the self-proclaimed “woman’s rights man.”

Tiya Miles’ The Dawn of Detroit pieces together the experience of the unfree—both native and African American—in the frontier outpost of Detroit, a place wildly remote yet at the center of national and international conflict. Miles introduces new historical figures and unearths struggles that remained hidden from view until now. The result is fascinating history, little explored and eloquently told, of the limits of freedom in early America, one that adds new layers of complexity to the story of a place that exerts a strong fascination in the media and among public intellectuals, artists, and activists.

In Exquisite Slaves, Tamara J. Walker examines how slaves used elegant clothing as a language for expressing attitudes about gender and status in the wealthy urban center of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Lima, Peru. Drawing on traditional historical research methods, visual studies, feminist theory, and material culture scholarship, Walker argues that clothing was an emblem of not only the reach but also the limits of slaveholders’ power and racial domination. Even as it acknowledges the significant limits imposed on slaves’ access to elegant clothing, Exquisite Slaves also showcases the insistence and ingenuity with which slaves dressed to convey their own sense of humanity and dignity.

Congratulations to the finalists! The winner will be chosen by a Selection Committee and announced in December.