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Douglass Book Prize

Douglass Prize
From left: Lewis Lehrman, Martha Hodes, David Blight,
Ned Blackhawk, Judith Carney, Richard Rosomoff, and Richard Gilder.

More than 250 guests gathered at the Yale Club in New York City on February 24 to attend the Gilder Lehrman Center’s Twelfth Annual Frederick Douglass Book Prize dinner honoring Judith A. Carney, Professor of Geography at the University of California, Los Angeles; Siddharth Kara, Fellow on Human Trafficking at Harvard University; and Richard Nicholas Rosomoff, an independent writer. The authors shared the $25,000 prize for Carney and Rosomoff’s book, In the Shadow of Slavery: Africa’s Botanical Legacy in the Atlantic World (University of California Press), and Kara’s book, Sex Trafficking: Inside the Business of Modern Slavery (Columbia University Press). In addition to speeches by the co-winners and a special tribute to co-founders of the prize, Richard Gilder and Lewis Lehrman, another highlight of the evening included a presentation by Kenneth Morris, direct descendant of Frederick Douglass and Booker T. Washington.

Martha Hodes, the 2010 Jury Chair and Professor of History at New York University, spoke highly of each of the winner’s work, commenting, “In the Shadow of Slavery tells the fascinating story of how enslaved Africans shaped and changed the landscape of the New World. With remarkable originality, the authors reveal how the men and women of the Middle Passage wielded their agricultural experience as part of the unending struggle to control their own lives. Interpreting archival evidence with both rigor and creativity, Carney and Rosomoff explore the provisioning of slave ships, the transfer and diffusion of African horticultural knowledge, the botanical gardens of slaves, and the gastronomic legacies of black slavery, among many other intriguing topics. Comprehensive and compelling, this is a work of truly global dimensions that narrates the ordeal of enslavement as a simultaneous story of food, memory, and survival.”

Hodes remarked that Kara’s book, Sex Trafficking, “carefully and compassionately convinces us to understand the phenomenon of modern-day human sex trafficking as part of the history of slavery and abolition.” She continued, “For his research, Kara posed as a customer across Asia, Europe, and the United States, entangling himself with perpetrators and speaking confidentially with victims. Sidestepping sensationalism and absent any delusion of casting himself as a rescuer, Kara relates wrenching stories in lucid prose, thereby shedding a strong and steady beam of light on a widespread and ongoing global crime. With an exemplary mixture of courage and humility, the author combines a gripping first-person narrative with trenchant economic analysis and clear-eyed proposals for change. In the end, this book prevents us from consigning slavery to the past.”

The Frederick Douglass Book Prize was established in 1999 to stimulate scholarship in the field of slavery and abolition by honoring outstanding books. Previous winners were Ira Berlin and Philip D. Morgan in 1999; David Eltis, 2000; David Blight, 2001; Robert Harms and John Stauffer, 2002; James F. Brooks and Seymour Drescher, 2003; Jean Fagan Yellin, 2004; Laurent Dubois, 2005; Rebecca J. Scott, 2006; Christopher Leslie Brown, 2007; Stephanie Smallwood, 2008; and Annette Gordon-Reed, 2009.