Winner of the 2017 George and Ann Richards Prize Announced

Winner of the 2017 George and Ann Richards Prize Announced

Congratulations to Sarah L. H. Gronningsater, winner of the George and Ann Richards Prize!

Gronningsater has won the 2017 George and Ann Richards Prize for her article, “‘On Behalf of His Race and the Lemmon Slaves’: Louis Napoleon, Northern Black Legal Culture, and the Politics of Sectional Crisis.” The $1,000 prize is awarded annually for the best article published in The Journal of the Civil War Era. The article appeared in the June issue. We also interviewed Sarah on Muster.

Gronningsater’s essay offers a new perspective on the famous Lemmon Slave case, in which New York courts freed eight enslaved people brought to New York by Virginia slaveholders while in transit to Texas prior to the Civil War. The article recounts the little known story of African American legal activists, like the abolitionist Louis Napoleon who petitioned a New York court for the writ of habeas corpus that eventually freed the Lemmon slaves. In the words of the prize committee, Gronningsater shows how African American abolitionists like Napoleon “developed tactics to free slaves who were in transit through New York, pressed New York’s leaders to challenge the expansive property rights of southern slave owners, and creatively influenced the national debate about sectionalism. This article, in sum, is a model of legal, political, and social history told with enviable élan.”

Gronningsater is assistant professor of history at the University of Pennsylvania. Her current book manuscript, The Arc of Abolition: The Children of Gradual Emancipation and the Origins of National Freedom, is under contract with the University of Pennsylvania Press. It explores the long, legal transition from slavery to freedom in New York from the first widespread Quaker emancipations in the 1750s to the passage of the Reconstruction Amendments at the close of the Civil War.

The Richards Prize recognizes the generosity of George and Ann Richards, who have been instrumental in the growth of the Richards Civil War Era Center and in the founding of The Journal of the Civil War Era.

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