Richards Prize

Richards Prize

GeorgeAndAnnRichardsThe Richards Prize for the best article in each volume year of The Journal of the Civil War Era is named in honor of George and Ann Richards, generous benefactors of Penn State’s Civil War Era Center, which is the editorial home of the journal. The editors of the journal created the $1,000 Richards Prize in 2011 to recognize George and Ann Richards for their contribution to the center that now bears their name and to Civil War era scholarship generally.

Past Winners

2017 – Sarah L. H. Gronningsater, “‘On Behalf of His Race and the Lemmon Slaves’: Louis Napoleon, Black Northern Legal Culture, and the Politics of Sectional Crisis,” Volume 7, Number 2 (June)

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.”

Available at Project Muse

 

2016 – Mark E. Neely, Jr., “Guerrilla Warfare, Slavery, and the Hopes of the Confederacy,” Volume 6, Number 3 (September)

Neely’s essay asks why the Confederacy did not turn to guerrilla warfare in the waning days of the Civil War and looks to Confederate national mythology for the answer. Challenging the conclusions of historians who argue that southerners ultimately rejected guerrilla warfare for fear that it would undermine slavery, he counters that Confederate citizens evinced little fear that partisan warfare would put the South’s institutions, including slavery, at risk. Delving into popular fiction by William Gilmore Simms, Nathaniel Beverley Tucker, Edmund Ruffin, Jane Tandy Hardin Cross, and Sally Rochester Ford, among others, he finds a literary tradition that articulated a distinct southern nationalism through romantic portrayals of guerrilla war heroes.  But romantic invocations of noble guerrillas withered in the face of grim military reality. The reason the Confederacy’s military leadership did not endorse guerrilla warfare in the waning days of the conflict simply was because they did not believe it was a viable strategy for ensuring the survival of the nascent nation. The prize committee complimented Neely for revisiting this old debate in a creative and novel way and praised the essay as a “model article” that is “theoretically sophisticated and beautifully written.”

Available at Project Muse

 

2015 – Millington W. Bergeson-Lockwood, “‘We Do Not Care Particularly About the Skating Rinks’: African Americans Challenges to Racial Discrimination in Places of Public Accommodation in Nineteenth-Century Boston, Massachusetts,” Volume 5, Number 2 (June)

Bergeson-Lockwood’s essay recounts how African Americans in Boston fought discrimination in public accommodations on a variety of fronts, including the press, the courts, and the legislature. The prize committee praised it as “a smart article that ties together legal, political, and social history.” The committee highlighted the article’s unique contribution to scholarship on civil rights by noting, “This work should be useful for anyone interested in the still under-studied question of how ‘race’ worked in the post-Civil War North, what kinds of antiracism were possible, and how and where racial restrictions developed.”

Available at Project Muse

 

2014 – Ted Maris-Wolf, “‘Of Blood and Treasure’: Recaptive Africans the Politics of Slave Trade Suppression,” Volume 4, Number 1 (March)

Maris-Wolf’s essay tells the story of America’s determination to suppress the African Slave Trade during James Buchanan’s administration. Paradoxically, the administration’s posture against the slave trade initially won the approval of abolitionists and proslavery extremists alike. The essay deftly recounts how the resultant debates over what to do with recaptive slaves “liberated” by the U.S. Navy only deepened the growing sectional divide over slavery, however, moving the country closer to civil war.

Available at Project Muse

 

2013 – Thavolia Glymph, “Rose’s War and the Gendered Politics of a Slave Insurgency in the Civil War,” Volume 3, Number 4 (December)

Glymph’s essay tells the story of Rose, who was among the leaders of a slave insurrection in South Carolina during the Civil War. Challenging our focus on the legal genesis of wartime emancipation and its impact on enslaved men, the essay highlights the often violent means by which enslaved women sought to claim their freedom during the conflict. Acknowledging the difficulty of bringing Rose’s story to light, the prize committee announced, “We were impressed by the compelling narrative of war and emancipation that Dr. Glymph wove from scraps of an enslaved woman’s life. We also admired the way she connected localized slave insurgency with the larger military war effort during the waning days of the war, as well as her nuanced explanation of women’s role as both the creators and recorders of armed rebellion. For all of these reasons, we find this article to be an example of outstanding historical research and writing, the kind that can inspire established scholars and students alike.”

Available at Project Muse

 

2012 – Carole Emberton, “‘Only Murder Makes Men’: Reconsidering the Black Military Experience,” Volume 2, Number 3 (September)

Emberton’s article re-examines the meaning of African Americans’ military service in the Civil War, demonstrating that this service was a double-edged sword. While many argued that the self-sacrifice entailed in military service justified African Americans’ claims for full citizenship, opponents argued that their capacity for violence, even in defense of the state, made African Americans unfit to enjoy the full privileges of citizenship. Praising the author’s groundbreaking approach to this subject, Stephen Berry of the University of Georgia and Nancy Bercaw of the Smithsonian Institution noted, “No one examines how disturbing it is that we all so easily equate the sine qua non of citizenship with committing murder in the name of the state. No one except Carole Emberton. Her piece is powerful, beautiful, mind-expanding, almost philosophical, and it is a model not merely of Civil War scholarship but of what historians can do when they are working at the top of their game.”

Available at Project Muse

 

2011 – Anne E. Marshall, “The 1906 Uncle Tom’s Cabin Law and the Politics of Race and Memory in Early Twentieth Century Kentucky,” Volume 1, Number 3 (September)

This article examines early twentieth century efforts by the Lexington, Kentucky chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy to block stage productions of the popular play, Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Marshall demonstrates how the stage and the cinema became battlegrounds in the fight for the memory of slavery and emancipation. In announcing the award, the prize committee praised the essay for conveying a sense of the rich “dialogue over how slavery ought to be remembered” and demonstrating “how this was not just a local Kentucky issue, but also something that resonated nationally.” Marshall’s research demonstrates a creative way of exploring historical issues that expands the parameters of the Civil War Era in ways that correspond with the goals of the journal.

Available at Project Muse