Frederick Douglass Book Award to Be Presented to Sophie White of the University of Notre Dame

Sophie White, a professor in the department of American studies at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana, has won the prestigious 2020 Frederick Douglass Book Prize. The prize, sponsored by Yale University’s Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance and Abolition and the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, recognizes the best book published in English on slavery, resistance or abolition. Professor White will receive the award in an online ceremony on February 23.

Established in 1999, the prize is named for Frederick Douglass, the onetime slave who escaped bondage to emerge as one of the great American abolitionists, reformers, writers, and orators of the 19th century.

Professor White was honored for her book Voices of the Enslaved: Love, Labor, and Longing in French Louisiana (University of North Carolina Press, 2019). In the book, she offers an exceptional glimpse into the lives of enslaved people — through their own words — by analyzing courtroom testimony from enslaved Africans in French colonies, primarily in 18th-century Louisiana but also in islands in the Caribbean and Indian Oceans.

“This is a very special award —  and a sobering reminder of how much work still needs to be done on slavery and its legacies,” said Dr. White. Voices of the Enslaved brings to light an extraordinary archive in which the enslaved testified and their words were recorded. I am deeply honored that this work has resonated so widely, and I am grateful for the visibility that the Douglass award offers in bringing the lives of these individuals to new audiences, allowing them to speak for themselves, and allowing us to hear their voices and to listen to what they had to say.”

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