Leading Historians Alice Kessler-Harris and David W. Blight Awarded 2002 Bancroft Prizes

by Lauren Marshall

Two acclaimed books, David W. Blight's "Race and Reunion: The Civil War in American Memory," winner of this year's Douglass and Lincoln Prizes, and Columbia professor Alice Kessler-Harris' "In Pursuit of Equity: Women, Men and the Quest for Economic Citizenship in 20th-Century America," have been awarded the 2002 Bancroft Prizes. One of the most prestigious awards in the field of history, the Bancroft is presented annually to the authors of books of exceptional merit and distinction in the fields of American history, biography or diplomacy by the Trustees of Columbia University.

David W. Blight

The recipients will be honored at a formal dinner hosted by Columbia University Libraries and the Department of History on Wednesday, April 24, at 7:00 p.m., in the Faculty Room of Low Memorial Library. Columbia President George Rupp will present the awards. Alan Brinkley, Allan Nevins Professor of History and chair of the department, and James Neal, Vice President for Information Services and University Librarian, will preside. Both recipients will deliver remarks.

"In Pursuit of Equity: Women, Men and the Quest for Economic Citizenship in 20th-Century America" is written by one of the nation's leading scholars of gender, the economy and public policy and published by Oxford University Press. In this work, Kessler-Harris traces and analyzes 20th century United States social policies, such as Social Security, unemployment insurance and fair labor standards that produced different access to resources for men and women. Kessler-Harris' critical analysis shows how a deeply embedded set of beliefs, what she calls "gendered imagination," distorted seemingly neutral social legislation to further limit the freedom and equality of women, especially regarding their rights to full economic citizenship.

Alice Kessler-Harris

In one of the most brilliant books of recent years, Alice Kessler-Harris explains how modern feminism has been grounded in the changing meanings of work. Formidable research and eloquent writing make it clear why gender difference as a rationale for distributing jobs, taxes and entitlements came to a screeching crash in our own lifetimes," said Linda K. Kerber, professor at University of Iowa and author of "No Constitutional Right to Be Ladies: Women and the Obligations of Citizenship" (Hill and Wang, 1998).

Kessler-Harris, Columbia's R. Gordon Hoxie Professor of American History, is a specialist in the history of American labor and the comparative and interdisciplinary exploration of women and gender. She has been a featured speaker at the White House, a guest expert on the PBS documentary "The Measured Century," and a leading advocate of women's rights in the United States. "In Pursuit of Equity" is the fourth book she has written on the issues of women, work and wages.

"Race and Reunion: The Civil War in American Memory," published by Harvard University Press, won the 2001 Frederick Douglass Prize for outstanding book on slavery, resistance, and abolition and the 2002 Lincoln Prize for the best work on Lincoln and the Civil War era. Blight is the Class of 1959 Professor of History and Black Studies at Amherst College. A distillation of a mass of historical material, the book clearly describes how Americans -- black and white, Northerners and Southerners, soldiers and politicians, writers and editors -- remembered the devastation of the Civil War and the impact that memory had on the politics and social struggle of Reconstruction, including race relations and America's national reunion.

"This book effectively traces both the growth and development of what became, by the turn of the 20th century and the debut of "The Birth of a Nation," the dominant racist representation of the Civil War. A major work of American history, this volume's documentation of the active and exceedingly articulate voices of protest against this inaccurate and unjust imagining of history is just one of its accomplishments," wrote Publishers Weekly in a review.

David W. Blight, a pioneer of the emerging field of memory studies, is also the author of the award-winning "Frederick Douglass's Civil War" (Louisiana State University Press, 1989), among other books and articles.

Race and Reunion bookcover
Race and Reunion: The Civil War in American Memory
In Pursuit of Equity bookcover
In Pursuit of Equity: Women, Men and <br>the Quest for Economic Citizenship in 20th-Century America

The Bancroft Prizes were established at Columbia in 1948 with a bequest from Frederic Bancroft, the historian, author and librarian of the Department of State, to provide steady development of library resources, to support instruction and research in American history and diplomacy and to recognize exceptional books in the field. Books eligible for the 2002 prizes were published in 2001. The prize includes an award of $4,000.

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Published: Apr 17, 2002
Last modified: Sep 18, 2002