Congratulations to Sherry L. Smith, winner of the 2010 Article Prize of the Berkshire Conference of Women Historians for her “Reconciliation and Restitution in the American West,” Western Historical Quarterly, 41 (Spring 2010): 4-25.
In her thought-provoking and compelling article, Sherry L. Smith invites readers to consider how groups and nations can acknowledge monumental historical injustices and what role history and historians play. Focusing on the Native peoples of the American West, Smith asks whether reconciliation or restitution can begin to address the human rights abuses to which American Indians have been subjected. She offers no easy answers, but in a wide-ranging analysis of examples from across the globe and case studies from the history of the U.S. West, Smith outlines a variety of possible approaches and demonstrates that, on occasion and however imperfectly, people of good will have found ways to redress historical wrongs. Moreover, history has been a crucial element in the effort, as victims of human rights violations challenged existing narratives of the national story, and as historians validated those challenges. We applaud Sherry Smith for an article that tackles a big and important historical topic from a transnational perspective, with precisely rendered examples and thoughtful insights at every turn, all of it presented in appealing prose.
Congratulations to Christina Snyder, winner of the 2010 Book Prize of the Berkshire Conference of Women Historians for her Slavery in Indian Country: The Changing Face of Captivity in Early America (Harvard University Press, 2010).
In a very impressive pool of first books, Christina Snyder’s Slavery in Indian Country: The Changing Face of Captivity in Early America stands out for its bold argument, elegant prose, and subtle analysis. Snyder’s work completely overturns assumptions about slavery in the American South. The genesis of that region’s plantation slavery was not African slavery but rather that of native Americans. For hundreds of years, including the entire colonial era, Indian slavery in the south was based on ideas of kin rather than race. Even as racial slavery became increasingly common among white southerners, Indians’ notions of slavery remained relatively fluid. Only in the wake of large-scale political and economic crises at the turn of the nineteenth century did southern Indians begin to embrace the notion of racial slavery. This is a big book that convincingly explains an enormous shift in captivity and slavery. Yet even for non-specialists, this book has a lot to offer. Snyder is an excellent guide through the shifting intersections of captivity and race that mark southern slavery. She sensitively brings the reader into the cultural logic of southern Indian slavery. Finally, Slavery in Indian Country is beautifully written, especially in the multiple passages in which she impressively invokes both the richness and the horror of ritual.
An honorable mention to Jennifer Guglielmo, runner-up for the 2010 Book Prize of the Berkshire Conference of Women’s Historians for her Living the Revolution: Italian Women’s Resistance and Radicalism in New York City, 1880-1945 (University of North Carolina Press, 2010)
Jennifer Guglielmo’s book Living the Revolution: Italian Women’s Resistance and Radicalism in New York City, 1880-1945 (University of North Carolina Press, 2010) is an accomplished contribution to immigration, political, and gender history. Based on impressive research in both English and Italian sources, _Living the Revolution_ focuses on an under-studied group of women who shaped the political landscape not only of New York or of Italian-Americans from 1880-1954 but also of the politics of dissent all over the United States during that period. Guglielmo sensitively connects what we might today call “kitchen table politics” to street and organizational activism, usefully blurring the dividing line between public and private. The book is comprehensive in its coverage of the shifting racial identities of Italian immigrants in America; the participation of Italian women in transnational forms of anarchism and other radical politics; the cooperation with other women in the labor movement and industrial feminism; and the complicated reactions of Italian women to fascism. Over the generations that Guglielmo analyzes, Italian women both worked with men and through their own separate organizations in ways that reveal a great deal about gender and activism within the context of community organizing. The book does not shy away from confronting the ways in which the gradual recognition of their whiteness eventually led significant numbers of Italian-American women to protect their accrued white privilege through hostility toward racial others, especially African-Americans. The book is well-written, achieves a balanced focus on individuals, groups, and larger communities, and takes into account the large historiography on American women’s activism during the last decades of the nineteenth century and first half of the twentieth century.