NEWS: Dylan Penningroth Wins 2012 Macarthur “Genius” Grant

Dylan Penningroth (Northwestern U.) has been awarded a 2012 Macarthur “Genius” grant for his work on kinship and property within slave communities in the United States and along the Gold Coast.

From the Macarthur Foundation website:

Dylan C. Penningroth is a historian who examines shifting concepts of property ownership and kinship in order to shed light on long-obscured aspects of African American life under slavery and in the half-century following slavery’s abolition. In his book The Claims of Kinfolk (2003), he elucidates the informal customs that slaves in the antebellum South used to recognize ownership of property, even while they were themselves considered by law to be property at the time. He also traces the interactions of these extra-legal, vernacular customs with the formal realm of law after emancipation by teasing stories of claims and disputes from such sources as the Freedman’s Bureau and Southern Claims Commission records compiled by the federal government after the Civil War. In addition to demonstrating that ownership of land, livestock, and other material possessions was much more widespread among slave communities than previously believed, Penningroth’s research draws out the underlying social relations and reliance on family members’ labor that made such ownership possible. To broaden the scope of his study, Penningroth extended his investigation across the Atlantic to Africa’s Gold Coast and found informative historical connections among societies that dealt with legacies of slavery and emancipation in the late nineteenth century. His current projects expand upon this transatlantic approach, exploring the importance of lineage and issues of inheritance for slave-descended people in early twentieth-century Ghana and mining Southern court records to uncover the experiences of African Americans who made use of local courts during the decades that followed emancipation. By compiling evidence from vast and widely scattered archives, Penningroth is painting a more vivid picture of relationships between parents and children, husbands and wives, and illuminating the ways communities of slaves and their descendents recognized what belonged to whom….

Other recipients included Junot Diaz and Dinaw MengestuRead more about the Macarthur Grant and find the bios for the rest of the 2012 class here.

BOOK: Soares on Slavery, Catholicism, and Urban Life in Eighteenth-Century Rio

Mariza de Carvalho Soares, People of Faith: Slavery and African Catholics in Eighteenth-Century Rio De Janeiro. Translated by Jerry D. Metz. Duke University Press Books, 2011.
Description (Duke University Press):

“In People of Faith, Mariza de Carvalho Soares reconstructs the everyday lives of Mina slaves transported in the eighteenth century to Rio de Janeiro from the western coast of Africa, particularly from modern-day Benin. She describes a Catholic lay brotherhood formed by the enslaved Mina congregants of a Rio church, and she situates the brotherhood in a panoramic setting encompassing the historical development of the Atlantic slave trade in West Africa and the ethnic composition of Mina slaves in eighteenth-century Rio. Although Africans from the Mina Coast constituted no more than ten percent of the slave population of Rio, they were a strong presence in urban life at the time. Soares analyzes the role that Catholicism, and particularly lay brotherhoods, played in Africans’ construction of identities under slavery in colonial Brazil. As in the rest of the Portuguese empire, black lay brotherhoods in Rio engaged in expressions of imperial pomp through elaborate festivals, processions, and funerals; the election of kings and queens; and the organization of royal courts. Drawing mainly on ecclesiastical documents, Soares reveals the value of church records for historical research.”

Soares was awarded the 2012 Roberto Reis BRASA Book Prize for People of Faith.  For more information on the prize click here.

Dayan Receives Vanderbilt University Chancellor’s Award


Via Repeating Islands: 

Colin Dayan recently received a Vanderbilt University Chancellor’s Award for her research and book The Law Is a White Dog: How Legal Rituals Make and Unmake Persons (Princeton University Press, 2011), which was selected by Choice as one of top 25 books for 2011…

Description (excerpt): Moving seamlessly across genres and disciplines, Dayan considers legal practices and spiritual beliefs from medieval England, the North American colonies, and the Caribbean that have survived in our legal discourse, and she explores the civil deaths of felons and slaves through lawful repression. Tracing the legacy of slavery in the United States in the structures of the contemporary American prison system and in the administrative detention of ghostly supermax facilities, she also demonstrates how contemporary jurisprudence regarding cruel and unusual punishment prepared the way for abuses in Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo.

Read the more details on the announcement via Repeating Islands and the press announcement.  Read more about the book at Princeton University Press.

WEB: Institut Français de Recherche en Afrique – Nigeria

Re-launched website:

“IFRA-Nigeria is a non profit Institute set up to promote research in the social sciences and the humanities, as well as enhance collaborative work between scholars in France and West Africa. First established in 1990 and financed by the French Ministry for Foreign Affairs, the Institute has now been operating from the Universities of Ibadan (Institute of African Studies) and Zaria (Institute for Development Research) since 2006. IFRA’s mandate includes subsidizing research programs, (…)”

Institut Français de Recherche en Afrique – Nigeria.

Gordon-Reed Wins George Washington Book Prize

Along with the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize:

“Historian and author Annette Gordon-Reed has won a literary Triple Crown with her remarkable “The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family,” her 798-page exploration of Thomas Jefferson and the family of slaves with whom he became intimately involved. The book has won the National Book Award, the Pulitzer Prize and, yesterday, the $50,000 George Washington Book Prize, given annually to the “most important new book about America’s founding era.”

Read the rest here

.