Ira Berlin’s work focuses on American history, particularly the history of slavery in the 18th and 19th centuries. Published in 1974 his first book, “Slaves Without Masters: The Negro in the Antebellum South,” won the National Historical Society’s Best First Book Prize. His most recent book published this year, “The Long Emancipation: The Demise of Slavery in the United States,” was recently reviewed by The New York Times.
Founding editor of the Freedmen and Southern Society Project, Berlin helped bring the story of African slavery in the United States by creating a multi-volume documentary on the history of the emancipation—a project for which he was awarded the Thomas Jefferson Prize of the Society for History in the Federal Government; the J. Franklin Jameson Prize of the American Historical Association for outstanding editorial achievement; and the Abraham Lincoln Prize for excellence in Civil-War studies of the Lincoln and Soldiers Institute of Gettysburg College.
His study of African-American life between 1619 and 1819, “Many Thousands Gone: The First Two Centuries of Slavery in Mainland North America,” was awarded the Bancroft Prize for the best book in American history by Columbia University, the Frederick Douglass Prize by the Gilder-Lehrman Institute, the Owsley Prize by the Southern Historical Association and the Rudwick Prize by the Organization of American Historians.
In 2014, he was awarded the W.E.B. Dubois Medal by Harvard University’s Hutchins Center for African and African American Research.
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