Yale historian David Brion Davis wins National Book Critics Circle Award

David Brion Davis, Sterling Professor Emeritus of American History, has won the 2015 National Book Critics Circle Award in general non-fiction for his book “The Problem of Slavery in the Age of Emancipation” (Knopf, 2014).

The culmination of more than 50 years of research, Davis’ award-winning work is the third volume in his “Problem of Slavery” trilogy, which includes the Pulitzer Prize-winning “The Problem of Slavery in Western Culture” (1966) and “The Problem of Slavery in the Age of Revolution, 1770–1823” (1975).

This latest work suggests that slavery is both the cornerstone of and the fundamental challenge to the basic principles of New World nation-building: labor and production, citizenship and human rights. The New York Times’ Sunday Book Review described “The Problem of Slavery in the Emancipation” as a “superb” book that “should be essential reading for anyone wishing to understand our complex and contradictory past.”


Widely recognized as one of the foremost authorities on the history of slavery and abolitionism, as well as one of the most influential cultural and intellectual historians of his generation, Davis is director emeritus of Yale’s Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, and Abolition. He is the author or editor of 16 books, including “Inhuman Bondage: The Rise and Fall of Slavery in the New World” and “Slavery and Human Progress.”

In 2014, Davis received the National Medal for the Humanities. The award citation lauded the Yale historian for “reshaping our understanding of history” and noted that “his examinations of slavery and abolitionism drive us to keep making moral progress in our time.”

Founded in 1974, the National Book Critics Circle Awards are given annually to honor outstanding writing and to foster a national conversation about reading, criticism, and literature. The awards are open to any book published in the United States in English (including translations).