Finalists Announced for the 2006 Frederick Douglass Book Prize

Yale University’s Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance and Abolition, sponsored by the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, has announced the finalists for the Eighth Annual Frederick Douglass Book Prize, one of the most coveted awards for the study of the African-American experience.

The finalists are: Steven Deyle for “Carry Me Back: The Domestic Slave Trade in American Life” (Oxford University Press); Richard Follett for “The Sugar Masters: Planters and Slaves in Louisiana’s Cane World, 1820–1860” (Louisiana State University Press); and Rebecca J. Scott for “Degrees of Freedom: Louisiana and Cuba after Slavery” (Harvard University Press).

The $25,000 annual award for the year’s best non-fiction book on slavery, resistance and/or abolition is the most generous history prize in its field. The prize winner will be announced following the Douglass Prize Review Committee meeting in September, and the award will be presented at a dinner at the Yale Club of New York on February 22, 2007, as the capstone of Black History Month.

This year’s finalists were selected from a field of nearly 80 entries by a jury of scholars that included Mia Bay (Rutgers University), Larry E. Hudson, Jr. (University of Rochester) and Jane Landers (Vanderbilt University).

The Frederick Douglass Book Prize was established in 1999 to stimulate scholarship in the field by honoring outstanding accomplishments. Previous winners were Ira Berlin and Philip D. Morgan in 1999; David Eltis, 2000; David Blight, 2001; Robert Harms and John Stauffer, 2002; James F. Brooks and Seymour Drescher, 2003; Jean Fagan Yellin, 2004; and Laurent Dubois, 2005.

The award is named for Frederick Douglass (1818–1895), the one-time slave who escaped bondage to emerge as one of the great American abolitionists, reformers, writers and orators of the 19th century.

Deyle’s “Carry Me Back” is an exhaustive study illuminating the depth and scope of the domestic slave trade in antebellum America and establishing definitively the importance of that trade in the nation’s history. The author identifies a scale of involvement in the trade that borders on a national complicity and exposes the growing tensions—national, sectional and local—triggered by a shifting involvement in the trade in human beings. By showing how its leaders utilized thoroughly modern and successful methods of business organization, he makes the case that the interregional trade was a quintessentially American enterprise.

Follett’s “The Sugar Masters” explores a central question that has long preoccupied leading scholars on slavery: How did masters and slaves combine modern and pre-modern values in a workable and profitable manner? Follett argues that Louisiana slaves adapted to mechanization largely because a “grossly exploitative” compensation system ensured that worker power was channeled away from unified class action. As sugar planters looked outward to an expanding global economy, harnessing the methods and ideas of modern industrialization, he reasons, the enslaved were shaping the world of the plantation—making it more humane as they fought to preserve a more traditional value system with family and community at its core.

Scott’s “Degrees of Freedom” is an examination of the road to freedom taken by two slave societies and their construction of post-emancipation communities in Cuba and Louisiana. Scott tells the story of the black struggle on both sides of the Gulf, their support for each other’s revolutionary efforts, and the ultimate capitulation of the Republican Party leadership at the moment it might have supported the creation of egalitarian societies in Louisiana (and the South as a whole) and in newly independent Cuba.

The Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance and Abolition, a part of The MacMillan Center for International and Area Studies at Yale University, was launched in November 1998 through a generous donation by philanthropists Richard Gilder and Lewis Lehrman and the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History. Its mission is to promote the study of all aspects of slavery, in particular the Atlantic slave system, including African and African-American resistance to enslavement, abolitionist movements and the ways in which chattel slavery finally became outlawed.

In addition to encouraging the highest standards of new scholarship, the GLC is dedicated to the dissemination of knowledge through publications, conferences, educational outreach and other activities. For further information on events and programming, contact the center by phone (203) 432-3339, fax (203) 432-6943, or e-mail

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Dorie Baker:, 203-432-1345