Inaugural Prize Given to Biographer of Ida B. Wells
A critically acclaimed biography of anti-lynching activist Ida B. Wells has been selected as the winner of the inaugural John Hope Franklin Research Center Book Award, sponsored by Duke University Libraries.
Paula J. Giddings, professor of Afro-American Studies at Smith College
, is the author of Ida: A Sword Among Lions
(Amistad/HarperCollins, 2008). She will receive a $10,000 cash prize, presented by the John Hope Franklin Research Center for African and African American History and Culture
. The Research Center, which marked its fifteenth anniversary this year, is part of Duke’s Rare Book, Manuscript, and Special Collections Library.
This is the first time the book award has been offered. It was established “to recognize a recent work of scholarship that best exemplifies the mission of the Research Center and champions the importance of archival research,” said Naomi Nelson, director of the Rare Book, Manuscript, and Special Collections Library. Ida: A Sword Among Lions
tells the story of activist, suffragist, and journalist Ida B. Wells (1862-1931), who was born to slaves in Mississippi and eventually rose to lead an international campaign against lynching, a practice that undermined the very foundations of a country united by law but divided by race.
According to the unanimous decision of the book prize committee, “Paula Giddings’s biography is as striking an achievement as the life it chronicles. This richly documented study will no doubt stand for all time as the definitive, most informed autobiography of Wells. In the tradition of the scholarship of John Hope Franklin, it stands as a tribute to a life of learning, both the author’s and that of the subject of her biography.”
In addition to the biography of Wells, Giddings is the author of two other books on the social and political history of African-American women, When and Where I Enter
and In Search of Sisterhood.
She is a former journalist who has written for the Washington Post, New York Times, Philadelphia Inquirer, The Nation,
and Jeune Afrique
(Paris). Before joining the faculty of Smith College in 2001, Giddings taught at Spelman College, Douglass College/Rutgers University, Princeton, and Duke. She is also the senior editor of Meridians: feminism, race, transnationalism,
a peer-reviewed feminist, interdisciplinary journal.
For Giddings, the news that she had won the John Hope Franklin Research Center Book Award was both unexpected and particularly pertinent. “In addition to the singular honor of this award, it is also deeply satisfying because it was Dr. Franklin who made possible the publication of Ida Wells’s autobiography, ‘Crusade for Justice,’ the foundational text that made her legacy both visible and compelling to succeeding generations,” said Giddings.
The award will be presented to Giddings on Feb. 25 at a dinner that also marks the inaugural Atelier@Duke
, a series of panel discussions focusing on the theme “The Idea of Archive: Producing and Performing Race,” in honor of the John Hope Franklin Research Center’s fifteenth anniversary. The panel discussions, which are free and open to the public, will take place Feb. 25-26 in Perkins Library’s Gothic Reading Room. For more information, or to register to attend the panel discussions, visit the Atelier website