Photo: Beyond My Ken, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Lapidus Center for the Historical Analysis of Transatlantic Slavery at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture announced today the three finalists for the 2022 Harriet Tubman Prize. The award honors the best nonfiction book on the slave trade, slavery, and anti-slavery in the Atlantic World published in the United States during the previous year. The finalists were selected by a jury of librarians and scholars and the winning author, who will be announced in November, will receive $7,500. 

“This year’s Harriet Tubman Prize finalists have impeccably researched and written three inimitable books, highlighting little known or unknown histories that challenge stubborn master accounts,” said Dr. Michelle D. Commander, Deputy Director of Research and Strategic Initiatives at the Schomburg Center. “Their interventions are many, including sharpening how we understand the contours of slavery-era notions of race, gender, capitalism, and the interior lives of enslaved people. Congratulations to these fantastic, deserving finalists.”

The finalists for the 2022 Harriet Tubman Prize are: 

All That She Carried: The Journey of Ashley’s Sack, a Black Family Keepsake (Random House) by Tiya Miles, professor of history, Harvard University 

In 1850s South Carolina, an enslaved woman named Rose faced a crisis: the imminent sale of her daughter Ashley. Thinking quickly, she packed a cotton bag for her with a few items, and, soon after, the nine-year-old girl was separated from her mother and sold. Decades later, Ashley’s granddaughter Ruth embroidered this family history on the sack in spare, haunting language.  

Miles carefully traces these women’s faint presence in archival records, and, where archives fall short, she turns to objects, art, and the environment to write a singular history of the experience of slavery, and the uncertain freedom afterward, in the United States. All That She Carried is a poignant story of resilience and love passed down against steep odds. It honors the creativity and resourcefulness of people who preserved family ties when official systems refused to do so, and it serves as a visionary illustration of how to reconstruct and recount their stories today.

African Europeans: An Untold History (Basic Books) by Olivette Otele, Distinguished Professor of the Legacies and Memory of Slavery at the University of Bristol

Conventional wisdom holds that Africans are only a recent presence in Europe. But in African Europeans, Otele debunks this and uncovers a long history of Europeans of African descent. From the third century, when the Egyptian Saint Maurice became the leader of a Roman legion, all the way up to the present, Otele explores encounters between those defined as “Africans” and those called “Europeans.” She gives equal attention to the most prominent figures—like Alessandro de Medici, the first duke of Florence thought to have been born to a free African woman in a Roman village—and the untold stories—like the lives of dual-heritage families in Europe’s coastal trading towns.

The Ledger and the Chain: How Domestic Slave Traders Shaped America (Basic Books) by Joshua D. Rothman, professor of history, University of Alabama

Slave traders are peripheral figures in most histories of American slavery. But these men—who trafficked and sold over half a million enslaved people from the Upper South to the Deep South—were essential to slavery’s expansion and fueled the growth and prosperity of the United States.

Rothman recounts the shocking story of the domestic slave trade by tracing the lives and careers of Isaac Franklin, John Armfield, and Rice Ballard, who built the largest and most powerful slave-trading operation in American history. Far from social outcasts, they were rich and widely respected businessmen, and their company sat at the center of capital flows connecting southern fields to northeastern banks. Bringing together entrepreneurial ambition and remorseless violence toward enslaved people, domestic slave traders produced an atrocity that forever transformed the nation.

About the Lapidus Center for the Historical Analysis of Transatlantic Slavery 

The Lapidus Center for the Historical Analysis of Transatlantic Slavery, founded in 2014 with a generous $2.5 million gift from Ruth and Sid Lapidus, generates and disseminates scholarly knowledge and works on the slave trade, slavery, and anti-slavery pertaining to the Atlantic World. The Center supports the work of researchers with long-term and short-term fellowships. Given the centrality of Atlantic slavery to the making of the modern world, Lapidus fellowships ensure that slavery studies are a cornerstone of the Schomburg Center’s broader research community. The Center engages the public with a variety of programs, an annual nonfiction book prize, exhibitions, conferences, and partnerships with local, national, and international institutions. To learn more about the Lapidus Center, please visit lapiduscenter.org.

About the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture

Founded in 1925 and named a National Historic Landmark in 2017, the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture is one of the world’s leading cultural institutions devoted to the preservation, research, interpretation, and exhibition of materials focused on African American, African Diasporan, and African experiences. As a research division of The New York Public Library, the Schomburg Center features diverse programming and collections totaling over 11 million items that illuminate the richness of global black history, arts, and culture. Learn more at schomburgcenter.org.

About The New York Public Library 

For over 125 years, The New York Public Library has been a free provider of education and information for the people of New York and beyond. With 92 locations—including research and branch libraries—throughout the Bronx, Manhattan, and Staten Island, the Library offers free materials, computer access, classes, exhibitions, programming and more to everyone from toddlers to scholars, and has seen record numbers of attendance and circulation in recent years. The New York Public Library receives approximately 18 million visits through its doors annually and millions more around the globe who use its resources at www.nypl.org. To offer this wide array of free programming, The New York Public Library relies on both public and private funding. Learn more about how to support the Library at nypl.org/support.