Harlem’s Schomburg Announces The Winner Of The Lapidus Center’s 2021 Harriet Tubman Prize

The Lapidus Center for the Historical Analysis of Transatlantic Slavery at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture is pleased to make an announcement.

They announce that Dr. Vincent Brown is the winner of the 2021 Harriet Tubman Prize for his book Tacky’s Revolt: The Story of an Atlantic Slave War (Belknap/Harvard University Press, 2020). The Harriet Tubman Prize awards $7,500 to the best nonfiction book published in the United States on the slave trade, slavery, and anti-slavery in the Atlantic World.

A jury composed of the prominent historians Drs. Herman Bennett, Stephanie Jones-Rogers, and Brooke Newman selected the winner from three finalists chosen by a national committee of librarians and scholars. In addition to Brown’s Tacky’s Revolt, the other finalists were Erika Denise Edwards’ Hiding in Plain Sight: Black Women, the Law, and the Making of a White Argentine Republic (University of Alabama Press. 2020) and Christine Walker’s Jamaica Ladies: Female Slaveholders and the Creation of Britain’s Atlantic Empire (University of North Carolina Press, 2020).

The jury commented about the winning title:

“Vincent Brown’s Tacky’s Revolt: The Story of an Atlantic Slave War…[presents] a shockingly novel view of an iconic slave rebellion, Tacky’s Revolt, which he persuasively fashions as an African war against both Atlantic enslavement and the British Empire.

Drawing on a colonial archive comprised of travel narratives, Royal African Company records, slave traders’ ledgers, Board of Trade Records, Admiralty Court Records, diaries, correspondence, administrative sources, and contemporary histories, Brown composes a thick description of African political histories, trade and naval routes, European imperial conflicts, the plantation regime, sugar cultivation, inaccessible mountains, public roads, and secret footpaths that symbiotically comprise the Atlantic world.

Simply put, Brown’s spatial reconstruction of the landscape and seascape is brilliant. It affords the reader a level of political and social contextualization that truly advances Atlantic history and the study of the African diaspora. The reader discerns how military conflicts and experience in Africa are redeployed in the Americas, thereby positioning enslaved insurgents as enemy combatants and political actors. This shift in optics is engendered by Brown’s nuanced delineation of the Atlantic and the plantation regime as a theater of war. Brown’s interpretive work, sustained by detailed readings and excavation from the source material, is truly remarkable. The reader is privy to the re-assembling of an eighteenth-century world that seems stunningly vivid, palpable, and real.”

“It is hard to imagine a higher honor than to be associated in this small and indirect way with Harriet Tubman’s legacy. Tacky’s Revolt could only ever be a partial and uncertain statement on the long history of struggle that it represents- and that General Tubman exemplified. I’m grateful to my peers for this recognition and proud to share their company as chroniclers of this continuing fight,” Dr. Brown said.

Dr. Michelle D. Commander, associate director and curator of the Lapidus Center, praised this year’s prize winner, “Dr. Vincent Brown’s Tacky’s Revolt is a marvel. This book truly expands how readers understand and scholars write and teach about the contours of enslaved people’s resistance across the Atlantic World. A groundbreaking examination, Tacky’s Revolt is written and sourced with an inimitable deftness, clarity of thought, and tremendous heart.”

Dr. Vincent Brown is the Charles Warren Professor of American History and Professor of African and African American Studies at Harvard University.

The 2021 Harriet Tubman Prize will be presented to Dr. Brown in early 2022. Details are forthcoming.

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.

Dr. Commander is the author of Afro-Atlantic Flight: Speculative Returns and the Black Fantastic, Avidly Reads Passages, and editor of Unsung: Unheralded Narratives of American Slavery & Abolition.  To learn more about the Lapidus Center, please visit lapiduscenter.org.

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.

The New York Public Library 

For 125 years, The New York Public Library has been one of the world’s leading free providers 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 serves nearly 18 million patrons who come through its doors annually and millions more around the globe who use its resources at 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.

Photo credit: Dr. Vincent Brown by Stephanie Mitchell.

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