Hooks Institute names 2016 National Book Award winner

TSD Newsroom | 8/12/2017, 11:33 a.m.
The Benjamin L. Hooks Institute for Social Change at the University of Memphis has selected “We Are an African People: ...
Russell Rickford

The Benjamin L. Hooks Institute for Social Change at the University of Memphis has selected “We Are an African People: Independent Education, Black Power, and the Radical Imagination” by Russell Rickford as the winner of the 2016 Hooks National Book Award.

The award annually recognizes the publication that best advances an understanding of the American civil rights movement and its legacy.

In the midst of the more well-studied educational changes of the school desegregation era, a handful of “Pan African nationalist” independent black schools emerged as an alternative mechanism for African-American uplift. “We Are an African People” examines the ideas and motivations behind these autonomous black institutions and places them within a broader discussion about how best to achieve liberation for the next generation of African Americans.

Rickford’s work expands upon the understanding of a very specific topic within the quest for the intellectual liberation of African-Americans and grapples with very broad questions about education, freedom and the diversity of viewpoints during the civil rights era.

“By focusing on schools, Rickford raises questions that continue to have relevance today, given the persistent racial disparities in American education,” said Daniel Kiel, chair of the book award committee. “The story of these schools reveals so much about the range of ideas and hopes within the African-American community, and Rickford shares the story in a compelling way that is grounded in thorough research and terrific writing.”

The Hooks Institute received 38 nominations for the 2016 book award from a variety of trade publishers, university presses and literary organizations. The other four finalists were: “A Chance for Change: Head Start and Mississippi’s Black Freedom Struggle” by Crystal Sanders; “Militant Visions: Black Soldiers, Internationalism, and the Transformation of American Cinema” by Elizabeth Reich; “The Revolution Has Come: Black Power, Gender, and the Black Panther Party in Oakland” by Robyn Spencer; and “Robert Parris Moses: A Life in Civil Rights and Leadership at the Grassroots” by Laura Visser Maessen.

The judges on the Book Award Committee were Dr. Beverly Cross, holder of the Lillian and Morrie Moss Chair of Excellence in Urban Education at the University of Memphis; Dr. Ernest Gibson, assistant professor of English at Rhodes College; Dr. Aram Goudsouzian, professor and chair of the Department of History at the UofM; Dr. Daniel Kiel, associate professor of law at the UofM; and Dr. Elton Weaver III, assistant professor of history at the LeMoyne-Owen College.

The 2016 National Book Award presentation, including a lecture by winning author Rickford, will be held on Oct. 19., at noon in the University Center River Room (room 300) on campus. Visit www.memphis.edu/benhooks/events for updates.