For the best new book in African American history and culture

The Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH) awards an annual prize to recognize an outstanding book in the field of African American history and culture. Books must engage archives in order to be eligible for consideration, however, the book prize committee invites submissions from across disciplinary and interdisciplinary boundaries.

The ASALH Book Prize committee is interested in projects that model rigorous and imaginative approaches to this field of study; books that are beautifully written; books that have clear implications for how we teach and represent specific aspects of African American history and culture; books that have the capacity to introduce important aspects of African American experiences to broad publics; books that use sharp analyses of African American history and culture to speak boldly to the contemporary moment; books that engage with new and/or previously underutilized archives; and books that use particular experiences in African American history and culture to illuminate universal aspects of the human experience.

NOTE: ASALH also co-sponsors an annual book award with the American Historical Association. This is the Wesley-Logan Prize for historical scholarship on the African Diaspora

Selection Committee: co-chairs Kellie Carter-Jackson (Assoc. Professor, Wellesley College) and Russell Rickford (Assoc. Professor, Cornell University), and jurors Jelani Favors (Professor, North Carolina A&T University), Hilary Green (Professor, Davidson College), and Shannon King (Assoc. Professor, Fairfield University).

The 2024 ASALH Book Prize Finalists. Winner to be announced during Black History Month 2024

The First Migrants by Richard Edwards and Jacob K. Friefeld

The First Migrants recounts the largely unknown story of Black people who migrated from the South to the Great Plains between 1877 and 1920 in search of land and freedom. They exercised their rights under the Homestead Act to gain title to 650,000 acres, settling in all of the Great Plains states. Some created Black homesteader communities such as Nicodemus, Kansas, and DeWitty, Nebraska, while others, including George Washington Carver and Oscar Micheaux, homesteaded alone…

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Merze Tate by Barbara D. Savage

Barbara Savage’s lucid and skilled rendering of Tate’s story is built on more than a decade of research. Tate’s life and work challenge provincial approaches to African American and American history, women’s history, the history of education, diplomatic history, and international thought. This book revives and critiques Tate’s prolific and prescient body of scholarship, with topics ranging from nuclear arms limitations to race and imperialism in Asia, the Pacific, and Africa. Her quest for adventure took her on extensive trips throughout Europe…

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Dancing Down the Barricades by Matthew Frye Jacobson

A deep dive into racial politics, Hollywood, and Black cultural struggles for liberation as reflected in the extraordinary life and times of Sammy Davis Jr. Through the lens of Sammy Davis Jr.’s six-decade career in show business—from vaudeville to Vegas to Broadway, Hollywood, and network TV—Dancing Down the Barricades examines the workings of race in American culture. The title phrase holds two contradictory meanings regarding Davis’s cultural politics: Did he…

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I Saw Death Coming by Kidada E. Williams

The story of Reconstruction is often told from the perspective of the politicians, generals, and journalists whose accounts claim an outsized place in collective memory. But this pivotal era looked very different to African Americans in the South transitioning from bondage to freedom after 1865. They were besieged by a campaign of white supremacist violence that persisted through the 1880s and beyond. For too long, their lived experiences have been sidelined, impoverishing our understanding of the obstacles post-Civil War Black families faced…

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Cross-Border Cosmopolitans by Wendell Nii Laryea Adjetey

By contending that twentieth-century global Black liberation movements began within the U.S.-Canadian borderlands as cross-border, continental struggles, Cross-Border Cosmopolitans reveals the revolutionary legacies of the Underground Railroad and America’s Great Migration and the hemispheric and transatlantic dimensions of this history. African American history from 1900 to 2000 cannot be told without accounting for the significant influence of…

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Fit Citizens by Ava Purkiss

In the first historical study of Black women’s exercise, Ava Purkiss reveals that physical activity was not merely a path to self-improvement but also a means to expand notions of Black citizenship. Through this narrative of national belonging, Purkiss explores how exercise enabled Black women to reimagine Black bodies, health, beauty, and recreation in the twentieth century. Fit Citizens places Black women squarely within the history of American physical fitness and sheds light on how African Americans gave new meaning to the concept of exercising citizenship…

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America's Black Capital by Jeffery O. G. Ogbar

Atlanta is home to some of America’s most prominent Black politicians, artists, businesses, and HBCUs. Yet, in 1861, Atlanta was a final contender to be the capital of the Confederacy. Sixty years later, long after the Civil War, it was the Ku Klux Klan’s sacred “Imperial City.” America’s Black Capital chronicles how a center of Black excellence emerged amid virulent expressions of white nationalism, as African Americans pushed back against Confederate ideology to create an achievement. What drove them, historian Jeffrey O. G. Ogbar shows…

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Consent in the Presence of Force by Emily A. Owens

Owens centers the survival strategies and intellectual labor of Black women enslaved in New Orleans to unravel the culture of violence they endured, in which slaveholders obscured “the presence of force” with arrangements that included gifts and money. Owens’s storytelling highlights that the classic formulation of rape law that requires “the presence of force” and “the absence of consent” to denote a crime was in fact a key legal fixture that packaged predation as pleasure and produced…

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Books with a 2023 copyright date are eligible for the 2024 award. Bound page proofs can be considered for books published after October 2023 (though published book should be mailed to jurors by January 1, 2024).

  1. Book nominations can be made by an author or by a university or trade press publisher. Publishers may submit multiple entries.
  2. Textbooks, juvenile literature, documentary collections, fiction, poetry, and collections of essays are not eligible.

Submission Process

  1. Submit book titles using the link below. Deadline for submission of book titles is September 15, 2023. (No book will be considered without the book submission form)
  2. All books must be received by book prize jurors by October 15, 2023. Instructions for mailing books to jurors will be communicated shortly after title submission deadline.

For more information about The ASALH Book Prize visit:
or contact: [email protected]