Trinity College Professor Wins the Sixteenth Annual Frederick Douglass Book Prize

Christopher Hager (right) with filmmaker Steven Spielberg
October 27, 2014

New Haven, Conn. — Christopher Hager, Associate Professor of English at Trinity College in Hartford, has been selected as the winner of the 2014 Frederick Douglass Book Prize for his book Word By Word: Emancipation and the Act of Writing (Harvard University Press). The Douglass Prize was created jointly by Yale University’s Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, and Abolition and the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History. It is awarded annually by Yale’s Gilder Lehrman Center for the best book written in English on slavery or abolition. The $25,000 prize will be presented to Hager at a reception sponsored by the Gilder Lehrman Institute in New York City on January 29, 2015.

In addition to Hager, the other finalists for the prize were Camillia Cowling for Conceiving Freedom: Women of Color, Gender, and the Abolition of Slavery in Havana and Rio de Janeiro (University of North Carolina Press), and Alan Taylor for The Internal Enemy: Slavery and War in Virginia, 1772–1832 (W. W. Norton).

This year’s finalists were selected from a field of more than ninety books by a jury of scholars that included Fergus M. Bordewich (Jury Chair and author of America’s Great Debate), Jeannine DeLombard (University of California, Santa Barbara), and Lisa Lindsay (University of North Carolina).The winners were selected by a review committee of representatives from the Gilder Lehrman Center, the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, and Yale University.

“Christopher Hager’s Word by Word presents a profoundly original, illuminating approach to reading texts by and about enslaved African Americans,” commented the jury. “In prose that is itself remarkable for its grace and clarity, Word by Word shows how texts written—and, often, revealingly, rewritten—for particular purposes articulate their enslaved authors’ broader understandings of and investments in family, romantic love, selfhood, and politics. What emerge are the voices of highly individualized enslaved people as they negotiate intersecting networks of labor, power, and kinship.”

The Frederick Douglass Book Prize was established in 1999 to stimulate scholarship in the field of slavery and abolition by honoring outstanding books on the subject. The award is named for Frederick Douglass (1818–1895), the slave who escaped bondage to emerge as one of the great American abolitionists, reformers, writers, and orators of the nineteenth century.

The Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, and Abolition, a part of The Whitney and Betty MacMillan Center for International and Area Studies at Yale, was established in November 1998. Its mission is to promote the study of all aspects of slavery and its destruction. The Center seeks to foster an improved understanding of the role of slavery in the founding of the modern world by promoting interaction and exchange between scholars, teachers, and public historians through publications, educational outreach, and other programs and events. For further information on Gilder Lehrman Center events and programming, contact the center by phone (203) 432-3339, fax (203) 432-6943, or e-mail

The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, founded in 1994 by philanthropists Richard Gilder and Lewis Lehrman, is a New York–based national nonprofit devoted to the teaching and learning of American history. Gilder Lehrman draws on top scholars, an unparalleled collection of original historical documents, and a national network of more than 5,000 Affiliate Schools to create and provide a broad range of innovative resources, help new generations of students learn about American history in a way that is engaging and memorable, and promote critical thinking and excellent writing. To learn more, visit