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Snyder Wins 2018 Francis Parkman Prize

McCabe Greer Professor of History Christina Snyder has won the 2018 Francis Parkman Prize for Great Crossings: Indians, Settlers & Slaves in the Age of Jackson (Oxford University Press, 2017). The Society of American Historians has awarded the Parkman Prize annually since 1957 to works of history published in the previous year that are distinguished by their literary merit. The Francis Parkman Prize is named for the nineteenth century historian whose books The Oregon Trail: Sketches of Prairie and Rocky Mountain Life (1849) and France and England in North America (7 vols., 1865–92) were considered to be among the first great literary works of history by an American scholar.

Great Crossings tells the story of the experimental, multicultural community of Great Crossings, Kentucky, where white settlers, Native Americans, and black slaves built a community around the country’s first federal Indian school. In the words of the prize committee, the book’s “powerful narrative…dramatically alters our understanding of Jacksonian borderlands even as it expands our picture of nineteenth-century American society writ large.” The committee also praises Snyder for crafting “a narrative that is both strongly grounded and sweepingly significant, moving from telling detail to historiographical intervention while maintaining the interpretive, analytical, and theoretical insight that marks the best historical writing.” The $2,000 Parkman Prize is one of the oldest and most prestigious book awards in the field of American history. Past winners include such eminent historians as Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., Willie Lee Rose, Eric Foner, and Drew Gilpin Faust.

Huard Passes Comprehensive Exams

Huard Passes Comprehensive Exams

PhD candidate Mallory Huard

This April, Mallory Huard, a third year graduate student in the joint History and Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies PhD program, passed her comprehensive exams. Passage of these exams means that a graduate student has completed all of the necessary preparatory coursework toward the PhD. Huard now moves to the next phase of the PhD process, during which she will complete her research and write and defend her dissertation.

Huard's dissertation will analyze U.S. imperialism in Hawai‘i from the mid-to-late nineteenth century. While scholars have focused on the role of missionaries, government officials, and the military in turning the nation of Hawai‘i into a U.S. territory in the nineteenth century, Huard will examine the impact of American commercial interests on women and family structures on the islands. Her dissertation will focus on the role of women in the twin projects of American imperialism and colonialism. Hawai‘i’s location in the middle of the Pacific made it a critical nexus in global maritime trade. Because these economic forces brought together conflicting ideologies about race, gender, and kinship, Huard argues that we ought to place a stronger emphasis on the role of business, capitalism, and labor exploitation in the story of American imperialism in Hawai‘i.

Singer Receives Welch Alumni Relations Award

Singer Receives Welch Alumni Relations Award

Barby Singer and Special Assistant to the Dean of the College of Liberal Arts Raymond Lombra at the College of Liberal Arts Alumni Awards Ceremony

The Richards Center’s Barby Singer received the Welch Alumni Relations Award for 2018 at the College of Liberal Arts’ annual Alumni Awards Ceremony on April 19. The Alumni Society established the award in 2002 to recognize Penn State faculty and staff who significantly enhance connections between the College and its alumni. The award recognizes her outstanding work in planning the Center’s annual donor events and her stewardship of the Center’s endowments. Barby joined the Richards Center in 2005, and since her arrival she has been instrumental in planning and executing the center’s programming and alumni outreach.

Kessler Earns M.A. degree

Kessler Earns M.A. degree

PhD candidate Megan Kessler

Megan Kessler, a second-year graduate student in the department of History affiliated with the Richards Center, earned her M.A. degree at the end of March. Kessler will continue her research toward her PhD degree. Her M.A. paper was titled "'This young Lady…is what all you ladies [should] be': Roman Catholic Sister Nurses and Gendered Hierarchy in the American Civil War.” Her dissertation will consider Roman Catholic nuns’ interactions with immigrant populations in the nineteenth-century United States. In this period, nuns founded and staffed hospitals, orphanages, schools, and asylums in nearly every major American city. Quite often, their patients and charges were immigrant women and girls. Their missions usually incorporated training based upon ideals propagated by the nineteenth-century ideology of domesticity. Her project will explore and question the contradictions between the ideology of domesticity promoted by nuns and their own lived experience as unmarried and childless Catholic women engaged in public work. It also will explore how immigrant women and children responded to the contradictory messages their nun caregivers propagated.

Congratulations to Sarah L. H. Gronningsater, winner of the George and Ann Richards Prize!

Sarah L. H. Gronningsater has won the George and Ann Richards Prize for the best article published in The Journal of the Civil War Era for the 2017 volume year. Three members of the editorial board selected her article, “‘On Behalf of His Race and the Lemmon Slaves’: Louis Napoleon, Northern Black Legal Culture, and the Politics of Sectional Crisis” for the $1,000 prize. The article appeared in the June issue.

Gronningsater’s essay offers a new perspective on the famous Lemmon Slave case, in which New York courts freed eight enslaved people brought to New York by Virginia slaveholders while in transit to Texas prior to the Civil War. The article recounts the little known story of African American legal activists, like the abolitionist Louis Napoleon who petitioned a New York court for the writ of habeas corpus that eventually freed the Lemmon slaves. In the words of the prize committee, Gronningsater shows how African American abolitionists like Napoleon “developed tactics to free slaves who were in transit through New York, pressed New York’s leaders to challenge the expansive property rights of southern slave owners, and creatively influenced the national debate about sectionalism. This article, in sum, is a model of legal, political, and social history told with enviable élan.”

Gronningsater is assistant professor of history at the University of Pennsylvania. Her current book manuscript, The Arc of Abolition: The Children of Gradual Emancipation and the Origins of National Freedom, is under contract with the University of Pennsylvania Press. It explores the long, legal transition from slavery to freedom in New York from the first widespread Quaker emancipations in the 1750s to the passage of the Reconstruction Amendments at the close of the Civil War.

Awarded annually, the Richards Prize recognizes the generosity of George and Ann Richards, who have been instrumental in the growth of the Richards Civil War Era Center and in the founding of The Journal of the Civil War Era.

For more information, visit


McCabe-Greer Manuscript Workshop with Dr. Patricia Marroquin Norby

The Richards Center is excited to partner with Dr. Christina Snyder, McCabe-Greer Professor in the American Civil War Era, to host an annual manuscript workshop for the Many Wests book series. Dr. Snyder serves as one of the editors of this new series, which will be published by the University of Nebraska Press. The interdisciplinary series will publish work on environmental, indigenous, borderlands, gender, social, public, and legal history of the American West. The first manuscript workshop will take place April 5 and 6, featuring Dr. Patricia Marroquin Norby, former director of the D'Arcy McNickle Center for American Indian and Indigenous Studies at the Newberry Library. She will deliver a public talk, Water, Bones, and Bombs: Twentieth-Century American Indian Art and Environmental Conflicts in the Southwest on Thursday, April 5 in the Nittany Lion Inn’s Alumni Fireside Lounge. The talk will explore how Native American artists have sought to draw attention to environmental injustice through their artwork. A workshop for Dr. Norby’s book manuscript will follow on Friday, April 6.


For more information, or to register for the event, please contact the Richards Center at Attendees must register by March 30.