1997: "Worse Than Slavery", by David M. Oshinsky
17th Annual RFK Book Award
Judges: Gail Lumet Buckley, Elizabeth Crook, Charles U. Daly, Peter S. Prescott, Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., and John Seigenthaler, Sr.
Grand Prize Winner:
Washington, D.C. (May 8, 1997) - Worse Than Slavery: Parchman Farm and the Ordeal of Jim Crow Justiceby David M. Oshinsky has won the 17th Annual Robert F. Kennedy Book Award, Edwin O. Guthman, chair of the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial, announced today.
Drawing on prison records, state archives, legislative hearings, court proceedings, folklore and the blues, Oshinksy reconstructed the harrowing history of Parchman Farm, the state penitentiary in Mississippi.Worse Than Slavery (The Free Press) provides a stark and unflinching look at a tragic episode in the chronicle of race and justice in America. This impressive work of historical scholarship reminds once again that the abolition of slavery did not end the institutionalized oppression of African-Americans.
"Robert Kennedy championed timeless principles -- among them justice, dignity and equality," said Mr. Guthman. "David Oshinsky's work takes these principles to heart and exposes one of the harshest examples of their abuse -- Parchman Farm."
"The issues of justice, race and rehabilitation were very close to Robert Kennedy's heart," said Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., founder of the Robert F. Kennedy Book Award. "In Worse Than Slavery, David Oshinsky carefully surveyed justice in Mississippi from the days of convict leasing and prison farms to the jailing of Freedom Riders in the 1960s. Conditions at Parchman have improved, but this fine work -- all the more powerful because of its cool objectivity -- recalls the legacy of racial injustice and brutality that still poisons our society."
David Oshinsky is Professor of History at Rutgers University. His project on the Parchman Penitentiary earned him a Senior Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Humanities and a visiting appointment as Distinguished Professor of History at the University of Texas, Austin.
Mrs. Robert F. Kennedy will present the awards at a ceremony hosted by The Newseum on Thursday, May 8 1997 at 6:00 p.m.
In addition, John Kenneth Galbraith will be recognized with a special Lifetime Achievement Award from the Awards committee. "No person has done more to keep alive the humane, purposeful, joyous, and ironical spirit of American liberalism than John Kenneth Galbraith," said Schlesinger. "The man who held prices under control during the war, the distinguished ambassador to India, the cherished friend and counselor of John Kennedy, he has devoted his long years to finding ways to give the abused and insulted of the world a better break in life. We honor his realism in action, his elegance in style and the undaunted idealism of his hopes for humanity."
Ambassador Galbraith is a distinguished Harvard economist and author of 20 books, including American Capitalism: The Concept of Countervailing Power, Economics and the Public Purpose, The Anatomy of Power, and most recently, The Good Society: The Humane Agenda.
Author and Historian David Oshinsky Wins 17th Annual Robert F. Kennedy Book Award
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