Congratulations to the Winner of The Journal of the Civil War Era’s George and Ann Richards Prize

Congratulations to the Winner of The Journal of the Civil War Era’s George and Ann Richards Prize

Portrait photo of Cynthia Nicolleti.

Cynthia Nicoletti  has won the $1,000 George and Ann Richards Prize for the best article published in The Journal of the Civil War Era in 2021. The article, “William Henry Trescott: Pardon Broker,” appeared in the December 2021 issue.

Nicoletti’s essay details the efforts of William Henry Trescot, “executive agent” for South Carolina, who secured pardons in order to facilitate the restoration of land the federal government had seized from lowcountry planters during the war.  She demonstrates how Trescot’s maneuvering in the Johnson White House and with Freedmen’s Bureau officials throughout 1865 and 1866 was integral in explaining the failure of Reconstruction-era land redistribution in the United States.

In the words of the prize committee, “Nicoletti offers an important new perspective on a familiar subject: the pardoning of ex-Confederates by U.S. president Andrew Johnson. Taking a novel methodological approach to this topic, her well-written article shows the critical role that the South Carolinian William Henry Trescot played in not only encouraging Johnson’s issuance of pardons but also facilitating the restoration of land to former slaveowners in the U.S. South. In doing so, “William Henry Trescot, Pardon Broker” makes a substantial contribution to the scholarship on the Reconstruction era and strengthens our understanding of its legacies. The denial of freedpeople’s demands for land redistribution as an essential foundation of self-determination and restorative justice was far from inevitable, as Nicoletti concludes. “Instead, the nation that emerged from the struggles of the Civil War was one that was actively made by men like William Henry Trescott.”

Cynthia Nicoletti is a legal historian and professor of law at Virginia Law. Her book, Secession on Trial: The Treason Prosecution of Jefferson Davis, won the 2018 Cromwell Book Prize, given by the William Nelson Cromwell Foundation each year for excellence in scholarship to an early career scholar working in the field of American legal history.

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

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Hilary N. Green

Hilary N. Green is the James B. Duke Professor of Africana Studies at Davidson College. She previously worked in the Department of Gender and Race Studies at the University of Alabama where she developed the Hallowed Grounds Project. She earned her M.A. in History from Tufts University in 2003, and Ph.D. in History from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2010. Her research and teaching interests include the intersections of race, class, and gender in African American history, the American Civil War, Reconstruction, as well as Civil War memory, African American education, and the Black Atlantic. She is the author of Educational Reconstruction: African American Schools in the Urban South, 1865-1890 (Fordham, 2016).

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