Professor Stewart’s book recognized by Choice magazine

Choice magazine has recognized Professor of History Catherine Stewart’s book “Long Past Slavery: Representing Race in the Federal Writers’ Project” as an “Outstanding Academic Title” of 2016.

Long Past Slavery book coverAccording to the magazine, which is a publication of the Association of College and Research Libraries, its editors go through thousands of titles reviewed in the previous year. For 2016, subject editors looked at 5,500 titles and chose 500 for the prestigious list, from 48 different disciplines, representing 134 publishers. Criteria for this award include excellence in writing and scholarship, significance in terms of contribution to the field, originality, and importance for undergraduate library collections.

The Choice review called “Long Past Slavery” an important book deserving of a wide readership. It said, in part: “This excellent, penetrating study presents much-needed information about the Ex-Slave Project’s creation. Stewart’s compelling study of the contexts of the Works Progress Administration (WPA) collection of over 2,300 African Americans’ personal stories of bondage offers critical historical insight into fights over the history of chattel slavery. Examining Federal Writers’ Project records, Stewart (history, Cornell College) deftly peels back the layers of the competing racial agendas that gave shape to the WPA’s ex-slave narratives and subsequent histories of slavery.”

Professor Catherine Stewart
Professor Catherine Stewart

Readers can purchase the book on Amazon.

Stewart’s book tells the story of the Federal Writers’ Ex-Slave Project, which was a New Deal effort to interview the last generation of ex-slaves during the Great Depression. The start of the Project in 1936 coincided with the nation’s 75th anniversary of the Civil War. As a result, the Ex-Slave Project was fraught with conflict over which version of the past would be valorized as part of the nation’s official public memory. The interviews themselves became a forum for debating African American identity and citizenship in the 1930s, at a time when racial segregation and lynching still predominated.

Catherine Stewart is Professor of History at Cornell College in Mount Vernon, Iowa, where she teaches courses in late 19th and 20th-century U.S. social and cultural history, such as The Documentary Imagination during the Great Depression, Public Memory and Public History, Work and Leisure in Modern America, Reel History: The Cold War and American Film, and African American Autobiography and Film. She is currently working on her next book, which focuses on African American women and household labor during the Great Depression.