UofM's Hooks Institute Selects We Are an African People: Independent Education,
Black Power, and the Radical Imagination as 2016 National Book Award Winner

August 7, 2017 - The Benjamin L. Hooks Institute for Social Change at the University of Memphis has selected We Are an African People: Independent Education, Black Power, and the Radical Imagination by Russell Rickford as the winner of the 2016 Hooks National Book Award. The award annually recognizes the publication that best advances an understanding of the American civil rights movement and its legacy.

In the midst of the more well-studied educational changes of the school desegregation era, a handful of "Pan African nationalist" independent black schools emerged as an alternative mechanism for African-American uplift. We Are an African People examines the ideas and motivations behind these autonomous black institutions and places them within a broader discussion about how best to achieve liberation for the next generation of African Americans. Rickford's work expands upon the understanding of a very specific topic within the quest for the intellectual liberation of African-Americans and grapples with very broad questions about education, freedom and the diversity of viewpoints during the civil rights era.

"By focusing on schools, Rickford raises questions that continue to have relevance today, given the persistent racial disparities in American education," said Daniel Kiel, chair of the book award committee. "The story of these schools reveals so much about the range of ideas and hopes within the African-American community, and Rickford shares the story in a compelling way that is grounded in thorough research and terrific writing."

The Hooks Institute received 38 nominations for the 2016 book award from a variety of trade publishers, university presses and literary organizations. In addition to We Are An African People, the other four finalists for the 2016 award were: A Chance for Change: Head Start and Mississippi's Black Freedom Struggle by Crystal Sanders; Militant Visions: Black Soldiers, Internationalism, and the Transformation of American Cinema by Elizabeth Reich; The Revolution Has Come: Black Power, Gender, and the Black Panther Party in Oakland by Robyn Spencer; and Robert Parris Moses: A Life in Civil Rights and Leadership at the Grassroots by Laura Visser Maessen.

The judges on the Book Award Committee were Dr. Beverly Cross, holder of the Lillian and Morrie Moss Chair of Excellence in Urban Education at the University of Memphis; Dr. Ernest Gibson, assistant professor of English at Rhodes College; Dr. Aram Goudsouzian, professor and chair of the Department of History at the UofM; Dr. Daniel Kiel, associate professor of law at the UofM; and Dr. Elton Weaver III, assistant professor of history at LeMoyne-Owen College.

The 2016 National Book Award presentation, including a lecture by winning author Russell Rickford, will be held on Thursday, Oct. 19., at noon in the University Center River Room (room 300) on campus. Visit www.memphis.edu/benhooks/events for updates on the award presentation event.

For consideration of the 2017 National Book Award, one copy of the book should be submitted, postmarked by Dec. 31, to National Book Award Nomination, Benjamin L. Hooks Institute for Social Change, 107 Scates Hall, University of Memphis, Memphis, TN 38152-3530.

In 1996, University of Memphis officials received approval from the Tennessee Board of Regents to create the Benjamin L. Hooks Institute for Social Change in the College of Arts & Sciences. The mission of the Institute is teaching, studying and promoting civil rights and social change. The Hooks Institute archives include Hooks' personal papers, which are housed in the Mississippi Valley Collection in the University's McWherter Library.


Gabrielle Maxey