UofM’s Hooks Institute Announces "Soul City" by Thomas Healy as the 2021 Hooks National Book Award Winner  

Oct. 25, 2022 — The Benjamin L. Hooks Institute for Social Change at the University of Memphis has selected “Soul City: Race, Equality, and the Lost Dream of an American Utopia” by Thomas Healy, Esq., (Metropolitan Books) as the 2021 Hooks National Book Award winner.  

The book award is presented in partnership with Memphis Public Libraries. Healy will be recognized and discuss his book on Nov. 15 at 6 p.m. via Facebook Live on the Hooks Institute’s Facebook Page

“Thomas Healy’s Soul City stood out among a strong collection of finalists for its beautiful but tragic chronicle of a virtually forgotten manifestation of civil rights ideology, the decade-long attempt to construct a prosperous city from the ground up that was built around racial equality but rooted in black economic prosperity,” says Terrence Tucker, associate professor in the UofM Department of English and chair of the Hooks National Book Award committee. 

“The audacity of Floyd McKissick’s dream mixes the hope of the Civil Rights Movement with the black nationalist dream of a separate black nation. The book reverses the assumption of the North as a promised land for African Americans by countering the northern urban riots of the late 1960s with a story of the promise and demise of an American utopia in rural North Carolina. Recalling the attempts to establish African American towns during Reconstruction and anticipating the remigration of African Americans to the South in the late 20th and early 21st century, the book details the impact of institutional racism on the continued attempts at multiracial democracy.”  

About “Soul City: Race, Equality, and the Lost Dream of an American Utopia”  

In 1969, with America’s cities in turmoil and racial tensions high, civil rights leader Floyd McKissick announced an audacious plan — he would build a new city in rural North Carolina, open to all but intended primarily to benefit Black people. Named Soul City, the community secured funding from the Nixon administration, planning help from Harvard University and the University of North Carolina and endorsements from the New York Times and the Today Show. Before long, the brand-new settlement — built on a former slave plantation — had roads, houses, a health care center and an industrial plant. By the year 2000, projections said, Soul City would have 50,000 residents. But the utopian vision was not to be. Battered from the left and the right, Soul City was shut down after just a decade. Was it an impossible dream from the beginning? Or a brilliant idea thwarted by prejudice and ignorance? And how might America be different today if Soul City had been allowed to succeed?  

About Thomas Healy  

Thomas Healy, Esq., is a professor of law at the Seton Hall University School of Law. He researches and writes in the fields of constitutional law, freedom of speech, legal history, civil rights and federal courts. His book "The Great Dissent: How Oliver Wendell Holmes Changed His Mind — and Changed the History of Free Speech in America" won the Robert F. Kennedy Book Award, was selected as a New York Times Book Review editor's choice and was named one of the fifteen best non-fiction books of 2013 by the Christian Science Monitor. Professor Healy has received a Guggenheim Fellowship and a Public Scholar Grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. He has also been a Sheila Biddle Ford Foundation Fellow at the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research at Harvard University and a visiting fellow at the Center for the Study of Law and Culture at Columbia Law School.  

About the Hooks National Book Award  

The Hooks Institute’s National Book Award is presented to a non-fiction book published in the calendar year that best furthers understanding of the American civil rights movement and its legacy. The 2021 finalists for the award were chosen from 43 books that were nominated. In addition to “Soul City,” the finalists included:  

· The Citizenship Education Program and the Black Women's Political Culture by Dr. Deanna Gillespie, University Press of Florida  

· Until I Am Free: Fannie Lou Hamer's Enduring Message to America by Dr. Keisha Blain, Beacon Press  

· Walk With Me: A Biography of Fannie Lou Hamer by Dr. Kate Clifford Larson, Oxford University Press  

· The Young Crusaders: The Untold Story of the Children and Teenagers Who Galvanized the Civil Rights Movement by Dr. V.P. Franklin, Beacon Press  

Hooks National Book Award Committee  

The Hooks Institute extends its gratitude to the 2021 Hooks National Book Award committee. In addition to Tucker, it includes Dr. Beverly Cross, Lillian and Morrie Moss Chair of Excellence in Urban Education at the UofM; Dr. Charles McKinney, associate professor of History at Rhodes College; Dr. Ladrica Menson-Furr, assistant dean of the UofM College of Arts and Sciences, associate professor of English and director of African and African American Studies; and Dr. Ladonna Young, Educational Consultant and Hooks Institute Board Member. For more information, visit memphis.edu/benhooks/programs/book-award.php.