Historian Mia Bay Wins Bancroft Prize

Mia Bay, Roy F. and Jeannette P. Nichols Professor of American History

Mia Bay, Roy F. and Jeannette P. Nichols Professor of American History, has won this year’s Bancroft Prize for her book, Traveling Black: A Story of Race and Resistance. The prize is considered one of the most prestigious honors in the field of American history. Columbia University’s Mae Ngai was the other recipient, for her book, The Chinese Question: The Gold Rushes and Global Politics.

Traveling Black explores when, how, and why racial restrictions took shape across transportation methods from stagecoaches to planes, and brilliantly portrays what it was like to live with them. The book was described by the jury as “a major intervention in our understanding of the civil rights movement and the everyday life of racial domination,” which draws on “exhaustive and imaginative research in trade publications, litigation records, memoirs, oral histories and the press.”

“Mia Bay’s splendid and pathbreaking research lays bare the routine strictures experienced by Black Americans in their efforts to move about the country on trains, buses, and automobiles,” said Jeffrey Kallberg, Associate Dean for Arts and Letters at Penn Arts & Sciences. “Traveling Black not only explores and explicates the effects of Jim Crow laws in a troubling era of the past, it sheds light on Black Americans’ current struggles for equality in the public sphere.”

A well-recognized scholar of late modern American intellectual and cultural history with a focus on African American history, Bay came to Penn from Rutgers University, where she served as Professor of History and Director of the Rutgers Center for Race and Ethnicity. She is the author of two other books, and the recipient of numerous other honors, awards, and grants, including a Mellon Sawyer Seminar Grant, an Alphonse Fletcher Sr. Fellowship, a National Humanities Center Fellowship, and an American Council of Learned Societies Fellowship.

The Bancroft, which includes an award of $10,000, was established in 1948 by the trustees of Columbia University, with a bequest from the historian Frederic Bancroft. Books are evaluated for “the scope, significance, depth of research, and richness of interpretation.”

To read more about Traveling Black, click here.


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