Publication Date

September 1, 1994

Perspectives Section


Society of American Historians Honors Four

The Society of American Historians awarded four prizes to historians at its annual dinner on May 12, 1994, at the Union League Club, in New York City. It awarded its thirty-seventh annual Francis Parkman Prize to David Levering Lewis for W. E. B. DuBois: Biography of a Race, 1868–1919, which was published by Henry Holt and Company in 1993. Nell Irvin Painter, Edwards professor of history at Princeton University, called the DuBois biography a “stunning achievement of research, analysis, and style” and noted that “Lewis epitomizes Francis Parkman’s great historical legacy.” David Levering Lewis is Martin Luther King, Jr., professor of history at Rutgers University and author of When Harlem Was in Vogue and an acclaimed biography of Martin Luther King, Jr.

The society awarded the Bruce Catton Prize for Lifetime Achievement in Historical Writing to John Hope Franklin. Franklin is the sixth winner of the $5,000 Catton Prize, which is sponsored by American Heritage. Franklin’s From Slavery to Freedom (1947) introduced hundreds of thousands of Americans to African American history—and to the idea that African Americans have a history. Leon Litwack of the University of California at Berkeley pointed out that in From Slavery to Freedom and other books, “Franklin cares deeply about how to communicate history, about the need to make that history available not only to historians but to a larger public. In a lifetime of writing and teaching, he has demonstrated both independence of mind and a deep respect for the complexity and integrity of the past.”

The society’s Allan Nevins Prize for the best-written dissertation in American history was awarded to Dean David Grodzins for “Theodore Parker and Transcendentalism,” a biography of one of the leaders of the transcendentalist movement. Grodzins received his Ph.D. from Harvard University in 1993. John Higham of Johns Hopkins University praised Grodzins’s biography when he noted: “Grodzins has opened his subject’s inner life and has used it to restore drama and depth to a major phase of American intellectual history.”

Walter Lord received the society’s Francis Parkman Prize for Special Achievement in “recognition of a lifetime of articulate dedication to American history,” He is the fifth person to receive the award. Among Lord’s many books are A Night to Remember (1955), Day of Infamy (1957), The Good Years (1960), A Time to Stand (1961), Incredible Victory (1967), and The Dawn’s Early Light (1972).

In the spring of 1995, the society will award the Parkman Prize, the Cooper Prize for historical fiction, and the Nevins Dissertation Prize. For details, contact Mark C. Carnes, Executive Secretary, Society of American Historians, c/o Barnard College, Columbia University, New York, NY 10027. (212) 854-2221.

The Society for the History of Discoveries

The Society for the History of Discoveries was founded in 1960 to stimulate interest in the discovery, exploration, and mapping of the earth’s land and sea surface. Today, the society has 340 members from seventeen countries and five continents. Its membership includes scholars from several academic disciplines as well as archivists, nonaffiliated scholars, and laypersons with an interest in history. The society’s fields of specialization are the history of European expansion, cartography, navigation, and colonial settlement as well as biography and bibliography.

The society sponsors several publications. All society members receive a subscription to Terrae Incognitae, the society’s journal of research papers and book reviews. Together with the Newberry Library, the society also publishes the series Studies in the History of Discovery. And the society’s spring newsletter describes society activities and reports general news about the history of cartography, discovery, and exploration.

The society’s annual meetings are typically held in the fall. They are generally hosted by a local organization, such as a university, library, or historical society. The 1994 meeting will take place from September 22 through September 24 on Mackinac Island, in Michigan, and the 1995 meeting will be held at the University of Texas at Arlington. The annual meetings, which are sometimes held jointly with kindred societies, such as the Hakluyt Society and the North American Society for Oceanic History, allow members to present, hear, and discuss papers on subjects in their fields of specialization.

The society is governed by a president, a vice president (who is also the president-elect), a secretary-treasurer, and a six-member council; all officers are elected to two-year terms (those of the council are staggered). There are four levels of A dues increase is projected for 1995. For more information about the Society for the History of Discovery, contact Eric W. Wolf, Secretary-Treasurer, 6300 Waterway Dr., Falls Church, VA 22044-1316. (703) 256-9217. E-mail:

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