Cornell University Historian Russell Rickford Wins the Hooks National Book Award

The Benjamin L. Hooks Institute for Social Change at the University of Memphis has announced that Russell J. Rickford is the winner of the 2016 Hooks National Book Award. The award is given to an author of a book that “best advances an understanding of the American civil rights movement and its legacy.”

Dr. Rickford, an associate professor of history at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, is being honored for his book, We Are an African People: Independent Education, Black Power, and the Radical Imagination (Oxford University Press, 2016).

Daniel Kiel, chair of the book award committee, stated that “by focusing on schools, Rickford raises questions that continue to have relevance today, given the persistent racial disparities in American education. 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.”

Dr. Rickford was born in Guyana. He is a magna cum laude graduate of Howard University in Washington, D.C. After taking time off to write Betty Shabazz: A Remarkable Story of Survival and Faith Before and After Malcolm X (SourceBooks, 2003), Rickford returned to school and earned a master’s degree and a Ph.D. at Columbia University. He joined the faculty at Cornell in 2014 after teaching at Dartmouth College.


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