tv Bancroft Prize for History CSPAN May 21, 2022 7:01pm-8:06pm EDT
hello and welcome to our first ever bancroft prize celebration in this wonderful new venue. columbia's libraries are delighted to co-sponsor tonight's events with the forum. we are also very pleased to be partnering once again with the columbia university department of history. our long-standing collaborators for this distinguished award annually conferred by a jury of
american historians on their esteemed colleagues. every year the columbia history department chooses a preeminent historian from its ranks. to chair a panel of jurors selected from among the finest scholars in the field and representing a diversity of institutions. we are excited to let you know that c-span's american history tv is joining our bancroft prize partnership. and will air the live stream of tonight's program. we are so thrilled to be back together again. in person as well as virtually to present a program this evening, which has been thoroughly reimagined in format and content. taking stock of the experience of the past two years and all that we have learned about the history of this country as well as how that history is told and understood.
throughout the pandemic libraries helped ensure that collections were available for classroom teaching and scholarship. by accelerating access transferring labor to new services on an emergency basis. dedicated library workers found innovative ways to provide collections to researchers and students. enabling academic and intellectual life to continue while pushing to reopen our physical facilities to users quickly and safely. the role of libraries and collecting preserving describing and making accessible historical traces of the past and books archives and other materials has never been more vital. the centrality of the book
especially the superb scholarly works researched and written by our winning authors and the new understandings created through their contributions is what we are here to celebrate. we want to take a special opportunity to introduce you to the winners of the 2020 and 2021 bancroft prizes. and to hear their reflections on the works that they produced and what the prize means to them. we thank them for their patients in a waiting proper public recognition of their achievement and for their willingness to be an active part of this year's celebrations.
i'm delighted on the winners of the 2020 bancroft prize a year in which the covid-19 pandemic made an impossible to do so properly. the bank corporation were elizabeth cole for saving america's cities ed load in the struggle to renew urban america in the suburban age joseph reid for his book illusions of emancipation the pursuit of freedom and equality in the twilight slavery in which the prize committee considered a banner year for american historical scholarship. i'm so pleased to honor the winners the 2021 bancroft prize who is certainly an unusual year with the members of the awards committee meeting virtually. in many ways having the responsibility to read the hundreds of contributions and to meet every two or three weeks to winner the list down helped all of us get through the terrible days with pandemic after always
said and done we agreed two books stood out andy horowitz katrina a history 1915 2015 claudio sant unworthy republic the dispossession of native americans and the road in indian territory together both books reveal the ways forms of racism play tragic roles in our nation's history. on behalf of the committee. i want to congratulate the two winners. here, but i had a very important story to tell of how cities came to be the way they are today, but i wanted to write a book that the general reader would find accessible and enjoy and so i decided to focus the book around an individual who had had power and influence to shape cities over this post world war two period i wanted my work to
show the best of style as well as the best of analysis organization and command of the subject matter many people of us are hungry for things that make sense, you know to try to make sense of a very confusing and difficult and often painful present. and serious history as the opportunity to try to make sense of the complicated. world and so just doing that that legwork sitting in the archives for week after week month after month and actually year after year to be able to tell a story and all of its richness and to get that story right i think is extraordinarily valuable and and that's really i think that's the job of a historian to find a work that i had really labored on for so long. so well received was really very
significant to me. it's especially thrilling to be honored by peers for your work and given that the bancroft prize. is a prize that's awarded by historians for what the jury considers to be the best of the work by fellow historians during that year. it comes as a real honor before i got to join this. funny club when i would have speakers come to campus when i invited people to come, you know for the few that had won the bancroft prize before they often have cvs that are much more distinguished than mine. and i have this. thing that i say which is if i named all the awards they want it would take up all the time allotted for them to speak, but we always have to mention if they've won the bankrupt prize because that's the big one. so having said that, you know, three or four times in my career before i was sort of stunned that now it applied to to me as well. i just remember as a graduate
student being assigned books and seeing on the back that it won the bandcraft and that was always the kind of ultimate stamp of approval and you know, never i did i imagine that my book one day have the same stand. so it's just a kind of wonderful recognition by the profession of the value and importance of the book. the banker of dissertation award is given annually. to an outstanding dissertation in american history diplomacy or international affairs the 2020 winner of the bankrupts association award for dissertation defended in 2019 was david allen for a dissertation titled every citizen estatesman building a democracy for foreign policy in the american century. that 2021 winner of the bank of desertational award for a dissertation defended in 2020
was stephen coote for dissertation titled the suburban church catholic parishes and politics and metropolitan, new york 1945 through 1985. i would like to extend my warmest congratulations to the winners of the banker of dissertation awards for the years 2020 and 2021. we are certain that we will continue to hear. the future about your many academic successes. please welcome george chauncey to which clinton professor of american history and chair of this year's bancroft prize jury. welcome everyone. it's wonderful to be together with you in person and a great to see so many people who've shown up to join join an honoring these outstanding historians. i'd like to begin actually by
asking the 2020 and 2021 winners to finally stand for around of applause. you've waited long enough, i think. if you so i've been asked to say a few words about the plan for this evening's program and about the jury's deliberation. four introducing this year's two winners. and thornton and her colleagues at the library have reimagined the bankrupt program this year in order to give us an opportunity to engage more deeply with the substance of the work that we're honoring. so the centerpiece to the program after my remarks will be two conversations between the two other members of the jury and the two award winners, which will give us a chance to hear me
abey and may and i reflect on the of their work? as for the jury every year a historian at columbia is asked to chair the jury. and the chairs first task is to recruit to other members. there's no rule requiring this but customarily the three jurors collectively have expertise in early america the 19th century and the 20th. and it was my very good fortune to be able to persuade to remarkable historians to serve with me this year. our early americanist was mary bilder the founders professor of law at boston college law school. her award-winning books include madison's hand revising the constitution which won the 2016 bancroft prize. the transatlantic constitution colonial legal culture and empire and the just published book female genius eliza harriet
and george washington at the dawn of the constitution. among her many other accomplishments. she was also a leader of the team that prepared the digital exhibit website on robert morris lawyer and activist. martha jones the society of black alumni presidential professor professor of history and professor of the snf agora institute at the johns hopkins university. was our 19th century historian, although her work ranges widely beyond that century. the past co-president of the berkshire conference of women historians she's the author of or editor of several prize-winning books. including birthright citizens a history of race and rights and antebellum america. and vanguard, how black women broke barriers won the vote and insisted on equality for all. among her many awards.
i am pleased to say that she has most recently been named by the columbia graduate school of arts and sciences as the 2022 recipient of the deans award for distinguished achievement. so she'll be back here at the forum next month to receive an award rather than bestow one. martha and mary were fantastic colleagues to work with which was good because there was a lot of work. with more than 200 submissions to read this year. i signed each of us a third of the books about 70 apiece to give us a first read. then each of us advanced a few books to the long short list, which we all read very carefully and discussed before agreeing on a short list, which we read more closely still and disgust again before making our final selections. so, okay, none of us had a particularly exciting winter
break this year. what those meetings some of which lasted three to five hours? were exhilarating. i don't know about you, but when i began this career. i thought talking about interesting books with smart. knowledgeable people would be what i spent most of my time doing. it turns out this is not what happens at most meetings. i attended columbia. but we three got to participate in an incredibly rewarding advanced field seminar. and i still treasure the brilliance of their observations and the intensity of our conversations. in september at our first meeting we discussed what we thought was distinctive about the bancroft. the prizes he just heard was established in 1948 with the bequest from frederick bancroft. the sign of a wealthy abolitionist family in ohio who
received an ab from amherst and a phd from columbia but never held a permanent academic position. a scholar who in his twenties in the 1880s traveled across the south to interview formerly enslaved people. the author of an influential 1931 book on the southern slave trade which rebuked the apologist literature of his day and remained the standard work on the subject for decades. and something that i think might be worth pondering more. a lifelong bachelor who was known for his wit and as a bon vivant. who was free to leave two million dollars to columbia and part because he had no heirs. now why is it that over the last 75 years the fangraph has become widely regarded by historians as the most esteemed and coveted prize in us history.
we agreed with the people. you just heard that it's because the bancroft is regarded as the historians prize for historians. that meant that we looked of course for graceful and engaging writing. that would make a book engaging and accessible to a non-professional reader. but writing a crossover book was not a criterion. the underline scholarship was we look for wide-ranging and imaginative research. for the originality scope and significance of the historic graphic intervention. for narrative structures that convey the complexity of historical processes. for books in short that exemplified the best of the historian's craft and modeled new directions for its future. it was not easy to select winners out of more than 200 submissions in a strong and diverse field. but by the end of our
deliberations, we emphatically and unanimously agreed on which two books should win. this year's bancroft prizes and american history and diplomacy. mia bayes traveling black and may 9 the chinese question. both of these books are stunningly researched and beautifully written. and both make remarkable and wide-ranging interventions in the historiography. and although we had not made this a criterion for selection. we were struck as well by how these two books illuminate some of the most wrenching issues we face in the present. by illuminating the nation's past they give us new insight for instance. and to how the tragic police shootings and black drivers who've cars have been pulled off the road by police. reflect a much longer history of a hyper policing of black
mobility and how the recent horrifying wave of assaults and asian-americans and subway platforms streets and a workplaces. and the blame assign them for a global pandemic. grow out of a much longer history of the demonization of the chinese as a dangerous race of permanent outsiders. we need to know this history and order to reckon with it and overcome it. there's even more urgent that we embrace and champion such historical scholarship at a time when school boards and state legislatures across the country are rushing to restrict how history has taught and to suppress uncomfortable truths about our nation's past. which can only imperil us by postponing that reckoning. this is not why we chose these books.
but it is one reason i value them all the more. thank you. now now on to the main event, we will begin with a conversation between martha jones and mia bay the nichols professor of history at the university of pennsylvania. so while they approach the stage and settle down, let me read an excerpt from our citation for traveling black a story of race and resistance published by the bell not press of harvard university press. mia bay's traveling black mobilizes innovative research elegant pros and incisive analysis to make a major intervention in our understanding of the civil rights movement and the everyday life of racial domination. her sweeping analysis gracefully and expertly moves from the mid 19th century to the mid 20th.
and from one dominant mode, we're transportation to the next. drawing on her exhaustive and imaginative research and trade publications litigation records memoirs oral histories and the press she vividly depicts the restrictions in dignities and terror faced by black travelers on street cars trains automobiles and airplanes. and then we're away stationed waiting rooms gas stations and airports. she develops a complex and nuanced analysis of the multiple actors constructing and enforcing transit segregation. from state legislators ticket agents and drivers to the white passengers who buy violently ejected black from segregated spaces. she also constructs a striking new narrative of the century-long black freedom struggle by resurrecting the stories of fledging local
lawyers as well as naacp litigators. multiracial freedom writers as well as progressive federal officials and countless unintended activist elite black travelers students domestic workers and factory workers alike. who wrote letters of complaint filed lawsuits and sometimes literally clung to their seats to resist jim crow. please join me in congratulating me of a. good evening, mia. good evening. congratulations on all the success for traveling black. we're so honored to have you this evening. i have a few questions.
all right. well, thank you and thank the judges and thank everyone for being here delighted to take your questions. so one of the things i think i know about this book is that you were actually working on another book when you turned to the subject of segregated transportation. maybe a way to begin is to ask you what drew you to make that turn into change mid. mean to write traveling black i was kind of haunted from writing a biography of ida b wells or it sort of actually started while i was writing that biography. she becomes activist when she's thrown out of a lady's car on a tennessee train and to me it kind of her experience summed up the whole dilemma for black women in the 19th century. you can't ride in a lady's car if you're black. like what's you know, that's an intersection of race and gender in real time. but it also raised questions
about you know how segregation got to be invented and you know, there's a big debate over its origins and so forth, but i wanted to know like how did it go to buses? because one thing you can see in these stories of people actually traveling is that you know, it segregation doesn't grow naturally. it's made by people and under specific circumstances, so i became curious and i was also curious because before wells was riding in a lady's car. she was writing me riding on a mule like literally the railroads came to tennessee during her lifetime. so there's this transportation revolution. there's this revolution of freedom. how are these things intersecting and i just started to do research. i have a habit of what i call productive procrastination when i'm working on something that i'm not supposed to be working on but at least i'm working on something and that's how this book started and it just kept
growing until finally it kind of had to be moved to the front burner because i had so many books about railroads and gas stations and the like in my apartment that i was afraid, you know. it was going to completely overcome me. so that's how it moved. well a bit later this evening. i'll let folks ask you about the book got moved to the back burner, but i think is now on the front burner, but i want to ask you a little bit about your s because one of the things one of the ways we know you as as an intellectual historian historian of ideas and an ambitious ones sometimes in an orthodox one, but this book was different. it was a different kind of research that you had to engage in in order to tell the story of traveling black you say a little bit about the research itself. yeah. now i've been thinking about that and i think again the bridge was sort of thinking about i'd be wells in the life
of a particular person because i was interested in wells because she was a thinker but unlike a lot of european thinkers. she was not an educated woman. so i really had to think about where she got her ideas and and the lived experience and kind of because she was also person that didn't leave a lot of papers try to walk in her shoes in the way of research and i think that kind of began to reshape a little bit of how i do intellectual history just kind of sense that i need to like understand people's experience on the ground as much as possible. but the other thing that i would say that i've also thought in relationship to the work of my friend burl satter who else moved from intellectual history to other kinds of history. is that intellectual historians look for patterns? and you know that can apply to lots of forms of history and certainly what i was looking for and studying transportation is what's the overall pattern here?
so if there was a pattern it unfolds across an ambitious 100 plus years of traveling black. my next question is not a fair one, but i imagine it's on other folks mind, which is what did you want us to take away, right? we are many of us students of the modern civil rights movement many of us students of the long black freedom struggle, but you had something else to say something new to say, what did you want to take away from this book? i'm gonna guess i think i wanted to take away an observation. a lot of people have been making about just how long the long civil rights movement is. and also perhaps in thinking about segregation think about the ways in which jim crow laws take shape in part because of black agency everything, you
know black people try to ride buses. that's when they have to pass the laws. so there's this kind of dynamic which i think sometimes got a little bit lost in studies of segregation that sort of debated when it started. so i think you have to sort of follow what's happening on the ground not just in the courts and see what's happening. i think you do that really well because one of the things you are we learn in this book is a storyteller so our time is brief, but you want to share just a a story that either. captures that or at least encourages the folks who haven't to pick up traveling black and read it. yeah sure one of the remarkable things about researching and writing this book. it's each chapter even when i thought i had finished researching i would discover
something. i hadn't quite understood until i was sort of narrating. and my mind would be blown and in the trains chapter the the primary thing was the phenomenon of the jim crow car crash, which i had sort of gotten an inkling of only and sort of noticing for many years that black newspapers kept account of how many white people and how many black people died in train. just which i thought with kind of odd, but it wasn't until i finally zeroed and on some specific documents that i understood what everyone knew back then which is that in the early 20th century is the railroads updated their equipment and made most passenger cars into all metal cars. they moved all the wooden cars into the jim crow slot so that when you had train crashes oftentimes, the only people would be injured with the people riding in the old. wooden jim crow car, which would collapse like an accordion and
everyone knew this and i did find letters of complaint to railroad commissions. and it was just something that it just took a while to figure out because nobody had ever ridden about it. part of what you do? so well, i think is narrowed those stories from the vantage point of black travelers, right and as contrasted with the liability concerns of railroad operators or the juris prudential concerns of judges, and it makes for a really riveting and powerful story. one of the things i think you and i and many of us share is having been working in real time. through extraordinary if not,
see changes extraordinary defining moments in our collective history. don't worry. i'm not going to ask you about covid. but i do want to ask you about the summer of 2020. because you are working on this book at a moment when many of us are indeed confined at home at work on our books, but many of us are also in streets. george floyd has been murdered in minneapolis, minnesota in so many of our cities protests erupt not only to decry floyd's death but to decry the long practice of police violence. so there you are at your computer thinking about this long history of transportation, and i think what i wanted to
know was how that changes you how the changes your thinking about. this book changes your sensibility of what this book needs to say to us not only about the past but about the present. i think it. amplif things that i had already been thinking i started this book around the time of katrina and the images of all the black people stranded in the super bone made me realize that this book had to come into the present day, but the black lives matter protests starting in 2014 and the sort of rolling out of news about the role of traffic stops the role of unjust policing all of this sort of made it even more important to amplify that to think about that to talk about the various people. people who had died during traffic stops the ways in which modern day driving. is so problematic in the ways in
which this sort of victories of the civil rights movement are kind of pyrrich when it comes to transportation, so that much it very much shapes the ending and it actually shapes the way i talk about this book today. i have to think it's been one of the reasons why readers have come to this book right with in such numbers and what's such intensity right is trying to understand how we got where we are. yeah, and i think it also i mean the thing about transportation and infrastructure is there things we often take for granted and don't pay much attention to and the book really urges people to sort of look around you. who are you traveling with under what circumstances what does it mean to be in first class? who's there? and then how does this play out? because travel is a time of great vulnerability. i mean, it's more it's very important that we can go to the bathroom or get something to eat and stuff like that and it's invisible when it goes well and very visible when it goes badly.
i think we're all living right through exactly that moment as we sit here. so, let me ask one more question before we wrap up and i'm going to borrow from justice soon to be justice. gatanji brown jackson who has been in her public remarks talking about the women on who's shoulders she stands as she has risen to the us supreme court. it's a metaphor. i would say black women often offer up as a way of offering appreciation offering. thanks acknowledging right how we come to be where we are. so that's my question. you how would you help us understand the shoulders on which you stand tonight?
i think i stand on the shoulders of a lot of storytellers and activists, you know, one of the striking things about researching this book was just the sheer amount of testimony the letters to the naacp the letters to the editor people wanted to record these experiences they and they wanted to change them and you know, it was a story that was waiting to be told and i really just have so much admiration for how long and hard people thought it talk me something about activism, which i try to share with people which is it's a long game like there were people who saw no success and their generation and people just keep fighting. or mia, i want to thank you very much. congratulations again on the bancroft prize and thank you for traveling black. it'll be with us for a very long time. thank you.
it was a great conversation. thank you. and it's my now my happy duty to introduce the conversation between mary builder and may 9 the lung family professor of asian american studies and professor of history at columbia university. and while they're settling in here's part of our citation for the chinese question the gold rushes and global politics published by ww, norton. main eyes extraordinary book shows us how the chinese question animated debates about race national belonging and imperial relations across the anglophone world in the second half of the 19th century. following the discovery of rich veins of gold which drew tens of thousands of chinese and other migrants to california,
australia and south africa. beginning in the sierra madre foothills of california and in china's guandong province from which most minors came now i provides the richly textured social history of how chinese migrants were recruited. labored and relied on secret brotherhoods and mutual benefits societies to adjudicate internal disputes. and defend their collective interest. everywhere, the chinese migrants went white workers came to regard them as a threat to their livelihood. drawing on her prodigious archival research on five continents and an astonishing command of several national historiographies. and i provides thick descriptions of how anti-chinese ideology and political mobilization. varied in the united states south african australia, depending on the circumstances of the immigrants arrival local histories of unfree labor and
relations between white settlers and indigenous communities. the transnational spread of information about previous struggles and the opportunistic political calculations of countless officials including california's first, governor. powerfully argued stunningly researched and elegantly written this book models the immense value of placing us history and both a transnational and comparative context. above all the chinese question brilliantly shows us how much of the white anglo-american world came to view the chinese his racially unassimble and threatening people. erase theory that shaped the development of global capitalism. prompted exclusionary immigration policies and i argues hansa still please join me in congratulating. may i?
well, congratulations may just wonderful. i one of the things that george didn't mention was one of the great benefits in addition to wonderful controversation. is that at the end of the year? you're so much smarter than you were at the beginning. i don't think i've i don't think i've learned as much in the past year since my general exams and your book was just just wonderful and i'm delighted to have this time to talk about your book i think back to decades ago to your first book, which also won major prizes impossible subjects and i think about the influence and the impact you've had in so many areas of american political history transnational history asian american history immigration history, and and sometimes we think story as well. you've done that and then you expect someone to write a kind of like here's this a little book and instead this book pushes an entirely different
directions. so incredibly imaginative and a completely new approach. i think to all sorts of different topics, but one of the really lovely things about the book is you begin the book telling a story about how you came to write the book which i know we have some students in the audience and it's just a wonderful sort of way in which teaching does matter in writing books. and so maybe you can share that story with us. well first, thank you mary, and i want to thank the jury and also congratulate mia. yes this started when i had a student who wrote a paper about politics in california in the 19th century and the student wrote that the chinese workers were coolies or indentured or like slaves. and i knew this wasn't true, but i had a hard time correcting them it. their fault because most of the literature on the 19th century and on chinese had this idea and it was something that was not only a myth perpetuated by
politicians in the 19th century in order to gain, you know competitive advantage, but it was something repeated by historians down the line and so the book started with a vow on my part that i was going to slay the cooling myth. yeah, i think i just think for historians. it's such a wonderful example of how our day-to-day teaching and the interaction with students really does show up in in these questions that keep bothering you but the title so provocative the chinese question. can you tell us a little bit about what you meant by that title and why you chose it? well in the 19th century people often referred to a complicated social issue as a question. there was a -- question, you know, sick the woman questioned. jewish question and these were all questions about minority communities and how did they fit into a democratic society? these are questions of you know
modern capitalism in the 19th century and the chinese question was simply our chinese people a threat to white men's countries and they did speak at themselves as white men's countries throughout the anglo-american world in the united states. they were a little more polite about it, but they meant the same thing. and so our chinese a threat to democracies and should they therefore be excluded and that was the question that was debated that was alleged and that was fought over not only in the united states but in the british settler colonies. yeah, i mean one of the things that's really incredible about the book is and particularly i think coming at it from a person who's used to the colonial period it was so nice to see a book in the 19th and 20th century really taking seriously the long legacy of settler colonialism and and thinking about it in a in a global sense and we were in awe of the
research that underpins the book you had multiple continents multiple languages multiple national stories. multiple historicographies. i think for many of us ordinary historians one of those would have been sufficient to master, but can you talk a little bit about some of the challenges because i know in particularly at the end of the book you talk about some of the challenges and writing the book, right? yes. it was sometimes i thought i'd bitten off more than i could chew that's certainly the case it took a very long time to complete the research. i think the biggest challenge was the historic graphical one because i'm trained as a us historian i had to learn about australian history i had to learn about about modern chinese history about african. a that was a real challenge. so people have mentioned their oral's exams. it was like preparing field new fields for an oral's exam. so i did a tremendous amount of
reading and i also relied on colleagues in those fields who are experts who pointed me to books to read pointed me to sauces sources who read my drafts and corrected my errors. so i think that was probably the greatest challenge. i mean if you have funds and colombia is very generous in the sense and i had research fellowships, you know, you can get on a plane well back then you could get on a plane and go to australia or south africa and that was interesting, you know to see the different kinds of archival. a systems that are set up actually the hardest country to research was the united states. it was much easier to do it in australia and south africa and i had people help me in china because i actually go to china, but i had people who gathered sources for me there but in california the gold rush was you know took place very shortly
after california was annexed by the united states and so their sources are not centralized and you have to go digging in a lot of different places. whereas in the british colonies the colonial governments had a much heavier hand in record-keeping and collecting files. yeah. no, it was a whole another level of ambition that under underlies the book and incredibly impressive one of the things about the band craft is technically it's american history and diplomacy and this year's having a child who's still in high school. i happen to know that this year's national history day theme was debate and diplomacy in history and the people who select the natural national history day themes really emphasize a theme that is broad has wide application and can be adapted to all sort. different projects the triangle shirtwaist factory seems to always be fixed into whatever theme it is, but your book is
really a splendid example of how diplomacy and history occurs outside of the sort of traditional executive branch. places and and it's really in some ways a really imaginative type of diplomatic history. you didn't say that's what it was but in some ways it really is and i love poetry and so one of the things that i particularly loved about the book was that you have selections of poetry by huang xiao shan through who was a diplomat and particularly his poem expulsion of the immigrants. and so maybe you can talk a little bit about him and and how he opened up this kind of way in which your book is also in some ways a diplomatic history. yeah huang is a really interesting diplomat. he was the console to san francisco in the early 1880s when? the great agitation against chinese was taking place. he was from northern guangdong province. not the area where most the
immigrants come from and he i think he was the second generation scholar official. he took the imperial exam and that is the route into the civil service, which is the source of all social and political power in ching china, and he was assigned to the foreign service and it's a kind of indication of how china was still so inward-looking that his parents were very upset that he was assigned to the foreign service because that they consider that to be a low assignment, but he went out into the world and he saw how not just how chinese people were treated abroad but how china was considered in the world and one of the things he wrote in in that poem he had a line of suddenly the world has become narrow and confining and great china and the chinese people are now the joke of the world. and so i think what what these consoles understood. was that china's oppression
under the opium war treaties and the unequal treaties was mirrored by the exclusion laws and they were both part. i think of a strategy of trying to contain china. and for the chinese living abroad these consoles were suddenly this direct link. they had to the central government. which in general had forsaken them so he became very active in defending chinese in san francisco. he was behind several important lawsuits including yukovy hopkins. he decided to bring test case. he said, you know litigating this otherwise is going to take too long. let's let's have somebody arrested so he was behind that supreme court case and when they when they passed the exclusion laws, he went down to the wharf every day to check on how they were. passengers getting off the ships and he brought all kinds of legal challenges to exclusions. so it was very active when he returned to china.
he was disillusioned and exhausted, but he also i think that whole experience informed his later career as a reformer in china and a lot of the a lot of the the men because they were all men in in the late chang who wanted to modernize china a lot of them came from the diplomatic core because they had gone abroad and they had seen what the rest of the world looked like and there's this wonderful way in your book that you're able to you know, you have people you have individuals you have actors people on the ground really pushing forward and all sorts of ways and then you're able to narrate it in sort of large or thematic aspects and i know when i was in graduate school people were always like that's the art of the book and it was just so so beautifully done your book. um, really expands or understanding of so many different facets of what you call the chinese question. and is there one in particular you want to share with us
tonight? and there's so many different angles of of sort of of your book. one of the things i was trying to do was to give a kind of long history of this idea that chinese don't belong in western countries that they're always foreign and that ideas baked into the cooling myth that chinese are unassimilable because they don't they can never understand democracy. they are like slaves or their controlled by chinese slave masters, you know, so it's not just the coolies. it's a whole race of unfree people and this idea has persisted in our culture. it gets reproduced at different moments in time. it's not exactly the same idea all the time everywhere, but it gets reproduced and we see it's reiteration in our own time today, so i wanted to give i
wanted to say that despite it having this very long and and unpretty history that it's always. been a political project. it was something that was championed by people who tried to use the chinese question for partisan advantage. they they weaponized theories that were created by intellectuals or pundits and if we understand it as a political project then my my argument is that we have political choices all the time and we have political choices today. we're not doomed to live with these racist theories and racist policies and we always have choices and and i try to show with some of those choices. we're in the past and i hope it will help us think about the choices we can make today no and the comparative aspect of these different sort of a former british colonies and their
approaches. they're very subtly done sort of everybody has their own slightly different way of playing that out. i'm in your conclusion. more explicit about the way in which the book sort of has ways of understanding the situation and particularly i think with respect to modern china and you want to just share a few of those thoughts more specifically because you bring the book at the very end like all the way up literally to basically 2020. i guess when the book came out, well, i think you know the world is a really unstable place right now, you know for all in all kinds of ways and one of one of the things that we face today, is this kind of zero some game of competition between the united states and and china and china has become a world economic power. i don't take sides in that. you know, that's i don't feel that's my position or my place to do that but in a way china
has become so powerful because that strategy that they had in the 19th century. they don't have anymore. they can't exclude chinese from moving around the world. they can't exclude chinese capital from investing in different places like they did in the 19th century and they can't control china through unequal trade treaties anymore. so all the things that they tried to do to contain china in the 19th century. this is kind of the nightmare of the west that they're seeing today, and i'm not saying china is a good actor necessarily, of course not but i think that this is a moment when again the question of choice political choices is something we need to think about. i don't understand why both china and the united states see it as a zero-sum competition. there should be things that you know, i mean we're all endangered on this planet right now. there should be more cooperation. so i think this is to me what
americans are afraid of in china which is kind of generating new fears about. china in chinese people to me resonates with what those fears were 100 years ago. everyone i know is going to learn so much from both of these books. do you want to take a last minute to thank anyone and maybe mia wants to come back up and take one minute to just thank whoever you want to thank and then we'll let thank the jury and and the libraries of course, i think my editor at norton tom mayer my family my husband for supporting me all these years and i want to thank i really thank the colleagues who helped me understand other parts of the world, but i really want to thank my students for pushing me to think about these things and my the researchers who did a lot of the work and the research a sign of how long this book is taking me to write.
i was thinking that some of my student researchers are now tenured professor. that is a time in coming so thank you collectively all of you. i want to thank my friends and my family who have supported me as i wrote this book. thank my editor joy dominell who somewhere here thomas levine who i started with and you know, i don't know also think the many wonderful people who kind of recorded their experiences for me to find i really appreciate this sort of storytellers that came before us. thank you. please welcome carvo salon. so dean of the graduate school of arts and sciences and morris a and alma shapiro professor in the humanities.
good evening. graduate school is where the university reproduces itself as an institution. we all know that yet there are a few distinct moments in our academic milia that call attention to that process of the passing of the torch from current faculty to those who will continue their magnificent contributions and achievements. thereby perpetrating the university as an intellectual and pedagogical enterprise. tonight's event is one such moment. the graduate school of arts and sciences at columbia sponsors annually the banker of dissertation award given to an outstanding dissertation in american history or biography diplomacy or international affairs the award includes 7500
for publishing the revised manuscript based on the dissertation. members of thesis defense committees nominate dissertations for the award at the time of the defense. and nominated dissertations are subsequently read by an independent committee of faculty that adjudicates on the price each year. i am delighted to recognize tonight the bankrupt dissertation award winner for a dissertation defended in 2021. dr. yvonne padilla rodriguez a graduate you have your chance a graduate of the department of history for her dissertation titled undocumented youth. the labor education and rights of migrant children in 20th century america. yvonne might you please stand so we may recognize your achievement.
the members of the defense committee were professor. maynie. i've heard that name. who was the advisor of the dissertation and professors carol joker jacoby narami? lanich pablo picato and george sanchez. dr. yvon, padilla rodriguez received her ba summa cum laude in history and philosophy from the university of nevada reno in 2015 and the ma m phil and phd in history from colombia in 2017, 18 and 21 respectively. she's currently the bridge to faculty post doctoral research
associated in the department of history at the university of illinois at chicago. she was transitioned to tenure track faculty at the university of illinois. chicago's department of history in the fall of 2023. the 2021 bankrupt dissertation price committee described the award-winning dissertation as follows. even by the rodriguez studies a social legal history of latina children latino latina child migration to and within the united states between 1937 and 1986. -- documents and explores the legal system of migrant exclusion that relied on various legal and quasi legal forms of domestic restrictions and removal that combined with federal policies governing international migration. by the year rodriguez's most significant contribution is historicizing the problem of
migrant children centering her analysis on the changing political utility of the very term migrant children and exploring the instrumental ways that movements and legal terms are used developed. modified and abused in the surprising history, she traces liberal interventions and seemingly beneficial attempts to help the children of migrants backfire or turn into tools of further forceful and harmful state intervention in the lives of migrants at the same time. she also notes the positive outcomes of attempts to include young migrants in american schools and society. the research throughout is of the highest quality. she comes through numerous or numerous organizational and activists papers to augment the official policy debate weaving
together a larger history of post war migrations if anything by the year rodriguez is too modest in her claims. we developed a deep respect for her professionalism and care especially combined with everness and a sharp eye that deserve much praise. with this impressive contribution to the active lively field of research on the politics and policing of migrants crossing the southern border. she put children at the center of the story. yvonne the graduate school of arts and science that and everyone in attendance are proud of you and wish you every success in a career that has begun with such an auspicious recognition. congratulations to you.
what a treat that was for all of us. i would like to extend hardy thanks to the to our jury chair and mc this year george chauncey. as well as all of the excellent jurors who have served for the past three years awards. and of course our illustrious winners. elizabeth cohen and joe reedy and 2020 andy horowitz and claudio sant in 2021 and mia bay and maynai this year. and congratulations also to the dissertation prize award winners we very much look forward to your forthcoming books. please join me in a final round of applause for all of our winners this season.
i also want to commend our colleagues at the forum for their extraordinary efforts to enable us to produce a holy new and far more complex program than we've ever presented previously without their help this evening. simply would not have been possible. and the enthusiastic interest and support of c-span's american history tv also means a great deal to us as the bancroft prize celebration this year will live on for the future accessible to all around the world and for free online. i must take a moment to say how proud i am of the team at columbia university libraries. who worked so hard to redesign and orchestrate and engaging bancroft event for all of us.
i am really honored to be part of their team. and i thank all of you for taking the time and making the effort to be with us tonight. we so appreciate your presence and look forward to chatting with you during the reception. and i hope you learned new things and we're uplifted by the exemplary work of our winners. thank you again for coming and good night.