Penn State historian receives prestigious book award

Christina Snyder wins American Historical Association’s coveted John H. Dunning Prize

Christina Snyder, McCabe Greer Professor of History, has won the American Historical Association's 2019 John H. Dunning Prize for her book, “Great Crossings: Indians, Settlers and Slaves in the Age of Jackson.” Credit: Joel Elliott/National Humanities CenterAll Rights Reserved.

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Christina Snyder, McCabe Greer Professor of History in the Penn State College of the Liberal Arts, has won the American Historical Association’s (AHA) John H. Dunning Prize for her book “Great Crossings: Indians, Settlers and Slaves in the Age of Jackson.” The book has already garnered awards from the Society of American Historians and the History of Education Society. Snyder will receive her latest award during the AHA’s 134th annual meeting, which will be held in New York City in January.

Created in 1927 and first awarded in 1929, the Dunning Prize is widely regarded as one of the most prestigious national honors in American historical writing and is awarded biennially for "most outstanding book in U.S. history.” The world’s largest organization of professional historians, AHA promotes historical studies and provides leadership for the discipline by “protecting academic freedom, developing professional standards, supporting scholarship and innovative teaching, and helping to sustain and enhance the work of historians.”

“’Great Crossings’ is about a multi-racial community in Kentucky that formed around the first national Indian school,” said Snyder, explaining that Great Crossing (now singular) is the name of the community to this day. “This is a surprising place because, in the early 19th century, it was a small town whose residents spoke over a dozen languages and counted ancestors on three continents — Europe, Africa and North America. They lived together during a time of great change and tried to forge paths to the future.”

That diversity sparked fierce debates over race, citizenship and America's destiny, explained Snyder.

“I placed the story in the broader context of Jacksonian America at a time when the United States was undergoing mass immigration, population explosion and westward expansion, as well as Indian removal, which was the cornerstone of Jackson’s presidential platform.”

The announcement that she had won the Dunning Prize came as an “enormous surprise,” said Snyder. “It is a huge honor to be named among many of the nation’s top historians and authors — people I have long admired.”

Snyder joined the Penn State faculty in 2017 and is the John Hope Franklin Fellow at the National Humanities Center in Durham, North Carolina, where she is working on her third book. “Slavery After the Civil War: The Slow Death and Many Afterlives of Bondage” focuses on forms of slavery and bondage that persisted after the Civil War ended.

“Christina Snyder’s ‘Great Crossings’ has already won international acclaim, but to see it recognized with one of our professional association’s most distinguished prizes is a real honor for us all,” said Michael Kulikowski, professor of history and classics and head of the Department of History. “It’s a reminder, too, of the great work the department is doing in foregrounding Native American history and making it central to our research and pedagogy on our nation’s past.”

“Great Crossings: Indians, Settlers and Slaves in the Age of Jackson” by Penn State's Christina Snyder, published by Oxford University Press. Credit: Courtesy of Christina SnyderAll Rights Reserved.

Last Updated October 28, 2019