Professor awarded prestigious prize for best U.S. social history book

April 25, 2022

RESEARCH & INNOVATION

History professor Samantha Seeley has received the 2022 Merle Curti Social History Award from the Organization of American Historians. This award is given annually for the best book in American social history.

Seeley, whose expertise focuses on early America and race, slavery, and freedom, is the author of Race, Removal, and the Right to Remain: Migration and the Making of the United States.

“This brilliant work of scholarship will change the way we teach early U.S. history,” the organization said of the book, continuing that it would upend “enduring myths of early American mobility.”

Seeley’s Race and Removal examines how the states and federal government excluded groups of people from the nation after the American Revolution. The book focuses on how the right to live in the new United States of America was purposefully constructed through contentious legal, political, and diplomatic negotiation.

“The popular understanding of the post-revolutionary period is one of free movement — the movement of people to the frontier,” Seeley said. “The book flips that understanding to argue that removal, as much as free migration, made the United States by defining who should be part of it. Because they were threatened with removal so often after the American Revolution, African Americans and Indigenous communities responded by working to protect their right to remain.”

Seeley received the award during the OAH’s 2022 Conference on American History earlier this month.

“Samantha’s work at UR is consistently of the highest caliber — as a teacher, scholar, or university citizen,” said Joanna Drell, chair of the Department of History, noting the work is Seeley’s first book. “Race and Removal is a pathbreaking work, both deeply researched and beautifully written. This is a great accomplishment.”