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Alan Flurry

"Unworthy Republic, The Dispossession of Native Americans and the Road to Indian Territory" by Claudio Saunt, Distinguished Research Professor and Richard B. Russell Professor in American History, is one of two acclaimed works that will be awarded the 2021 Bancroft Prizes in American History and Diplomacy by Columbia University Libraries:

The Bancroft Prize, which includes an award of $10,000 to each author, is administered by Vice Provost and University Librarian Ann Thornton. The 2021 Bancroft Prize jury included three distinguished historians: Lisa McGirr, Professor of History, Harvard University; David Rosner, Ronald H. Lauterstein Professor of Sociomedical Sciences, Professor of History, Co-Director of the Center for the History and Ethics of Public Health, Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University (Chair); and Nancy Tomes, SUNY Distinguished Professor of History, Stony Brook University.

The jury made the following statement about this year’s winning authors:

"Saunt’s Unworthy Republic is a brilliant, searing account of 'Indian removal' in the 1830s United States: the state-sponsored expulsion of an estimated 80,000 native peoples from their homes east of the Mississippi River and brutal deportation to an ill-defined 'Indian Territory' in the West. Far from being 'natural' or 'inevitable,' as contemporaries (and even some historians) have portrayed, Saunt documents the vast amount of ideological, political, and logistical work that undergirded this federal policy. Combining brilliant synthesis, deep archival research, and powerful prose, Unworthy Republic retells the story of this epic moment as a tragic conjecture of the histories of indigenous people, antebellum slavery, and global capitalism. Saunt has written a bold, haunting account of 'Indian removal' that, in its polished scholarship, beautiful prose, and original argument, is a worthy recipient of the Bancroft Prize.”

Unworthy Republic was also named a 2020 finalist for the National Book Award for Nonfiction.

"This is a distinct honor for one of our most outstanding scholars, celebrating a book that has resonated across the cultural landscape," said Alan Dorsey, dean of the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences. "Dr. Saunt's work enlivens debate about some of the central issues of our history as well as the present day, an inspiration to students across the university."

"Since graduate school, I’ve read and admired books that received the Bancroft Prize, and I never imagined I’d one day join the list of award-winners," Saunt said. "It’s a great honor, and I’m truly delighted that Unworthy Republic has struck such a chord with both general readers and my fellow historians."

Saunt is also the author of A New Order of Things, Black, White, and Indian, and West of the Revolution.


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