Claudio Saunt, Richard B. Russell Professor in American History and Co-Director of the Center for Virtual History, has been awarded the 18th annual Ridenhour Book Prize for his widely celebrated work, Unworthy Republic: The dispossession of Native Americans and the road to Indian Territory:
The Ridenhour Prizes seek to recognize and encourage those who persevere in acts of truth-telling that protect the public interest, promote social justice or illuminate a more just vision of society. The prizes memorialize the spirit of Ron Ridenhour, a Vietnam veteran who wrote a letter to Congress and the Pentagon in 1969 describing the horrific events at My Lai – the infamous massacre of the Vietnam War – bringing the scandal to the attention of the American public and the world. Ridenhour went on to become an investigative journalist, and his extraordinary life and career exemplified the fearless truth-telling which the eponymous prizes now recognize. Every year, prizes are given for the truth teller of the year, the book of the year, the documentary of the year, and lifetime achievement (courage); each award carries a $10,000 stipend.
"The Ridenhour Prizes are named for Ron Ridenhour, the Vietnam Vet who brought the world’s attention to the My Lai Massacre.," Saunt said. "That national crime is often compared with atrocities in the U.S. West in the late nineteenth century, most notably at Wounded Knee. I'm tremendously honored that Unworthy Republic has received this year's book prize.”
Saunt is the author of four books, including West of the Revolution (2014), Black, White, and Indian (2005), and A New Order of Things (1999). His most recent book, Unworthy Republic (2020), was awarded the Bancroft Prize and the Robert F. Kennedy Book Award and was a finalist for the National Book Award. He has developed several online projects, including the Invasion of America and, with Elizabeth Fenn, Pox Americana. In 2018, he received an NEH Humanities Collections and Reference Resources grant to produce an online, interactive time-lapse map of the African, Native, and European populations in North America between 1500 and 1800.
Saunt joins an illustrious group 2021 Ridenhour awardees, including chef José Andrés, police officer Cariol Horne, and filmmaker Ramona S. Diaz. Congratulations to Dr. Saunt on the continued plaudits for his outstanding scholarship and for the extraordinary insights he has made available to a growing and appreciative audience.