Awards, Prizes, and Honors Conferred at the 128th Annual Meeting
Compiled by Dana Schaffer, February 2014
Awards for Publications
Herbert Baxter Adams Prize
Steven A. Barnes, George Mason University, for Death and Redemption: The Gulag and the Shaping of Soviet Society (Princeton University Press, 2011). Using an array of previously unstudied archival and published sources from central and regional collections, Barnes offers a provocative reconceptualization of the Soviet Gulag, which demonstrates convincingly that it needs to be understood as a transformative space, where both individual and society were refashioned in the name of creating a socialist utopia. His thoughtful and thorough study deserves to become required reading for anyone concerned with the interrelationship between state ideology, violence, and everyday life in 20th-century Europe.
George Louis Beer Prize
R. M. Douglas, Colgate University, for Orderly and Humane: The Expulsion of the Germans after the Second World War (Yale University Press, 2012). Using archives from seven countries, Douglas offers a compelling account of the expulsion from central and southern Europe of 12 to 14 million Germans, mostly women and children, after World War II. With remarkable precision and deft national comparisons, he analyzes how a resettlement policy the Allies intended to be “orderly and humane” descended into chaotic ethnic cleansing. Douglas writes eloquently about this suffering without minimizing in the least what the Germans had wrought during the war.
The Albert J. Beveridge Award
W. Jeffrey Bolster, University of New Hampshire, for The Mortal Sea: Fishing the Atlantic in the Age of Sail (The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2012). This riveting narrative of 500 years of North American exploitation of the North Atlantic presents overwhelming evidence that humans have repeatedly abused the ocean’s abundance. Influenced by environmental and transnational approaches, as well as Bolster’s own deep understanding of maritime history and the business of fishing, this is a sweeping and original history that connects the consumption of North Atlantic fish during Lent in early modern Europe to industrialization’s demand for Menhaden fish oil in the 1870s, to lobster consumption today.
The James Henry Breasted Prize
Patricia Crone, Institute for Advanced Study, for The Nativist Prophets of Early Islamic Iran: Rural Revolt and Local Zoroastrianism (Cambridge University Press, 2012). Drawing on an extraordinary range of sources and scholarship, this sophisticated study enriches, deepens, and complicates our understanding of the interconnected political and religious dynamics of the Middle East and Central Asia over a sweep of centuries. Filled with insights relevant to the history of religion in general, it specifically casts completely new light on the religious beliefs and socio-political aspirations of the Iranian countryside as it passed from Sassanian Zoroastrian to Arab Islamic control.
The Raymond J. Cunningham Prize
David A. Wemer, Gettysburg College (BA, 2014), for “Europe’s Little Tiger?: Reassessing Economic Transitions in Slovakia under the Mečiar Government, 1993–98,”Gettysburg College Historical Journal 12, no. 1 (2013): 97–112. When the Iron Curtain fell in the early 1990s, Slovak prime minister Vladimir Mečiar resisted Western economists’ advice to switch rapidly to a capitalist economy. Instead of collapsing under the weight of market forces as Western economists predicted, however, Slovakia “registered one of the best macroeconomic performances in Central Europe.” Without apologizing for Mečiar’s strongman tactics, Wemer’s eyeopening and provocative paper takes on the economic literature about Slovakia’s postcommunist economy.
The John H. Dunning Prize
Jennifer Ratner-Rosenhagen, University of Wisconsin, Madison, for American Nietzsche: A History of an Icon and His Ideas (University of Chicago Press, 2012).American Nietzsche is an original, compelling, and revelatory contribution to intellectual history that provides a model for scholars struggling to explain the reception and significance of important thinkers, particularly European ones. Vividly written and deeply researched, American Nietzsche reshapes our understanding of early20th-century thought and feeling in the US by showing the many and varied ways in which Nietzsche’s work mattered to so many different kinds of people for so many different reasons over such a long period of time.
The John K. Fairbank Prize in East Asian History
Barbara Mittler, Heidelberg University, for A Continuous Revolution: Making Sense of Cultural Revolution Culture (Harvard University Asia Center of Harvard University Press, 2012). Mittler systematically explores how and why various art forms of the Cultural Revolution in China, often dismissed as mere propaganda, were popular during the time and remain so to this day. In mobilizing an eclectic range of ideas to analyze a dazzling array of sources, the book provides a systematic yet nuanced analysis of the continuities and contradictions infusing art, politics, society, and memory in contemporary Chinese history.
The Morris D. Forkosch Prize
Jordanna Bailkin, University of Washington, for The Afterlife of Empire (University of California Press, 2012). The Afterlife of Empire is an ambitious and illuminating book, based upon pioneering archival research, which recasts our understanding of post1945 British society. Integrating histories—the postwar welfare state, colonial retreat, the rise of a cadre of experts—which have often been told separately, Bailkin demonstrates that decolonization was a personal process for the British as much as it was a diplomatic one: it transformed daily life and the ways in which people conceived of their relationships.
The Leo Gershoy Award
Daniela Bleichmar, University of Southern California, for Visible Empire: Botanical Expeditions and Visual Culture in the Hispanic Enlightenment (University of Chicago Press, 2012). Based on a store of beautiful botanic prints locked in a Madrid archive, Bleichmar’sVisible Empire recalls the achievements of Spanish scientific expeditions and imaginatively recreates the making, meaning, and import of these stunning prints for the empire in the era of Bourbon reform. Written in arrestingly clear prose that mirrors the luminous quality of the book’s many botanical illustrations,Visible Empire sets new standards for the emerging field of visual history.
The William and Edwyna Gilbert Award
Tim Keirn, California State University, Long Beach, and Eileen Luhr, California State University, Long Beach, for “Subject Matter Counts: The PreService Teaching and Learning of Historical Thinking,” The History Teacher 45, no. 4 (2012): 493–511. In their article, Keirn and Luhr not only report on the diminishing role of history departments in preparing students to teach history in the secondary school system; they also show that new teachers who have combined rigorous undergraduate training in history with traditional pedagogic training in history education do better in the high school classroom. They offer innovative suggestions, based on the California school system, for how the training of history teachers might best be conducted.
The J. Franklin Jameson Award in Editorial Achievement
John Taylor, University of Leeds; Wendy R. Childs, University of Leeds; and Leslie Watkiss, Society of Antiquaries of London, for The St Albans Chronicle: The Chronica Maiora of Thomas Walsingham, Vol. II: 1394–1422 (Clarendon Press and Oxford University Press, 2011). This volume completes the edition of a vital source for an important era in British medieval history, a valuable text for both historians and literary scholars. The introductory material is exemplary. The editors resolve complex histories of manuscript and print transmission, as well as long-standing questions of authorship. The translation is fluid and readable; the apparatus, annotations, bibliography, and index are clear and useful. This definitive edition will form the basis of future research for many years to come.
The Joan Kelly Memorial Prize in Women’s History
Carol Pal, Bennington College, for Republic of Women: Rethinking the Republic of Letters in the Seventeenth Century (Cambridge University Press, 2012). Pal’s meticulously researched, beautifully written study takes us on a stunning tour of the correspondence, networks, publications, and mentorships connecting seven learned women across Europe in the 17th century. Deftly combining biography, social, religious, cultural, and intellectual history, Pal’s Republic of Women challenges everything we thought we knew about the supposedly masculine republic of letters. Filling the 17thcentury shelf in Virginia Woolf’s imaginary library, she also explains how we came to believe it was empty!
The Martin A. Klein Prize in African History
Derek R. Peterson, University of Michigan, for Ethnic Patriotism and the East Africa Revival: A History of Dissent, c. 1935–1972 (Cambridge University Press, 2012). Peterson’s Ethinc Patriotism explores the cultural and intellectual worlds of East Africa from the mid1930s through the first decade of independence, identifying the communities of belonging created both by ethnic patriots who valorized loyalty to chiefs and elders and by upstart, cosmopolitan networks of Christian revivalists. By analyzing these divergent communities in multiple settings, Peterson demonstrates the contested nature of identity and belonging, the prevalence of dissent, and the problematic nature of nationalism.
The Littleton-Griswold Prize
John Fabian Witt, Yale University Law School, for Lincoln’s Code: The Laws of War in American History (Free Press, 2012).Lincoln’s Code skillfully mixes law and history to illuminate how the laws of war have shaped and been shaped by America’s wartime experiences from the Revolution through the Philippines insurrection. John Witt’s book is especially good at revealing the tensions at work between the sometimes competing demands of justice and military necessity. Deeply researched and artfully written, Lincoln’s Code paints a complex portrait of the past that speaks directly to the present.
The J. Russell Major Prize
Miranda Frances Spieler, American University of Paris, for Empire and Underworld: Captivity in French Guiana (Harvard University Press, 2012). Spieler’s innovative study of French Guiana from the late 18th century to 1870 examines the spatial and legal history of the colony in ways that invite a profound reconsideration of the relationship of France to its colonial territories. Analyzing material and cultural remains, as well as silences and lacunae in the record, Spieler elegantly challenges many presumptions about nation, empire, slavery, incarceration, and violence.
The George L. Mosse Prize
Miranda Frances Spieler, American University of Paris, Empire and Underworld: Captivity in French Guiana (Harvard University Press, 2012). In her provocative and innovative book, Spieler depicts the history of French Guiana as a site of extraordinary state sovereignty and violence. In the wake of the French Revolution and its new articulation of citizenship, French Guiana became not just a land of exile and slavery, but also a locus for the systematic stripping of rights and identities of marginalized groups and for the incarceration of noncitizens who bore no clearly defined legal status.
The James A. Rawley Prize in Atlantic History
W. Jeffrey Bolster, University of New Hampshire, for The Mortal Sea: Fishing the Atlantic in the Age of Sail (Harvard University Press, 2012). The Mortal Sea hits readers with the saline smack of the ocean, providing the most Atlantic of Atlantic histories, at once fascinating and deeply troubling. Lucid, penetrating, relentless, this book trawls deep historical research to expose the history of Atlantic fishing and its consequences. Demonstrating powerfully the costs of oceanic exploitation, it is a work of surpassing historical and contemporary importance, making us all mindful of the price paid for “changes in the sea.”
The John F. Richards Prize in South Asian History
A. Azfar Moin, Southern Methodist University, for The Millennial Sovereign: Sacred Kingship and Sainthood in Islam (Columbia University Press, 2012). Like the Safavids in Iran, Mughal emperors from Babur to Aurangzeb embedded their sovereign authority in cosmic, messianic imaginings, linked to Sufism, astrology, genealogy, and millennialism. Using mainly Persian, Arabic, Turkish, and Urdu texts—and Mughal miniature painting—Moin shows how claims to authority were cast in a universalism transcending any single form of religion. His work will recast how we imagine the dynamics of sovereignty during the Mughal era.
The Roy Rosenzweig Prize for Innovation in Digital History
Digital Archive: International History Declassified.History and Public Policy Program, Woodrow Wilson Center. The Wilson Center Digital Archive brings together and contextualizes a vast trove of oncesecret documents relating to the Cold War, North Korea, and nuclear proliferation. Much more than just an archive, the site curates a variety of topics into compelling narratives, timelines, and images. In addition, multiple interfaces, including an interactive map, allow researchers to make their own pathways through this important collection.
The Wesley-Logan Prize
Martha Biondi, Northwestern University, for Black Revolution on Campus (University of California Press, 2012). While US civil rights history has long acknowledged the numerous critical roles of students and other young people in the mid-20thcentury era of civil rights struggle, no book until now has explored black campus-based activism with such multifaceted and exquisite depth. Biondi has written a definitive history. This book will also have wideranging implications for those invested in shaping Africana studies curricula and black student experience on university campuses in the 21st century.
Awards for Scholarly and Professional Distinction
The Troyer Steele Anderson Prize
The American Historical Association is pleased to award the 2013 Troyer Steele Anderson Prize to Thomas F. Rugh, director at TIAACREF, for his invaluable work as a member of the AHA’s finance committee.
Tom joined the committee in May 2008, a crucial time for the nation’s economy and for the AHA. For several years, the AHA Council had been concerned about the low rate of return on its endowment. The AHA required a trustworthy advisor to offer discrete and discerning counsel not about what to invest in, but rather who could best make those investment decisions. To whom, in other words, should the AHA trust its members’ funds?
This advice is what Tom Rugh provided at that crucial moment. His approach was low key and straightforward. He explained options, identified challenges and opportunities, and then stood back and let the Council make its own decisions. This style has served us well, as Tom has continued to offer the AHA generous and judicious counsel over the past five years. With his assistance, the Association has improved the value of its endowment while keeping risk at acceptable levels.
When, in 2012, the AHA moved to create a separate investment subcommittee that would overlap with the Finance Committee, Tom agreed to shoulder the responsibility of chairing the investment panel and helping the AHA through a critical period of transition.
Tom’s deep knowledge of and commitment to history, combined with his expertise in investment and finance, have made his work with the AHA invaluable. The Troyer Steele Anderson award is but a small token of the AHA’s profound gratitude for his astute and unstinting effort on the Association’s behalf.
The Eugene Asher Distinguished Teaching Award
The Teaching Prize Committee is pleased to award the 2013 Asher Prize to Michael Green, a professor of history at the College of Southern Nevada, where he started teaching parttime while still a master’s student in 1987 and has been fulltime since 1995. He has a BA and an MA from University of Nevada, Las Vegas, and a PhD from Columbia University. He also teaches advanced undergraduate seminars for UNLV’s Honors College. For CSN, he teaches US and Nevada history, and has taught constitutional, Civil War, and Las Vegas history. He is the author or coauthor of eight books.
The scale, range, and innovation of Green’s teaching are extraordinary. Teaching close to 200 students a semester, many of whom are first-generation college students, his innovative assignments engage students while also developing their writing and 21st-century career skills. Commendably, he has delivered over 600 presentations to community groups in the Las Vegas area. His extensive writing for both scholarly and public audiences also demonstrates the importance of his research to his teaching.
Awards for Scholarly Distinction
John Dower received his PhD from Harvard in 1972. He taught at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, from 1971 to 1985; at the University of California, San Diego, from 1985 to 1991; and at MIT from 1991 to 2010.
Dower’s Embracing Defeat won the leading prizes in both US and East Asian history, not to mention a Pulitzer, the National Book Award, and several others, both in the US and Japan. His previous book, War Without Mercy (1987), also won prizes on both sides of the Pacific; his subsequent Cultures of War (2011), ranging from Pearl Harbor to the second USIraq war, was a finalist for the National Book Award. His other works range from architecture to photography, from high politics to popular culture; he has produced an Academy Award-nominated film. He has also won acclaim as a teacher and has been equally engaged with audiences beyond the campus; his name appears on Japanese and American op-ed pages and television screens as regularly as on scholarly rolls of honor.
In the last decade, Professor Dower has turned to a new project that combines his interests in visual media, teaching, public outreach, and East Asian history. Visualizing Cultures, a website that combines images, scholarly commentary, video, and curricular units on Japan and China, has allowed countless students, teachers, and others to access history that is driven, rather than simply illustrated, by a rich array of visual material. Engaging, pathbreaking, scholarly—what we’ve learned to expect from John Dower.
Patricia Buckley Ebrey received her PhD from Columbia University in 1975. Since then, she taught at the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign until 1998, when she joined the history department at the University of Washington, where she continues to work today.
Ebrey is the premier historian of Chinese women during the millennium-plus of the early and middle empire. That enormous topic has led her to explore numerous subfields: food and funerals, marriage and money, painting and politics, writing and religion, inheritance and intellectuals. Her prize-winning book on Song Dynasty (960–1279) women, The Inner Quarters (1993), remains the most important treatment of that pivotal period of women’s history. Her first book, on the early imperial aristocracy, was translated into Chinese 34 years after it first appeared—testimony to the enduring quality of its scholarship.
Ebrey’s work often uses exceedingly difficult sources, of sorts rarely conducive to either numerous publications or large audiences. Yet she has combined a great deal of highly focused research with highly accessible books on broad topics. Along with a synthetic history of Chinese women from ancient to modern times, she has coauthored multiple editions of textbooks in both East Asian and world history, produced the extremely successful, single-authored Cambridge Illustrated History of China (translated into nine languages), and compiled and edited two major collections of primary documents. Various topics that were once “unteachable” for lack of either sources or scholarship in English are now routinely covered because she helped fill those gaps. The past is a bigger and a less foreign country thanks to Pat Ebrey.
Walter LaFeber received his PhD from the University of Wisconsin in 1959 and taught at Cornell University thereafter, becoming professor emeritus in 2006. He is one of the scholars who reinvented the study of American foreign relations in the 1960s—not only transforming many specific debates, but lastingly changing our sense of what this field could be.
LaFeber’s first book (out of 15 so far) is still assigned 50 years later; another (not a textbook) has been through 10 editions. He has won the Bancroft Prize, the Beveridge Prize, and many other awards. He has been an exceptionally visible and valuable public intellectual who has managed to reach broad audiences without sacrificing academic rigor. His work spans the chronological range of US history, and the geographic range of the globe, and time and again, his contributions overturned what we thought we knew, both about history and about burning contemporary issues.
But with all this, LaFeber might be even more distinguished as a teacher: one for whom the overworked adjective “legendary” is entirely fitting. Without eyewitnesses, would we trust accounts that his upper-division lecture course regularly drew 300-plus students each Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday? Or that his final lecture—delivered 200 miles from home—drew 3,000 people? Or that he continued running discussion sections and grading papers for that huge class when he could have easily avoided it? The history LaFeber has given us is often sobering; but his presentation of it, in books, lectures, and elsewhere, has been both eye-opening and inspiring.
The Beveridge Family Teaching Prize
John Russell perfectly exemplifies the qualities of excellence and innovation in teaching recognized by the Beveridge Family Teaching Prize. Whether unpacking a self-crafted, waterlogged chest of artifacts and documents from a sunken whaling ship or creating mock Facebook profiles of historical characters, Russell’s classroom is an ever-changing, yet always student-centered space, where history is analyzed, touched, wrestled with, and questioned. A mentor to students and peers alike, John Russell is a true master teacher.
Russell describes himself as a lifelong learner. He is proud to give back to the systems that educated him, both as a history teacher in the public education system where he has taught in the Burlington City School District since 1999, and as an adjunct at The College of New Jersey, where he teaches the History Methods course for juniors. He has been recognized for outstanding teaching by both the New Jersey Council for the Humanities and by the Daughters of the American Revolution.
David H. Jackson, for the individual Equity Award. Jackson, professor of history and departmental chair at Florida A&M University, is the recipient of this year’s individual Equity Award in recognition of his achievements in inspiring African American undergraduates to enter graduate programs in history and earn professional degrees. An outstanding community leader and teacher, Jackson received the Rattler Pride Award for Community Leadership in 2000, the FAMU Teacher of the Year Award for 2000 and 2010, and the Advanced Teacher of the Year Award in 2006. Jackson has mentored over 20 young scholars who have earned PhDs in history or are currently enrolled in doctoral programs, and has established a remarkable record in raising the number of African American faculty in the profession.
Douglas M. Haynes, University of California, Irvine, on behalf of the ADVANCE Program for Equity and Diversity, for the institutional Equity Award. A historian of science and director of the ADVANCE program (advance.uci.edu), Haynes has facilitated the pipeline of students into graduate programs and led efforts on campus that have recently increased faculty from underrepresented groups by 10 percent across the disciplines. At the core of ADVANCE is a commitment to facultyled institutional transformation, which mobilizes and enables talented individuals from diverse backgrounds to fulfill their potential while shaping the future. The centerpiece of ADVANCE is a team of equity advisors and graduate program mentors who engage their peers in support of institutional transformation. In these roles, they monitor faculty recruitment and graduate admissions, coordinate career advising for junior colleagues and professional development for graduate students, and promote an affirmative culture of inclusive excellence for all.
The Herbert Feis Award
The 2013 Feis Award is awarded to Richard E. Turley Jr., the assistant church historian of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Turley has guided the church’s significant history operations, including archives, museums, 25 historic sites, and a vast records management system. He has spent his career improving access to historical information for researchers around the globe. Projects started or carried out under his direction have made millions of records available for use without charge online worldwide. Most recently, he courageously facilitated the opening of papers related to the Mountain Meadows Massacre and the site’s designation as a National Historic Landmark. In an age concerned with transparency and the accountability of institutions, his actions stand as a beacon to others.
Honorary Foreign Member
The 2013 Honorary Foreign Membership is awarded to Patrick K. O’Brien, London School of Economics. O’Brien has written groundbreaking works on the history of state formation, empire, industrialization, and economic development. His four books, 17 edited or coedited books, and well over 100 journal articles have influenced research on almost every world region. He has also been a visionary and indefatigable organizer of scholarly networks, creating productive dialogues that have brought US-based scholars together with others from around the world and spanned seemingly unbridgeable ideological and methodological gaps. His students from the School of Oriental and African Studies, Oxford, and the London School of Economics include many leading scholars in multiple generations; a list of colleagues who are indebted to him might be even more imposing. It is a privilege to join the British Academy, the Academia Europeana, the Royal Historical Society, the Royal Society of Arts, and other institutions that have honored Professor O’Brien, and to thank him for his many contributions to history.
The Nancy Lyman Roelker Mentorship Award
The committee is pleased to recognize Shari Hills Conditt of Woodland High School in Woodland, Washington, with the Nancy Lyman Roelker Mentorship Award. Conditt exemplifies the extraordinary impact an outstanding high school teacherscholarmentor can have on students and colleagues. Illustrating for her students how a passion for history can guide fulfilling personal and professional development, Conditt affirms and supports them as they grow into teachers and mentors for the next generation. With her simultaneous pursuit of classroom teaching and her own graduate studies in history, Conditt has inspired her students and fellow professionals, and she has received well-earned recognition at the local, state, and national levels.
Conditt teaches US history, AP US history, and AP American government. She is a recent graduate of Washington State University, having earned an MA in history in May 2013. Her thesis examined the role of gender in two Pacific Northwest utopian colonies. She received the James Madison Memorial Fellowship in 2009 and was recently awarded Washington State University’s Association for Faculty Women 2012 Founder’s Award.
Theodore Roosevelt-Woodrow Wilson Public Service Award
The American Historical Association is pleased to present the 2013 Roosevelt–Wilson Award for Public Service to David M. Rubenstein. The award honors individuals outside the historical profession who have made a significant contribution to the study, teaching, and public understanding of history. Rubenstein’s philanthropic dedication to providing public access to historical resources and his continued support of historic preservation efforts make him an ideal recipient for this award.
Co-founder and cochief executive officer of The Carlyle Group, a global alternative asset management company, Rubenstein has long held a commitment to promote and support the community and institutions that have inspired him. The son of a working-class family in Baltimore, Rubenstein developed an early appreciation for history during his weekly trips to the library in the 1950s and 1960s. Following his remarkable success in the private sector, Rubenstein signed a “giving pledge” to offer at least half of his fortune to charity, ranking him among the Chronicle of Philanthropy’s most generous donors. Over a lifetime of philanthropic work, Rubenstein has retained his love for history and his commitment to making the discipline he loves accessible to a wider audience.
Rubenstein has shown his commitment to ensuring the public access to the treasures and artifacts of its past through his continued support of the National Archives and Records Administration. After purchasing the last privately owned extant copy of the Magna Carta at Sotheby’s for $21.3 million in 2007, Rubenstein returned the document to the National Archives on permanent loan. The Magna Carta had resided there for more than 20 years before its owner auctioned it through Sotheby’s; Rubenstein’s purchase and loan returned one of the most important documents in history to the public. It remains the only copy of the landmark British document on permanent display in the United States.
Four years later, in 2011, Rubenstein again demonstrated his dedication to the National Archives through a $13.5 million gift for a new gallery and visitor’s center, one which will emphasize the archives’ role in preserving and making accessible central aspects of the nation’s past. The largest single contribution ever received by the foundation for the National Archives, Rubenstein’s gift was described by foundation chairman and president Ken Lore as “critical in offering visitors the opportunity to explore the story of America through the records that tell of the ongoing struggles and triumphs in perfecting our democracy.”
In 2012 Rubenstein donated $7.5 million toward the repair of the 555foot-tall Washington Monument, which had sustained extensive damage during an earthquake the previous summer. When asked by the Washington Post about his contribution, Rubenstein explained: “I am committed to philanthropy . . . I am very involved in [supporting] historic kinds of things . . . [and] this is something that is quite historic.” Caroline Cunningham, president of the Trust for the National Mall, a nonprofit group that raises funds for improvements there, told the Washington Post that Rubenstein is “one of those people who’s made a commitment to pass on his wealth and invest in this country, and I know that he feels passionately about the history of this country and preserving it.”
Rubenstein’s gifts make up part of what he calls “patriotic philanthropy.” Celebrating at Mount Vernon in 2013 to honor George Washington’s birthday, Rubenstein recalled visiting the historic home as a child and taking his own son to visit as well. His appreciation for history informs his philanthropic choices; as he told the Washington Post, “[I try] to give back to things that remind people of American history.”
In February 2013, Rubenstein assisted the Fred W. Smith National Library for the Study of George Washington, located on the grounds of the former president’s home, with a donation of $10 million, including a $4 million endowment for rare books and manuscripts. The library is a center for scholarly research and leadership training for government, military, nonprofit, and corporate officials, as well as for students and educators. It houses Washington’s books and papers and a replica of his personal library. Curt Viebranz, Mount Vernon’s president and chief executive officer, told a reporter, “[Rubenstein] shares our interest in ensuring that these rare Washington and foundingera documents are there for the people.”
An interest in the Declaration of Independence led Rubenstein in early 2013 to Monticello, home of the Declaration’s principal author, Thomas Jefferson. Inspired by his visit, Rubenstein donated $10 million to the Thomas Jefferson Foundation to support projects at the site that could better tell Jefferson’s story. Rubenstein’s contribution, which ranks among the top five gifts in the foundation’s history, will be used not only to restore the home’s second and third floors, but also to restore Jefferson’s original road scheme and reconstruct at least two log buildings on Mulberry Row, the community where slaves lived on the Virginia plantation. Monticello has been a site for interpreting the enslaved experience for decades; Rubenstein’s critical donation to the buildings on Mulberry Row will help make clear the ways that African American history is essential to Monticello’s history. When announcing the gift, Rubenstein explained his intentions this way: “I think it’s important to tell people the good and the bad of American history, not only the things that we might like to hear.”
The AHA is proud to acknowledge David M. Rubenstein for his sustained and generous support of historical work and his determined efforts to ensure citizens’ access to their nation’s past.
A version of this citation appeared as an article in the December 2013 issue of Perspectives on History