Alumna Wins Major Award for Work on History of White Women and Slave Ownership


School of Arts and Sciences-Newark alumna Stephanie Jones-Rogers, Chancellor's Professor of History at the University of California, Berkeley, has won the Dan David Prize for her outstanding work on women’s social, economic and legal relationships to enslaved people and to the slave trade in the trans-Atlantic world.

The Dan David Prize, which is the largest history award in the world, presents up to nine prizes of $300,000 each year to outstanding early and midcareer scholars and practitioners in the historical disciplines. The Prize is given in recognition of the winners’ contribution to the study of the past and to support their future endeavors, and does not fund specific projects but instead supports individual scholars and practitioners with the goal of encouraging and enabling future work.

“It means so much to be professionally honored for my work, and to know that my colleagues who nominated me thought so highly of me and that the Dan David Prize selection committee sees immense value in my work, too,” said Jones-Rogers.

Jones-Rogers is the author of "They Were Her Property: White Women as Slave Owners in the American South", (Yale University Press, 2019), which draws on the testimonies of enslaved and formerly enslaved individuals, legal, financial and military records as well as an array of other narrative sources to show how white married women—a group historically seen as legally disempowered and economically dispossessed—exercised extraordinary power in and over enslaved African-Americans’ lives. 

The book won a number of awards in 2020: the Harriet Tubman Prize from the Lapidus Center for the Historical Analysis of Transatlantic Slavery, the Julia Cherry Spruill Prize from the Southern Association for Women’s Historians, the Southern Historical Association’s Charles S. Sydnor Award, the Best Book Prize from the Society for Historians of the Early American Republic, and the Merle Curti Prize from the Organization of American Historians. Jones-Rogers is also the first African-American and the third woman to win the Los Angeles Times Book Prize in History since the award’s inception in 1980.

Jones-Rogers’ research has been supported by prestigious fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Hellman Foundation, the Ford Foundation, and the Woodrow Wilson Foundation. She has also held postdoctoral fellowship positions at Tulane University and the University of Texas at Austin.

"This prize also means a great deal to me personally. I'm the descendant of enslaved people, the granddaughter of North Carolina sharecroppers, and the daughter of a single New Jersey mother” said Jones-Rogers. “I've been very poor for most of my life. So, I never dreamed of being honored in this way. This prize is something my ancestors could never dream of. It feels wonderful.”

Jones-Rogers will use the prize to continue working on her second book, Women of the Trade, which reorients our understanding of the British Atlantic slave trade by connecting the separate and shared histories of English, African and Afro-English women, free and captive, across three continents, chronicling their lives and charting their travels and ties to the Atlantic slave trade.

The Dan David Prize winners will be honored on May 17 in an award ceremony held in Tel Aviv, Israel, where the Dan David Foundation is based.

Jones-Rogers has come a long way since her days at RU-N but has never forgotten her academic roots.

“I consider my time at Rutgers-Newark instrumental in making this award possible,” said Jones-Rogers, who received her M.A. in American History from RU-N in 2007 and her B.A. and Ph.D. from RU-New Brunswick. “Faculty in the History Department, especially Beryl Satter, Karen Caplan, Susan Carruthers, James Goodman, Eva Giloi and Stephen Pemberton were critical to my training, and they helped me become the historian I am today.”