Homer D. Babbidge Award
This year’s Homer D. Babbidge Award is presented to Marcus Rediker for his Book, The Amistad Rebellion: An Atlantic Odyssey of Slavery and Freedom (Penguin). Prof. Rediker’s book is both wonderfully fresh in focus and impressive in scholarly rigor and research. He breaks the mold for the traditional understanding of the significance of the Amistad drama: rather than focusing on the Amistad’s amply explored implications for the abolitionist movement and American politics and international diplomacy, Rediker dedicates his book to investigating who exactly the kidnapped Mende people were and how they used their own rich background to understand and adapt to their traumatic displacement to Connecticut. They successfully applied martial strategies learned in the secret male warrior societies of their native land to overpower the masters of the Amistad; throughout the various sites of their captivity, they gathered collectively for palavers—much as they would have in Mende-land—to determine important decisions. Through a broad reading of newspapers, broadsides, and correspondence, Rediker has also uncovered previously unnoted theatrical performances about the captives, one of which included them as performers. He even discovered that wax “likenesses of 29 of the Africans” had been displayed at the popular Peale’s Museum in New York City. With a sparkling narrative, he makes us realize we still had much to learn about a historiographical terrain we actually imagined we knew pretty much everything we could. It is a great pleasure to honor Marcus Rediker and his book with this year’s Homer D. Babbidge Award. Accepting the award for Prof. Rediker is Prof. Lawrence Goodheart from the Hist Dept of U-CT.
Bruce Fraser Award
It is our privilege to recognize the finest public history exhibition in the state in 2012—“The Rockets’ Red Glare—Connecticut and the War of 1812”. Its bicentennial contribution to the public’s better understanding of Connecticut in the often overlooked War of 1812 has been exemplary. Working with a limited but exciting pool of documents and artifacts that included contemporary uniforms, an 1814 British cannonball still lodged in the hearthstone it cracked, and the famous Stonington Battle flag from 1814, the designers smartly deployed all to stage a rich narrative of a Connecticut assailed and transformed by the era’s naval, commercial and political frays. While mounted at the Lyman Allyn Museum in New London and informed by its curatorial expertise, this year’s winning exhibition was fundamentally the collaborative enterprise of five institutions: New London County Historical Society, Mystic Seaport, Stonington Historical Society, New London Maritime Society, and Lyman Allyn Art Museum. Key to the exhibition’s merit is its modelling of how a consortium of some of the state’s numerous local historical societies can combine their resources, knowledge, and energies to serve the people of the state through commendable public history. I look forward to this fine example inspiring many more such collaborations throughout the state. With pleasure, ASCH presents the second annual Bruce Fraser Award to “The Rockets’ Red Glare.”
Betty M. Linsley Award
This year’s Betty M. Linsley Award is presented To New London County Historical Society (NLCHS) for its volume of essays entitled The Rockets’ Red Glare: The War of 1812 and Connecticut. Under Dr. Glenn Gordinier’s expert guidance, this well-researched and beautifully illustrated and printed volume represents the insight of numerous scholars into the background, course, and legacy of the War of 1812 in Connecticut. Prepared as the companion volume to the exhibition of nearly the same name, the book makes permanent and expands upon its good but temporary display. From Congreve rockets igniting Stonington to the Hartford Convention, from the embargoes after 1805 to hand-cranked submarines and possibly traitorous blue lights at the mouth of the Thames to signal the British, the local, national, and international are admirably arrayed and investigated in this important volume. We now have gained the book on Connecticut in the War of 1812 which we have lacked for far too long. ASCH proudly presents the Betty M. Linsley Award for 2013 to The Rockets’ Red Glare.