Kate Masur Wins 2022 John Nau Book Prize

Tuesday, May 17, 2022

We are delighted to announce that Kate Masur, Professor of History at Northwestern University, has won the 2022 John Nau Book Prize in American Civil War Era History for her new book, Until Justice Be Done: America's First Civil Rights Movement, from the Revolution to Reconstruction (W. W. Norton, 2021)!! 

As publisher W. W. Norton explains, Until Justice Be Done offers a "groundbreaking history of the movement for equal rights that courageously battled racist laws and institutions, Northern and Southern, in the decades before the Civil War...Kate Masur’s magisterial history delivers this pathbreaking movement in vivid detail. Activists such as John Jones, a free Black tailor from North Carolina whose opposition to the Illinois 'black laws' helped make the case for racial equality, demonstrate the indispensable role of African Americans in shaping the American ideal of equality before the law. Without enforcement, promises of legal equality were not enough. But the antebellum movement laid the foundation for a racial justice tradition that remains vital to this day."

The 2022 Nau Book Prize Committee, comprised of Sarah E. Gardner, Stephen Berry, and Ari Kelman, wrote in its report that:
"Kate Masur’s meticulously researched and beautifully written Until Justice Be Done: America’s First Civil Rights Movement from the Revolution to Reconstruction fundamentally reorients how we understand the decades leading up to the Civil War and its aftermath. Masur's is a complicated story told with grace that centers on the work of Black activists and their allies to secure civil and citizenship rights at the state and federal levels. Her book makes it clear that the moral arc of the universe does not always bend toward justice. That arc must be bent by seemingly ordinary people willing to do extraordinary things. Masur never loses sight of the sacrifices demanded by this kind of work. Nor does she smooth over the reality of the opposition the people she writes about faced. Nothing is foreordained in her telling of these contests. Her analysis is nuanced even as her narrative is commanding. The historiographical contribution of Until Justice Be Done will be immense, reshaping the way historians and readers outside the academy understand the struggle over rights." 

In addition to winning the Nau Book Prize, Until Justice Be Done was also a Finalist for the 2022 Pulitzer Prize in History and a Finalist for the 2022 Lincoln Prize!

Thank you to Sarah Gardner, Stephen Berry, and Ari Kelman for serving on our Book Prize Committee, and congratulations to Kate Masur!