Ted Maris-Wolf has won the George and Ann Richards Prize for the best article published in The Journal of the Civil War Era in 2014. His article, “Of Blood and Treasure” Recaptive Africans and the Politics of Slave Trade Suppression, appeared in the March issue. The article was selected for the award by the Journal editors and the prize earns the recipient a $1,000 award.
Maris-Wolf’s essay tells the story of America’s determination to suppress the African Slave Trade during James Buchanan’s administration. Despite increasing domestic discord over slavery, there was broad support for the dramatic increase in activity by the U.S. Navy to arrest the trade in the late 1850s. Maris-Wolf shows how the stronger American posture against the slave trade paradoxically played to the interests of both abolitionists and proslavery extremists. Abolitionists saw it as a means to end a horrific practice, while slavery’s proponents pointed to the effort as yet another reason why the U.S. should annex Cuba, a major destination of illegal slave voyages, to end the practice. Though Buchanan’s initial effort to suppress the trade received broad support throughout the country, Maris-Wolf shows how the resultant debates over what to do with recaptive slaves “liberated” by the U.S. Navy only deepened the growing sectional divide over slavery, moving the country closer to civil war.
Ted Maris-Wolf is the Interim Vice President of Research and Historical Interpretation and the Abby and George O’Neill Director of the John D. Rockefeller Jr. Library at Colonial Williamsburg. He is the author of Family Bonds: Free Blacks and Re-enslavement Law in Antebellum Virginia(UNC Press, 2015) and is also one of the creators of SlaveryAndRemembrance.org, a partnership among Colonial Williamsburg, UNESCO’s Slave Route Project, and more than fifty museums and historic sites around the world.
Awarded annually, the Richards Prize recognizes the generosity of George and Ann Richards, who have been instrumental in the growth of the Richards Civil War Era Center and in the founding of The Journal of the Civil War Era.