HARTFORD, CT – The Harriet Beecher Stowe Center is delighted to announce Dr. Clint Smith as the 2022 Stowe Prize winner for his New York Times bestselling book, How the Word Is Passed: A Reckoning with the History of Slavery across America (Little, Brown and Company, 2021). This year’s events will be both in-person and virtual.
The celebration of Dr. Smith and How the Word Is Passed will feature several related programs, culminating with a free virtual program streamed online and screened on the Stowe Center grounds on Thursday, September 22. In keeping with the critical historical work of How the Word Is Passed, the program will feature a conversation on the Stowe Center’s role and responsibility as a museum teaching race history through the narrative of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s life and writing, and as an organization mission-driven to inspire social justice and positive change.
The Stowe Prize award will be presented to Dr. Smith at a fundraising event on June 1. Tickets will be available for advance purchase at www.stowecenter.org, and will include dinner and a book talk. The Stowe Center is grateful for the continued support of The Hartford, this year’s Presenting Sponsor for Stowe Prize.
A long-time museum professional, Amy Hufnagel, Director of Programs and Visitor Experience at the Stowe Center, found How the Word Is Passed particularly transformative: “Dr. Smith’s book is a remarkable set of place-based inquiries that traverse geography, time, and a multiplicity of views to illustrate how historic sites and interpretation produce, or dismantle, the contested narratives of enslavement in our national identity,” she said. “No book in the last 10 years has so deeply impacted my professional work and my own reflection on that work. It is a profound project and a stunning read.”
Linn McGlade, Interim Executive Director of the Stowe Center, adds, “Dr. Clint Smith’s work is an exceptional consideration of how present the history of U.S. slavery remains in the artifacts of the everyday. We are absolutely delighted to award him the Stowe Prize, and to affirm our commitment to critically engage history in order to inspire positive change now.”
About the Stowe Prize
The Stowe Prize recognizes the author of a distinguished book of general adult fiction or nonfiction whose written work illuminates a critical social justice issue in the tradition of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin. The winning book applies informed inquiry, is accessible and engaging to a wide audience, and promotes empathy and understanding. In creating this award, the Stowe Center recognizes the value of diversity to strengthen our communities.
Dr. Clint Smith is the eighth recipient of the Stowe Prize, following Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn in 2011 for Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide, Michelle Alexander in 2013 for The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, Ta-Nehisi Coates in 2015 for The Case for Reparations, Bryan Stevenson in 2017 for Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption, Matthew Desmond in 2018 for Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City, Albert Woodfox in 2020 for Solitary: Unbroken by Four Decades in Solitary Confinement; My Story of Transformation and Hope, and Dr. Eddie S. Glaude Jr. in 2021 for Begin Again: James Baldwin’s America and Its Urgent Lessons for Our Own.
About Dr. Clint Smith and How the Word Is Passed
Dr. Clint Smith is a staff writer at The Atlantic. How the Word Is Passed was a number one New York Times bestseller and was named one of the ten best books of 2021 by the New York Times Book Review. Dr. Smith’s poetry collection, Counting Descent, won the 2017 Literary Award for Best Poetry Book from the Black Caucus of the American Library Association and was a finalist for an NAACP Image Award.
In a deeply researched and transporting exploration of the legacy of slavery and its imprint on centuries of American history, How the Word Is Passed illustrates how some of our country’s most essential stories are hidden in plain view—whether in places we might drive by on our way to work, holidays such as Juneteenth, or entire neighborhoods—like downtown Manhattan—on which the brutal history of the trade in enslaved men, women, and children has been deeply imprinted.
Informed by scholarship and brought alive by the story of people living today, How the Word Is Passed is a landmark work of reflection and insight that offers a new understanding of the hopeful role that memory and history can play in making sense of our country and how it came to be.
Dr. Smith has received numerous awards and honors, including fellowships from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Emerson Collective, the Art for Justice Fund, and Cave Canem. His essays, poems, and scholarly articles have been published in The New Yorker, The New Republic, and The Paris Review, among others. He is a 2014 National Poetry Slam champion and a 2017 recipient of the Jerome J. Shestack Prize for the American Poetry Review. He received his B.A. from Davidson College and his Ph.D. from Harvard University. He is host of the YouTube series Crash Course Black American History and was previously a high school English teacher.
Praise for How the Word Is Passed:
“There is perhaps no greater challenge than convincing a nation to remember what it would rather choose to forget. Clint Smith, one of our most thoughtful writers and thinkers, skillfully documents how echoes of enslavement remain everywhere…How the Word Is Passed is a vital, desperately-needed contribution to that reckoning.”
—Wesley Lowery, Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter and author of They Can’t Kill Us All
“James Baldwin wrote that history ‘is literally present in all that we do’; Smith’s book illuminates that reality for slavery in America, interrogating the lies we tell ourselves and helping us see clearly so that we can chart a new path towards justice.”
The Harriet Beecher Stowe Center is a museum, research library, and program center in Hartford, Connecticut. The Stowe Center’s mission is to preserve and interpret Stowe’s Hartford home and the Center’s historic collections, promote vibrant discussion of her life and work, and inspire commitment to social justice and positive change. For general information and updates about the 2021 Stowe Prize, visit www.HarrietBeecherStoweCenter.org.