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Former ABF Doctoral Fellow Kimberly Welch Receives Cromwell Book Prize

November 26, 2019, ABF news

Former American Bar Foundation (ABF) Doctoral Fellow Kimberly Welch received the American Society for Legal History Cromwell Book Prize for her book, Black Litigants in the Antebellum American South. She received the prize on November 23 at the 2019 American Society for Legal History Annual Meeting. 

The William Nelson Cromwell Foundation Book Prize is awarded annually to the best book in the field of American legal history by an early career scholar. The prize is designed to recognize and promote new work in the field by graduate students, law students, post-doctoral fellows, and faculty not yet tenured. The work may be in any area of American legal history, including constitutional and comparative studies, but scholarship in the colonial and early national periods will receive some preference. 

Welch was an ABF Doctoral Fellow in 2010-2012 while she was a doctoral candidate in History at the University of Maryland.  She is now an Assistant Professor of History and Assistant Professor of Law at Vanderbilt University and a historian of the United States with a focus on slavery, race, and the law in the early American South. 

Black Litigants in the Antebellum American South, Welch's first book, is a historical and socio-legal study of free and enslaved black Americans’ use of the local courts in the slave South. The book investigates unpublished and unexplored lower court records from the Natchez district of Mississippi and Louisiana between 1800 and 1860 in which free and enslaved black people sued whites and other African Americans. Although they present technical and interpretive challenges, local court records represent an important resource for understanding the relationship between legal systems and formally marginalized peoples in racially and economically stratified societies. 

Previously, the book received the J. Willard Hurst Prize for the best book in socio-legal history, Law and Society Association, 2019; the David J. Langum Sr. Prize for best book in American Legal History, Langum Charitable Trust, 2019; the James H. Broussard Best Book First Book Prize, Society for Historians of the Early American Republic, 2019; and the Chancellor’s Award for Research, Vanderbilt University, 2019.

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