Kevin Waite's "West of Slavery" Wins 2022 Wiley-Silver Prize

April Holm's picture

The Center for Civil War Research at the University of Mississippi is pleased to announce that Kevin Waite has been awarded the 2022 Wiley Silver Prize for Best First Book in Civil War History for West of Slavery: The Southern Dream of a Transcontinental Empire (University of North Carolina Press).

Kevin Waite is Assistant Professor of History at Durham University.  He holds a PhD in History from the University of Pennsylvania.

The prize committee praised West of Slavery as follows:

“Sophisticated and deftly-written, Kevin Waite’s West of Slavery: The Southern Dream of a Transcontinental Empire argues that proslavery Southerners and Westerners transformed the American West into the “Continental South,” an empire of unfree labor from sea to sea, during the nineteenth century. By drawing on diverse primary documents and a broad historiography, Waite reveals how proslavery partisans from Virginia to California forged this Continental South before the Civil War, fought to expand its imperial reach during the conflict, and reemerged after defeat to shape Reconstruction politics and the war’s legacy and memory. Waite demonstrates persuasively that slavery was more than a regional aberration that distinguished the South from the North and West. A wide-ranging and adaptable network of unfree labor constituted a national regime with global ambitions. This “Slave Power” was not the monolithic, conspiratorial cabal that anti-slavery partisans stereotyped; it involved Southerners, Midwesterners, Californios, Nuevomexicanos, and Mormons, whose contrasting ideas and goals did not preclude frequent alliances. While Republican policies and the US army reshaped the Desert South during the Civil War and early Reconstruction, a western redemption swiftly mirrored that of the South, reversing free labor victories through political and violent means. Though the subtitle of this remarkable book is the “southern dream,” Waite convincingly demonstrates that this empire was a reality. West of Slavery will influence our understanding of slavery and the West for years to come.”

The Wiley-Silver Prize in Civil War History is awarded annually to the best first book in Civil War history published the preceding year. Established in 2011, the prize intended to recognize and encourage emerging Civil War scholars. The prize is named for two distinguished former faculty members at the University of Mississippi.  This year’s prize committee consisted of Jason Philips (West Virginia University), Kathryn Shivley (Virginia Commonwealth University), and Barbara Gannon (University of Central Florida). Learn more about the prize here: