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U.Va. Art Historian Receives Library of Virginia Literary Award

University of Virginia art history professor Maurie McInnis received the Library of Virginia’s 2012 Literary Award for Nonfiction for her book, “Slaves Waiting for Sale: Abolitionist Art and the American Slave Trade,” published in 2011 by the University of Chicago Press.

The award was presented Saturday at the 15th Annual Library of Virginia Literary Awards celebration in Richmond.

Two U.Va. alumni were also honored: David Huddle received the 2012 Emyl Jenkins Sexton Literary Award for Fiction for “Nothing Can Make Me Do This,” and David Baldacci won a “People’s Choice Award” in the fiction category for his novel, “The Sixth Man.”

Judges cited McInnis’ book as “a beautiful book about an ugly subject, combining art history and social history – aesthetic discernment and pioneering archival and archeological research – to present remarkable new insights about slavery and the slave trade in Richmond, Savannah, Charleston and New Orleans. Bolstered with historic illustrations, ‘Slaves Waiting for Sale’ offers fresh and startling perspectives about the antebellum South.”

In the book, McInnis traces the American slave trade through the visual and written records of British artist Eyre Crowe, who visited slave auctions in the U.S. in 1853.

“I am honored to be included in such a long list of distinguished authors who have received this award,” McInnis said.

“The writing of this book was unusual in that once I began, it just flowed. It was a story that just had to be told. The most important paintings in the series document the slave trade in Richmond. The story that the paintings depict is a strikingly human one that tells of anguish, heartache and anger. In their day, these paintings helped spread anti-slavery awareness to the public and today they invite us to reflect on a central chapter of American and Richmond history. I am very honored to have had the opportunity to bring new awareness to this important history.”

In addition to a $3,000 award, McInnis received an engraved crystal book.

This spring, McInnis, who is professor of American art and material culture and associate dean for undergraduate academic programs in U.Va.’s College of Arts & Sciences, received the Smithsonian American Art Museum's Charles C. Eldredge Prize for Distinguished Scholarship in American Art for “Slaves Waiting for Sale.” As part of that award, McInnis gave a public lecture in which she discussed the book, which you can listen to here.

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