The 2016 Grace Abbott Book Prize committee has selected Catherine Jones’s Intimate Reconstructions: Children in Postemancipation Virginia (University of Virginia Press) as the best book on the history of children, childhood or youth published in English in 2015. In their citation, the Committee wrote:
“Jones’ study is an outstanding example of what happens when a researcher approaches a familiar historical narrative from a child-centered perspective. Based on meticulous, extensive and creative archival research, and successfully blending traditional social history with novel analytic categories, Intimate Reconstructions reveals not only how children in Virginia were affected by the process of Reconstruction, but also how Reconstruction itself was shaped by concerns and debates about the treatment, training, reformation and protection of children.
Jones convincingly claims that children, both as direct participants and as cultural symbols, were central to postemancipation struggles over the meaning of freedom, victory and defeat; kinship and citizenship, and the interplay of public and private life.
By attending to the diversity of children’s postwar experiences (in the households of formerly enslaved people and former slaveholders, as apprentices or institutionalized orphans, in the new public schools), to whatchildren had in common as a group (age) and what divided them (race, class, and gender), Jones offers a rich and subtle account ofthe social, political and emotional gains and costs of emancipation. Intimate Reconstructions is an original contribution to the histories of Reconstruction and children, but its detailed storytelling, compelling and clear arguments, and important lessons on the interdependence of private and public—of families and the political and economic contexts in which they are embedded—give it a much broader appeal as well.”
Thank you to the members of the Grace Abbott Prize Committee for their service, Adriana Benzaquén (chair, Mount St. Vincent University), Nara Milanich (Barnard College), and Hugh Morrison (University of Otago).
By Mona Gleason, President, Society for the History of Children and Youth