CRRJ Director Burnham wins LA Times Book Prize, Northeastern Excellence Award, and others

CRRJ Director Professor Margaret A. Burnham won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize in History for her book By Hands Now Known: Jim Crow’s Legal Executioners on Friday, April 21 just one day after receiving Northeastern’s Excellence in Research and Creative Activity Award.

Collectively, the two awards recognize Burnham’s work as a preeminent scholar in the field of civil rights and restorative justice. 

“How thrilling! Northeastern University has supported this work for 15 years, and it is therefore a special privilege to receive this recognition. And as for the LA Times Book Prize, it’s a real honor to join the list of terrific writers and scholars who have received this award,” said Professor Burnham. “In truth, the awards are a tribute to the families whose travails my students have brought to public attention. Their stories now belong to all of us.”

The LA Times Book Prizes, which celebrated “outstanding literary works” published in 2022, were awarded at the 43rd annual ceremony at University of Southern California’s Bovard Auditorium. Burnham’s was one of 12 books to receive the award.

The LA Times called By Hands Now Known “a dogged and determined work of witness.” “As Burnham shows us, the dead were twice denied their humanity: when they were killed and when their stories were buried to history,” reads the award. “The first offense is beyond her reach. But in this passionate, urgent and triumphant work, she allows these men and women to stand before us again and demand that we learn from their terrible losses.”

Called “shocking, moving, and though-provoking” by the New York Times Review of Books, By Hands Now Known examines Jim Crow-era lynchings from 1920 to 1960, and how the legal system enabled racially motivated killings during that period. The book was a finalist for the 2022 Kirkus Prize for Nonfiction, and was named a Best Book of the Year by The New Yorker, Oprah Daily, Kirkus, Chicago Public Library, and Publishers Weekly. 

Burnham thanked her family as she accepted her award.

“I thank especially my parents, Dorothy Burnham, now 108 years old, and Lou Burnham who in 1940s had a vision of a global world, a world with peace, who also set their feet in the South and thought, perhaps, that they could change our landscape, that they could change the future for those who have been in enchained and still lived,” she said. “This book is for them, and for us, and for history.”

One day prior, Professor Burnham also received Northeastern’s Excellence in Research and Creative Activity Award at the 13th Annual Academic Honors Convocation in Boston. This award recognizes “outstanding research and creative activity of national and international significance.”

Professor Burnham’s book also received the Hillman Prize for journalism last month, along with a 2023 Nautilus Book Award.


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