Margaret Burnham won the 2023 Hillman Prize for Book Journalism for By Hands Now Known: Jim Crow’s Legal Executioners last week. Awarded by the Sidney Hillman Foundation, the Hillman Prize recognizes achievement in investigative journalism that serves the public interest.
“This is a testament to our students’ work unearthing these cases,” said Burnham “and in recognition of the families with and for whom we work.”
The New York Times columnist and Hillman Prize judge Jamelle Bouie presented the award to Professor Burnham at a ceremony on May 9. In her acceptance speech, Professor Burnham recounted the story of Booker Spicely, a Black man killed by a bus driver in Durham, North Carolina in 1944.
In announcing the prize, the Sidney Hillman Foundation credited Professor Burnham with “challeng[ing] our understanding of the Jim Crow era by exploring the relationship between formal law and background legal norms.”
“By Hands Now Known is a paradigm-shifting investigation of Jim Crow–era violence, the legal apparatus that sustained it, and its enduring legacy,” the foundation said.
The book has also won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize in the history category, 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.