Maurie McInnis, a VFH fellow from 2009-2010, has been announced as a finalist for the Library of Virginia Literary Awards in the nonfiction category, for her work Slaves Waiting for Sale: Abolitionist Art and the American Slave Trade, published in 2011 by the University of Chicago Press. McInnis completed the book during her VFH fellowship. Earlier this year, McInnis received the Smithsonian American Art Museums’s Charles C. Eldredge Prize for Distinguished Scholarship in American Art for Slaves Waiting for Sale. McInnis is an art history professor at the University of Virginia and is the Associate Dean of Undergraduate Academic Programs.
Slaves Waiting for Sale: Abolitionist Art and the American Slave Trade examines the American slave trade, as captured by British artist Eyre Crowe in 1853. On a visit to America, Crowe saw a slave auction and was so struck by what he saw that he created several illustrations and paintings to demonstrate the world of the American slave trade. His work culminated in a painting entitled “Slaves Waiting for Sale,” from which the book takes its own title. The book traces Crowe’s journey through several Southern cities, including Richmond, and back to London, where his work served to educate the international public about the reality of the American slave trade at the beginning of the Civil War. Using Crowe’s work as a lens, McInnis explores the visual culture of the slave trade and of abolitionism. According to McInnis, “By studying these images, we are forced to ask questions about our past and about our history that are vital for us to understand the history of the American slave trade…. It’s a story that’s not as well known as the international slave trade, but it’s a story we need to know, it’s a story that we need to be honest about, and it’s a story that we need to be willing to confront.”
The winners will be announced at a gala celebration on October 20, 2012 at the Library of Virginia in Richmond. This year marks the 15th annual presentation of the Library of Virginia Literary Award, which seeks to recognize the best books published during the previous year by a Virginia author, or in nonfiction, on a Virginia subject. Awards are given in three categories: poetry, fiction, and nonfiction.
In addition to McInnis, nonfiction finalists include Jill Titus for Brown’s Battleground: Students, Segregationists, and the Struggle for Justice in Prince Edward County, Virginia and Tony Horwitz, for Midnight Rising: John Brown and the Raid that Sparked the Civil War. In 2006, Horwitz participated in VFH’s Festival of the Book with his wife, Geraldine Brooks.