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Outstanding Historian Honored


Lee W. Formwalt
Executive Director
Organization of American Historians
112 N. Bryan Avenue
P.O. Box 5457
Bloomington IN, 47408-5457
Phone: 812-855-7311 or

Outstanding Historian Honored

Bloomington, IN -- March 16, 2004 -- Gwendolyn Midlo Hall of Rutgers University has been selected by the Organization of American Historians (OAH) to receive the Distinguished Service Award. On Saturday, March 27, OAH President Jacquelyn Dowd Hall and President-Elect James Oliver Horton will present the award in Boston, MA, during the 97th Annual Meeting of the Organization.

The Executive Board of the Organization of American Historians confers its Distinguished Service Award on Gwendolyn Midlo Hall, a Life Member of the organization, in recognition of her scholarly contributions that "have significantly enriched our understanding and appreciation of American History." Professor emerita of history at Rutgers University, Dr. Hall received her Ph.D. in Latin American history at the University of Michigan. She spent much of her career studying the history of slavery and of the cultures constructed by Africans in the new world. For fifteen years she painstakingly collected data on every Louisiana slave transaction she could locate in the state's courthouses as well as in Spanish, French, and Texas archives. One result of her incredible
labors was her prize-winning study, Africans in Colonial Louisiana: The Development of Afro-Creole Culture in the Eighteenth Century (LSU Press, 1992), which garnered nine awards including the OAH's Elliott Rudwick Prize.

Four years ago, at the age of 71, she witnessed the culmination of her research on Louisiana slavery with the publication by LSU Press on CD-ROM of the "computerized records on more than 100,000 slaves," which,according to one reporter, was the "largest collection of individual slave information ever assembled." The Databases for the Study of Afro-Louisiana History and Genealogy received front page coverage in the Sunday New York Times and "amazed historians of slavery and genealogists with the breadth of its information."

Fluent in both Spanish and French, the languages of many of the Louisiana slave records, Professor Hall translated these documents and with the help of several research assistants and the National Endowment for the Humanities, she went on to amass her groundbreaking work. Along the way, she made extraordinary sacrifices. As the New York Times reported, "The years of staring at documents and computer screens took a toll on Dr. Hall's eyesight, which deteriorated to the point that she
could barely make out black ink on a white page. A pair of specially designed eyeglasses has since improved her ability to see contrasting colors."

OAH is proud to count among its more than 9,000 members Gwendolyn Midlo Hall whose scholarship on slavery has had such a significant impact on our understanding of this troubled dimension of our past.

Founded in 1907, OAH is the largest professional society dedicated to the teaching and study of the American past. OAH promotes excellence in the scholarship, teaching, and presentation of American history, and encourages wide discussion of historical questions and equitable treatment of all practitioners of history. Members in the U.S. and abroad include college and university professors; students; precollegiate teachers; archivists, museum curators, and other public historians employed in government and the private sector.

For information: or
Phone: 812-855-7311