Two Faculty Members Honored For Books

Kevin McMahon, Chris Hager win awards

Two faculty members–Kevin J. McMahon, John R. Reitemeyer Professor of Political Science, and Christopher Hager, associate professor of English–recently received honors for their books.

Kevin McMahon
Kevin J. McMahon, John R. Reitemeyer Professor of Political Science.
Photo by John Atashian

McMahon was awarded the Erwin N. Griswold Prize from the Supreme Court Historical Society.The organization does not award the prize every year but names a winner when a book on Supreme Court history stands out enough to merit the recognition. For just the seventh time, and the first time since 2009, the society named a winner: McMahon’s Nixon’s Court: His Challenge to Judicial Liberalism and Its Political Consequences.

Many scholars have held that President Richard Nixon failed in his efforts to challenge the liberal approach of the Warren court. In Nixon’s Court, McMahon maintains that Nixon’s strategy was in fact a success from both a legal and political perspective. He argues that Nixon was able to earn the Supreme Court’s endorsement of his highest priorities while simultaneously laying the foundation of an electoral alliance that would dominate presidential politics for a generation. The 2011 book, published by The University of Chicago Press, was named the 2012 CHOICE Outstanding Academic Title.

As the recipient of the Griswold Prize, McMahon was set to deliver a lecture on his book in the chamber of the U.S. Supreme Court in early 2015, with an introduction by a current Supreme Court justice. The prize is named for Erwin N. Griswold, former solicitor general of the United States, dean of Harvard Law School, and chairman of the Supreme Court Historical Society.

Christopher Hager, associate professor of English
Photo by Richard Bergen

Hager won the 16th annual Frederick Douglass Book Prize for his book Word by Word: Emancipation and the Act of Writing.

In Word by Word, Hager studies the writings of everyday slaves, including letters, diaries, and petitions by freedmen. Through them, he examines the relationship between literacy and freedom. For this research, he was awarded a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities in 2009.

“The emancipation of American slaves was not only a social and political revolution but also a singular moment in the history of written expression,” Hager said. “Untold thousands of African Americans who had been deprived of literacy gained unprecedented access to education at the same time they achieved their freedom.”

According to the prize jury, “Hager’s Word by Word presents a profoundly original, illuminating approach to reading texts by and about enslaved African Americans.”

Hager said he began working on the book around the time he arrived at Trinity in 2007. “My research generated not only the book but also a class I teach, ‘Literacy & Literature.’ I owe a debt to the Trinity students who have taken that class with me, and to our discussions of some of the material that went into Word by Word.”

The prize was established jointly by Yale University’s Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, and Abolition and the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History. The $25,000 prize was presented to Hager at a ceremony in New York in January.