Theodore Roosevelt American History Award 2022

Every year, the Roosevelt Institute for American Studies organizes the Theodore Roosevelt American History Award (TRAHA), which is presented to the best MA thesis on a topic related to the history of the United States, written at a Dutch university during the previous academic year. The Jury of the 2022 TRAHA was comprised of Damian Pargas (RIAS/UL), Tim Jelfs (RUG), Heleen Blommers (VU), Melanie van der Elsen (RU Nijmegen and last year’s winner). 

In 2022 eight MA theses were received and all of them were truly excellent. The jury members were unanimous that all of the theses that were submitted could and should be published, and we highly encourage all of the nominees to do so, preferably as articles in the NASR. These were outstanding pieces of scholarship and it was very difficult to make a decision.

Nathaniel Weisberg, of the University of Amsterdam, was nominated the winner for his truly illuminating and beautifully written thesis “Fantastic Visions of Unfreedom: Reimagining Mythologies of Black Emancipation through the Works of William Wells Brown, 1848-1880.”

Nathaniel’s thesis focuses on three mythologies of black emancipation through a meticulous analysis of the works of William Wells Brown. Mobility and movement stand at the heart of his analysis: the movement of African Americans to Great Britain; movement to the northern US; and movement through time itself. Brown’s works reimagine the notion of African-American freedom, and provide movement “counternarratives” full of disappointment, delay, repetition, and awe. Nathaniel’s research reveals how Brown challenged American mythologies that emphasized liberty and linear progress, but rather provided African-American counter-mythologies that emphasized “cyclical” experiences with black unfreedom and disappointment with the thwarting of sacred American ideals.

Nathan’s thesis is not only exceptionally well-written but also an absolute joy to read. The writing style is elegant and eloquent. It also constitutes an excellent example of interdisciplinary research at its best. The literary and historical analyses are woven together in a wonderful and readable narrative. This is a publishable piece of scholarship and it was a pleasure for the Jury to read.

The complete TRAHA Jury Report 2022 is available here.