Professor Ruth Feldstein Wins the Hooks Institute National Book Award

Lawrence Lerner

NCAS’ Ruth Feldstein, associate professor of History and American Studies, has been named the co-winner of this year’s Hooks Institute for Social Change National Book Award for How it Feels to Be Free: Black Women Entertainers and the Civil Rights Movement (Oxford University Press, 2013).

In How It Feels to Be Free, Feldstein examines celebrated black women performers, illuminating the risks they took, their roles at home and abroad, and the ways that they raised the issue of gender amid their demands for black liberation. Feldstein focuses on six women who made names for themselves in the music, film and television industries: Nina Simone, Lena Horne, Miriam Makeba, Abbey Lincoln, Diahann Carroll and Cicely Tyson. These women did not simply mirror black activism; their performances helped constitute the era's political history.

Prior to this latest honor, How It Feels to Be Free had garnered widespread attention from the mainstream press, including The New York Times, Dallas Morning News and Boston Globe. Feldstein and her book were also featured NPR’s “Soundcheck.”

Feldstein’s co-winner for the Hooks Institute Award was Daniel Matlin, Lecturer in the History of the United States since 1865 at King’s College London, for his book On the Corner: African American Intellectuals and the Urban Crisis (Harvard University Press, 2013).

The Hooks Institute received more than 20 nominations for the Book Award, primarily from university presses across the United States. In addition to the two co-winners, the other three finalists were Jakobi Williams’ From the Bullet to the Ballot, Randall Kennedy’s For Discrimination: Race, Affirmative Action and the Law and Jeanne Theoharis’ The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks.

The Benjamin L. Hooks Institute for Social Change was launched in 1996 at the University of Memphis. Its mission is teaching, studying and promoting civil rights and social change. The Hooks Institute archives include Hooks’ personal papers, which are housed in the Mississippi Valley Collection in the University’s McWherter Library.


For more information on the Hooks Institute, visit here.