Wilkinson College Professor Tom Zoellner (Department of English) is the winner of the 2020 National Book Critics Circle Award in Nonfiction for his book, “Island on Fire: The Revolt That Ended Slavery in the British Empire,” published by Harvard University Press.
“This book in particular, it was the voices of Jamaican and enslaved people that motivated me. They were denied their real names, they were often given humiliating new names. Even that, the exactness of their names is lost in record, but I hope in some small way to preserve a record of their struggle,” said Zoellner during his online acceptance speech.
“Winning this award is a great honor. It’s a celebration of everyone here. The pursuit of the great craft of literature, the reminder not to give up in the fight of memory versus forgetting.“
Each year, the National Book Critics Circle presents awards for the finest books published in English in six categories: Fiction, Nonfiction, Biography, Autobiography, Poetry, and Criticism.
In addition to the NBCC award, Zoellner was a finalist for the Bancroft Prize, awarded each year by the trustees of Columbia University for the best book in the Americas.
“In 1831, some of the most abused people on the globe — a group of Jamaican slaves — figured out a way to resist their captors that made a powerful impression on [the British] Parliament an ocean away. Their rebellion failed in a military sense. But within eighteen months of the first fires, slavery had been abolished as a direct result, and Britain was able to save itself the far more costly reckoning which would land in America three decades later. Zoellner told Voice of Wilkinson.