Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Washington College Hosts Two-Day Book Prize Celebration

Winner of $50,000 Award Coming to Chestertown September 27, 28

Chestertown, MD, September 12, 2007 — Washington College's C.V. Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience will host Charles Rappleye, winner of the 2007 George Washington Book Prize, during a two-day celebration of the $50,000 award for the best book on the founding era in American history.

The winning book, Sons of Providence: The Brown Brothers, the Slave Trade, and the American Revolution, is the story of one of the great sibling rivalries in American history. The youngest sons of a prominent Providence family, John and Moses Brown were rascals in the great American Revolutionary tradition. They were pirates and smugglers, John was a war profiteer, and Moses engaged in industrial espionage, stealing one of Britain's most closely-guarded secrets to launch the first competitive American cotton mill. Together they made a fortune and helped shape the political and economic character of a region. They founded Brown University and Rhode Island's first bank. But one subject divided them bitterly and publicly: Moses was an ardent abolitionist and John an unrepentant slave trader. John was even prosecuted under a law banning the slave trade that Moses helped lobby Congress to pass.

"They emerged as American archetypes," Mr. Rappleye writes, "the robber baron and the social reformer, thunder and light, a dichotomy in the American character that echoes to this day."

The Book Prize celebration begins Thursday, Sept. 27, at 2 p.m. on Martha Washington Square, with Revolutionary War reenactors and a parade by the New Ark Colonial Fife & Drum Corps. At 4:15, Mr. Rappleye will appear on the square to sign copies of Sons of Providence.

The centerpiece of the celebration will take place at 5 p.m. in Hynson Lounge, Hodson Hall, when Mr. Rappleye will deliver the 2007 Book Prize Lecture—"Brothers Divided: An Abolitionist, a Slave Trader, and the American Revolution."

Mr. Rappleye will return to Hynson Lounge the following day, Friday, Sept. 28, at 10:30 a.m., for an onstage discussion with Adam Goodheart, Hodson Trust-Griswold Director of the C.V. Starr Center, which administers the Book Prize. In "Making History: A Public Conversation on the Historian's Craft," Mr. Rappleye will talk about how he pieced together the story of John and Moses Brown, interviewing descendants and sifting through public records, family documents, and historic archives, and about some of the remarkable discoveries he made—including new information about George Washington and his famously conflicted feelings about slavery. There will also be an opportunity for the audience to ask Mr. Rappleye questions about his work.

Book Prize festivities will conclude at 6 p.m., Friday, Sept. 28, when Mr. Rappleye will appear at Book Plate in downtown Chestertown to read and sign copies of his winning book. The book prize events are part of Washington College's year-long 225th anniversary celebration.

Charles Rappleye is a veteran newspaperman who lives in Los Angeles with his wife, journalist and art critic Tulsa Kinney. His first book was All-American Mafioso: The Johnny Roselli Story. Mr. Rappleye and Ms. Kinney recently founded an edgy new magazine—Artillery—to cover the Los Angeles fine arts scene.

The George Washington Book Prize was created in 2005 by Washington College, the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, and George Washington's Mount Vernon. It is one of the largest literary awards in the country. For more information, visit

About the Prize Partners

Established in 2000 with a grant from the New York-based Starr Foundation, the C.V. Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience draws on the special historical strengths of Washington College and the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Through educational programs, scholarship, and public outreach, the Starr Center explores the early republic, the rise of democracy, and the manifold ways in which the founding era continues to shape American culture. In partnership with other institutions and with leading scholars and writers, the Center works to promote innovative approaches to the study of history, and to bridge the gaps between historians, contemporary policymakers, and the general public. Washington College was founded in 1782 under the patronage of George Washington, and was the first college chartered in the new nation.

Founded in 1994, the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History promotes the study and love of American history among audiences ranging from students to scholars to the general public. It creates history-centered schools and academic research centers, organizes seminars and enrichment programs for educators, produces print and electronic publications and traveling exhibitions, and sponsors lectures by eminent historians. In addition to the George Washington Book Prize, the Institute also sponsors the Lincoln Prize in conjunction with the Civil War Institute at Gettysburg College and the Frederick Douglass Prize in cooperation with the Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, and Abolition at Yale University.

George Washington's Mount Vernon Estate and Gardens, open to the public since 1858, communicates the character and leadership of Washington to millions of Americans each year through a variety of interpretive programs on the Estate and in classrooms across the nation. Mount Vernon is owned and operated by the Mount Vernon Ladies' Association, founded in 1853, making it America's oldest national preservation organization. The George Washington Book Prize is an important component in the Association's aggressive outreach program, which engages millions of teachers and students throughout the nation.

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