The MHA presents five awards annually: the Jon Gjerde Prize for the best book on Midwestern regional topics; the Dorothy Schwieder Prize for the best scholarly article on the Midwest; the Frederick Jackson Turner Award for professional contributions to advance the study of the Midwest; the Alice Smith Prize for the best scholarly book that increases public awareness of and reflection upon the Midwest; and the Hamlin Garland Prize on the best popular book that increases public awareness of and reflection upon the Midwest.

Jon Gjerde Prize

Winner: Andrew J. Diamond, Chicago on the Make: Power and Inequality in a Modern City (University of California Press)

Diamond’s Chicago on the Make is an ambitious, timely, sweeping history of Chicago that innovatively joins the larger debate over the historical importance of what is now called “neo-liberalism.” His book shows how “deregulation, fiscal austerity, outsourcing of city services, market solutions to public problems, and the overriding view of residents as consumers (rather than simply as citizens)” took shape “gradually and unevenly over much of the twentieth century.” Urbanists have often foreshortened this history and have thus missed the ways that the rapid acceleration of those repressive and exploitative forces during and after the 1970s and 1980s were rooted in previous historical clashes. To his credit, Diamond never diminishes the significance of actions on the part of local people and their institutions. Indeed, the process of “neo-liberalization” emerges here as a constantly contested, dialectical process in which the battles over power, opportunity, and wealth are repeated in new ways, with contingent consequences in each key period of the city’s history.

Beyond neo-liberalism, Chicago on the Make presents an important argument about the national and transnational significance of this key regional city. He excellently explains the sociological forces that created and sustained residential segregation and exploitation in the urban Midwest, even as he details the causes of violence in those excluded communities. He also shows how efforts to create a more equal and just city were repeatedly co-opted by those with power in the city. Although Diamond is far from the first author to suggest that Chicago has long been a repressive, exploitative place, he has managed to bring this argument into a coherent and well-written argument regarding the “Midwest Metropolis.” His focus on how racial issues have been manipulated to maintain repressive systematic segregation highlights the extraordinarily complex techniques and cultural commitments that have sustained the subordination of some for the benefit of others in the “liberal” Midwest. His work does not offer an optimistic conclusion, but it speaks in innovative and important ways to ongoing questions about race in other Midwestern cities and towns that have experience social rifts in recent years, such as Ferguson, St. Louis, Tulsa, and Minneapolis.

Finalist: Jon Lauck, From Warm Center to Ragged Edge: The Erosion of Midwestern Literary and Historical Regionalism, 1920-1965 (University of Iowa Press)

Lauck’s book self-consciously and transparently addresses the Midwest as a region and seeks to bring the region back into historical discussions. This is an elegantly written, thoughtfully narrated, and detailed intellectual history of the rise and decline of the region’s importance and reputation in national literary culture. Deeply informed, the book is the product of a historian who has long taken seriously the significance of the Midwest to national culture and history. The work provides an entertaining education in the careers of Midwestern writers and their relationships to snobbish coastal critics. His chapter on the decline of Midwestern history is also a spirited, engaging, and explicitly political defense of a kind of Midwestern conceptualization of history, and the region’s importance in it. It is the kind of writing that spurs broader questions about marginalization, homogenization, and exoticization, given that the Midwest was not-uncoincidentally supplanted by the South as the image of the most provincial region of the U.S. The book’s in-depth historiographical research will make Lauck’s work a go-to place for those looking for sources on this topic, and it is perfectly suited to the kinds of works this prize was meant to spotlight.

Honorable Mention: A. James Fuller, Oliver P. Morton and the Politics of the Civil War and Reconstruction (Kent State University Press)

Fuller’s book is a well-written and fully developed revisionist biography of Indiana’s controversial war governor during the Civil War. Fuller connects wartime and postwar politics in his state and neighboring states, and restores Morton’s mostly forgotten or neglected postwar career as a Radical Republican leader in the U.S. Senate. Morton’s career, as recovered here, is worth remembering, as Morton championed racial equality and support for civil rights of African Americans and fought against the Democrats and the Ku Klux Klan. Fuller’s emphasis on Morton’s early life and the frontier period’s persistent influence looms large, as Fuller centers of the Midwest in the battles over slavery, the defense of the Union war effort in the face of Copperhead resistance during the Civil War, and the government-centered push to make freedom real after emancipation.

Honorable Mention: Richard Edwards, Jacob Friefeld, and Rebecca Wingo, Homesteading on the Plains: Toward a New History (University of Nebraska Press)

Based on newly digitized sources and deep and innovative empirical research, the authors examine widely divergent evaluations of the Homestead Act. Most scholars “judge homesteading to have been a sham, a failure, and of minor importance,” but the authors’ digital mapping and wide-ranging conclusions challenge many negative assumptions as well as some of the foundational ideas of the “New Western History.” The book offers important historiographical contributions and provides a convincing revisionist argument about one of the definitive themes in Midwestern history.


2016 Winner: Jason Weems, Barnstorming the Prairies: How Aerial Vision Shaped the Midwest (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2015).

The Jon Gjerde Prize is awarded to the best book in Midwestern History published in the previous calendar year. The committee seeks books that focus on the Midwest as a region and will give preference to books that look beyond a single state, but welcomes, too, books that take up regional themes. Books which are oriented toward the Midwest as a region are especially welcome and all historical topics are welcome.

Dorothy Schwieder Prize

2018 Winner: Kurt Hackemer, “Wartime Trauma and the Lure of the Frontier: Civil War Veterans in Dakota Territory,” Journal of Military History, January 2017.

This year's award goes to Kurt Hackemer's "Wartime Trauma and the Lure of the Frontier: Civil War Veterans in Dakota Territory," published in the Journal of Military History in January 2017. Committee members praised its methodology, deep research and fine writing, as well as its timely topic. The article makes a unique and important contribution to Midwestern history by exploring the connection between wartime trauma and frontier settlement. It provides new insight into an old topic in a compelling and unexpected way, using the underutilized 1885 territorial census records to argue that veterans tried to rebuild their lives through homesteading on the northern Great Plains. We also would like to give Nathaniel Otjen's article, "Creating a Barrio in Iowa City, 1916-1936: Mexican Section Laborers and the Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railroad Company," published in the Annals of Iowa in the Fall of 2017, honorable mention. His article is an important contribution to the neglected history of Latinos in the state of Iowa and demonstrates painstaking research and strong writing.

The Dorothy Schwieder Prize is awarded to the best article in midwestern history published during the calendar year. All articles on midwestern history were published in peer-reviewed journals are eligible for the prize. For this purpose, “the Midwest” includes the twelve states of the region as defined by the US Census: Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wisconsin.

Past winners:

2015: Doug Kiel, "Untaming the Wild Frontier: In Search of New Midwestern Histories" in Middle West Review 1:1 (Fall 2014). The prize committee also awarded an honorable mention to Dr. Kathryn Anne Schumaker for her essay "Investing in Segregation: The Long Struggle for Racial Equity in Cairo, Illinois Public Schools" in Ohio Valley History 14:3 (Fall 2014).

2014: Tiya Miles, “’Shall Woman’s Voice Be Hushed?’: Laura Smith Haviland in Abolitionist Women’s History,” Michigan Historical Review 39:2 (Fall 2013).

Frederick Jackson Turner Award

The 2018 recipient is Theodore J. Karamanski, of Loyola University Chicago.

Theodore J. Karamanski has a distinguished record of scholarship regarding the history of the Midwest. For nearly four decades he has deeply probed and analyzed the social, economic, and environmental history of the region through an impressive number and variety of scholarly books, articles, contract histories, conference presentations, public addresses, and film commentaries. His work has centered on numerous topics in the region’s past, most notably the fur trade, logging frontier, Native American history, Chicago (especially during the Civil War), maritime history of the Great Lakes and of Lake Michigan particularly, and of the rich history of several units of the national park system including Isle Royale, the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway, and Sleeping Bear Dunes and Pictured Rocks National Lakeshores. Karamanski has been a leader in public history scholarship, not only with his authoring of administrative histories for the U.S. Forest Service, National Park Service, Army Corps of Engineers, and several district courts, but also by his many essays and presentations on historic preservation, cultural resources, Native American, and urban history of the Midwest.

His numerous articles have appeared in Chicago History, Michigan Historical Review, Mid-America, Inland Seas: Quarterly Journal of the Great Lakes Historical Society, Journal of Urban History, and The Public Historian.

Among his major books are Fur Trade and Exploration: Opening the Far Northwest, 1821-1852 (1983); Deep Woods Frontier: A History of Logging in Northern Michigan (1989); Schooner Passage: Sailing Ships and the Lake Michigan Frontier (2001); Rally ‘Round the Flag: Chicago and the Civil War (2006); North Woods River: The St. Croix River in Upper Midwest History (co-authored with Eileen M. McMahon, 2009); Blackbird’s Song: Andrew J. Blackbird and the Odawa People (2012); and Civil War Chicago: Eyewitness to History, co-edited with Eileen M. McMahon (2014).

Ted Karamanski has left a deep mark on Midwestern History scholarship and is the 2018 recipient of the Frederick Jackson Turner Award for Lifetime Achievement in Midwestern History.


The Frederick Jackson Turner Award for Lifetime Achievement in Midwestern History is an annual award, given to senior scholars and/or public historians.  It is intended to honor historians whose work carries forth Turner’s interest and influence upon the practice of Midwestern history across multiple professional dimensions. The individual receiving this award should have demonstrated a long-standing commitment to the promotion of the history of the Midwest

Past Winners:

2016 Winner: James H. Madison, Thomas and Kathryn Miller Professor Emeritus, Indiana University

2015: John E. Miller

2014: Margaret Beattie Bogue

Alice Smith Prize

2018 Winner: Christopher Cantwell and Stuart Hinds

Making History: Kansas City and the Rise of Gay Rights

Our committee is pleased to select Making History: Kansas City and the Rise of Gay Rights as this year’s Alice Smith Prize in Public History. This year the committee received a record number of submissions with incredible projects that incorporated the best elements of public history. Making History significantly contributes to the profession’s central attributes—public programming and outreach, an incredible traveling exhibit, cultivation of multi-institutional partnerships. Smith Prize committee members congratulate the authors for their pioneering work in Making History.

Making History joins new regional and national efforts to pursue LGBTQ heritage to consider, as the authors’ suggest, how the public “can be reinterpreted to include previously overlooked or obscured connections to LGBTQ history. From coast to coast, LGBTQ history is becoming more intimately connected to American history.” The Smith committee agrees: Making History offers a powerful example of the power LGBTQ history for all of us to consider future public history projects.

The project, which was a multi-phase collaborative endeavor that concluded in 2017, explores the surprisingly pivotal role Kansas City played in helping launch the modern gay rights movement. Because of its central location and vibrant LGBTQ community, the city served as host of the 1966 gathering of the National Planning Conference of Homophile Organization. It was the first national meeting of gay rights activists in American history, and from it would emerge the first truly national gay rights organization, the North American Conference of Homophile Organizations, or NACHO (pronounced Nay-ko).

Making History documents, commemorates, and preserves this history, including the establishment of the Gay and Lesbian Archive of Mid-America, the installation of a historic marker at the site where NACHO was formed, which is the first marker in Missouri to commemorate the state’s LGBTQ history, and the fabrication of a traveling exhibit to promote the marker’s installation, which became the first project focused exclusively on LGBTQ issues to receive funding from a federal heritage area.

We congratulate the creators of Making History: Kansas City and the Rise of Gay Rights for sharing their incredible work with us.

The Alice Smith Prize in Public History is named after the director of research at the Wisconsin Historical Society from 1947 to 1965 who authored six books and numerous articles on the state's history, the prize honors a public history project completed in the previous calendar year that contributes to broader public reflection and appreciation of the region’s past. For purposes of the award, “the Midwest” includes the twelve states of the region as defined by the US Census: Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wisconsin.

Projects by individuals, groups, community organizations, businesses, or other organizations or work done in support of such projects may be nominated. Projects may include, but are not limited to the following areas: Media, Exhibits, Public Programs or Written Works (such as research reports, brochures, working papers, or historical fiction) that broaden public history understanding. Non-fiction books and journal articles are not eligible for this award.

Past winners:

2015: Kirsten Delegard and Michael Lansing, Augsburg College, "Historyapolis."

Hamlin Garland Prize

2018 Winner: Joel Stone, editor, Detroit 1967: Origins, Impact, and Legacy. Wayne State University Press

Detroit 1967 is an outstanding achievement in presenting local history as regional and national history. Turning the cliché—all history is local history—inside out, Detroit 1967 is the product of intense community reflection to find contemporary meaning in the past. A wide array of Detroiters were invited to ponder the tumultuous events of 1967, especially the late-July riot, and consider how much had changed in terms of class, race, economic equity, and social justice in the ensuing fifty years. Historians, journalists, attorneys, activists, community organizers, planners, and literary writers contributed a rich mix of research and personal-experience essays. More than thirty brief essays cover Detroit’s “checkered history” of race relations and segregation since European settlement in the eighteenth century, the course of deindustrialization in the late-twentieth century, police-community relations, the 1967 riots, black and white reactions to the riots, and what lies behind the curtain of Detroit’s most recent renaissance. Thanks to skillful editing, the result is a highly readable book that explores the complex history of racial violence and institutional segregation in Detroit from many points of view, despairing to hopeful. In the bigger picture, Detroit 1967 reminds us that the troubled legacy of slavery pervades midwestern history and culture, too, just as the events of 2014, 2015, and 2016 in Ferguson, Milwaukee, Chicago, Minneapolis, and other cities across the nation remind us that the conditions which led to urban riots in the late 1960s have not been adequately addressed.

2016 Winner: Jeffrey T. Manuel, Taconite Dreams: The Struggle to Sustain Mining on Minnesota’s Iron Range, 1915-2000, published by the University of Minnesota Press. Manuel, a Minnesota native, is an Associate Professor of History at Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville.

The Hamlin Garland Prize in Popular History is named after the Midwestern writer Hamlin Garland, a product of Wisconsin, Iowa, and South Dakota who sought to promote writing about his home region and published widely in popular outlets.  His many books include Daughter of the Middle Border, which won the Pulitzer Prize in 1922. The Garland Prize honors a work of popular history about the Midwest published in the previous calendar year that contributes to broader public reflection and appreciation of the region’s past. For purposes of the award, “the Midwest” includes the twelve states of the region as defined by the US Census: Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wisconsin. Works of popular history eligible for the prize may include, but are not limited to, articles in popular history magazines and journals, feature stories in magazines and newspapers, and books written for a broad public audience.

Past winners:

2015: James E. Sherow and John R. Charlton for Railroad Empire Across the Heartland: Rephotographing Alexander Gardner’s Westward Journal, published by the University of New Mexico Press. Sherow is a Professor of History at Kansas State University and Charlton was a long-time photographer for the Kansas Geological Survey at the University of Kansas.