Marcus Rediker, Alberta Sbragia to Receive Lifetime Achievement Awards in Their Respective Fields

Issue Date: 
May 6, 2013

Pitt Distinguished Professor of Atlantic History Marcus Rediker and Vice Provost for Graduate Studies and Professor of Political Science Alberta Sbragia will receive lifetime achievement awards in the fields of labor history and European Union studies, respectively.

Rediker, who has written extensively about working men and women and how they shaped the nation, will receivethe Sidney Hillman Foundation’s 2013 Sol Stetin Award for Labor History at the foundation’s annual dinner May 7 in New York City. The honor recognizes an individual’s lifetime achievement in the field of labor history. 

The European Union Studies Association will confer on Sbragia its Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Field of EU Studies at the organization’s 13th Biennial Conference, May 9-11 in Baltimore, Md. Sbragia chaired the European Union Studies Association, the foremost national association for experts in that field, from 1993 to 1995. The association is now headquartered at Pitt.

Rediker, who grew up in a working-class family in Kentucky amid mines and factories, has chronicled the lives and struggles of working people in a number of widely acclaimed books. In doing so, he is credited with expanding the scope of labor history. 

His first work, Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea: Merchant Seamen, Pirates, and the Anglo-American Maritime World (Cambridge University Press, 1987), took the study of labor out of the factories and onto the ocean, writing about the sailors and pirates who sailed the Atlantic in the 18th century.

Using many previously unknown sources, Rediker reconstructed the social world of the poor, mobile workers who linked the continents of the world. Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea won the 1988 Merle Curti Award from the Organization of American Historians for the best work in American social history and the 1988 John Hope Franklin Prize from the American Studies Association for best interdisciplinary work in American studies.

Rediker worked with a team of scholars at the American Social History Project to write Who Built America? Working People and the Nation’s Economy, Politics, Culture, and Society, Volume 1 (Pantheon Books, 1989). This reinterpretation of American history “from the bottom up” integrates the history of community, family, gender roles, race, and ethnicity into the more familiar history of politics and economic development.

 Rediker cowrote The Many-Headed Hydra: Sailors, Slaves, Commoners, and the Hidden History of the Revolutionary Atlantic (Beacon Press, 2000) and wrote The Slave Ship: A Human History (Viking-Penguin, 2007) and The Amistad Rebellion: An Atlantic Odyssey of Slavery and Freedom (Viking-Penguin, 2012).  The Slave Ship won the 2008 George Washington Book prize from the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, the C.V. Starr Center at Washington College, and Mount Vernon; the 2008 Merle Curti Award; and the James A. Rawley Prize from the American Historical Association. All three books explore the history of workers, free and unfree, in the making of Atlantic and American history.

 A scholar of early American history and Atlantic history, Rediker joined the Pitt history department faculty in 1994 and served as department chair from 2007 to 2010. In 2009, he was a senior scholar in residence at the Society for the Humanities at Cornell University. Prior to joining the Pitt faculty, Rediker taught history at Georgetown University. He earned his master’s and PhD degrees in history from the University of Pennsylvania.

Sol Stetin was fond of saying he got his education in the labor movement. Born on April 2, 1910, near Lodz, Poland, he immigrated with his family to the United States when he was 10. He dropped out of high school in the ninth grade and took a job in a dye shop for 32 cents an hour. He became active in the nationwide textile strike of 1934 and rose up the ranks to become president of the Textile Workers Union of America. He led one of the most ambitious union organizing campaigns of its time at the J.P. Stevens textile mills and merged his union with the larger Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America (ACWA). Eventually, 3,500 workers at 12 Stevens mills were union members. Stetin also cofounded the American Labor Museum in the Botto House National Landmark in Haledon, N.J., the former home of silk mill worker Pietro Botto and his wife, Maria. The Sidney Hillman Foundation, named after the first leader of the ACWA, inaugurated the Sol Stetin Award for Labor History following Stetin’s death in 2005.

Alberta Sbragia

Few scholars of the European Union have enjoyed careers as inextricably linked to the process of European integration, over as long a time period, as has Sbragia. From conducting research interviews in Brussels as Germany took the first steps toward demolishing the Berlin Wall, to publishing highly regarded research on the continent’s political processes, to mentoring generations of European Union scholars, Sbragia has had an incalculable influence on the field of European Union studies.

 “The executive committee of the European Union Studies Association was unanimous in its choice of Dr. Sbragia, given her work mentoring students, her own scholarship, and also for being so instrumental in bringing the European Union Studies Association to Pittsburgh and giving it a permanent home,” said Michelle Egan, vice president of the European Union Studies Association, associate professor in American University’s School of International Service—and Sbragia’s first doctoral student. “Dr. Sbragia is very well known for promoting young scholars and doctoral students, for building up European Union studies at Pitt, and for attracting scholars and practitioners to the University,” Egan added.

Sbragia, one of the world’s foremost experts on European politics and economics and a leading authority on the teaching of international affairs, joined Pitt’s faculty in 1974, teaching American and European urban politics and policy.

In 1983, she was a visiting associate professor at Harvard University; she returned to Pitt the following year to become the inaugural director of Pitt’s West European Studies Program, now Pitt’s European Studies Center, a post she would hold until October 2010.

In 1998, Sbragia was named director of Pitt’s European Union Center, one of the original 10 such centers in the United States funded by the European Commission. In 2005, the center was elevated to the status of a European Union Center of Excellence. Sbragia served as director until October 2010.

“Professor Sbragia has been and continues to be a preeminent scholar on European politics, but she also is a visionary leader in European studies,” said Larry Feick, senior director of international programs for Pitt’s University Center for International Studies. “It was through her efforts that we were able to establish centers at Pitt on Europe and the EU and were able to bring to campus (twice!) José Manuel Barroso, the president of the European Commission.”

Sbragia’s strengths as a teacher and mentor have been recognized internationally through such awards as the Jean Monnet Chair ad personam, granted in recognition of her teaching and research related to the European Union, and Universitywide through the 2013 Provost’s Award for Excellence in Mentoring, the 2001 Apple for the Teacher Award, and her appointment as the inaugural holder of the Chancellor Mark A. Nordenberg Chair (2006 to 2010). Numerous students mentored by Sbragia have secured tenure-track positions at top-tier institutions nationwide.

Sbragia has authored and edited several books, written numerous book chapters and articles, and has presented more than 200 papers and speeches around the globe. Her book Debt Wish: Entrepreneurial Cities, U.S. Federalism, and Economic Development (University of Pittsburgh Press, 1996) was nominated as one of the year’s best books by the American Political Science Association’s Urban Politics Section Best Book Committee. Sbragia’s research has been supported by numerous grants from American and European sources.

Sbragia earned her undergraduate degree from Holy Names College in Oakland, Calif., after spending her junior year studying at the Sorbonne in Paris. She earned her PhD in political science from the University of Wisconsin, where her doctoral studies included research in Italy as a Fulbright Scholar.

At the European Union Studies Association conference, Sbragia will give a keynote address at a May 10 luncheon to be hosted by Pitt, with about 200 conference participants in attendance. There, Sbragia will formally receive the lifetime achievement award from European Union Studies Association chair Amie Kreppel.