Marcus Rediker Receives Racial Justice Award In Education from YWCA Greater Pittsburgh

Issue Date: 
December 9, 2013

University of Pittsburgh Distinguished Professor of Atlantic History Marcus Rediker received a Racial Justice Award in the category of education from the YWCA Greater Pittsburgh on Nov. 13. The awards honor those whose work shows a commitment to equality and ending racism.

The organization’s 22nd Annual Racial Justice Awards dinner was held at the Westin Convention Center in the Strip District.

Earlier this year, Rediker received the Sidney Hillman Foundation’s 2013 Sol Stetin Award for Labor History. The honor recognizes an individual’s lifetime achievement in the field of labor history. He also has been active in a variety of social justice and peace movements, most recently in the worldwide campaign to abolish the death penalty.

Rediker, who grew up in a working-class family in Kentucky amid mines and factories, has chronicled in several widely acclaimed books the lives and struggles of working people. It is through his writing that 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.

Most recently, Rediker wrote The Amistad Rebellion: An Atlantic Odyssey of Slavery and Freedom (Viking-Penguin, 2012) and, several years earlier, The Slave Ship: A Human History (Viking-Penguin, 2007), which 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. These books, along with The Many-Headed Hydra: Sailors, Slaves, Commoners, and the Hidden History of the Revolutionary Atlantic (Beacon Press, 2000), which he cowrote, 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.