William D. Green Receives 2020 Hognander Minnesota History Award

SAINT PAUL, MINNESOTA, February 19, 2020The Friends of the Saint Paul Public Library announced today that William D. Green is the winner of the 2020 Hognander Minnesota History Award for his book The Children of Lincoln: White Paternalism and the Limits of Black Opportunity in Minnesota, 1860-1876. This biennial award, supported by the Hognander Family Foundation, recognizes and celebrates the most outstanding scholarly work published in the previous two years on a topic of Minnesota history. It is presented as part of the 32nd annual Minnesota Book Awards, sponsored this year by Education Minnesota. Green was honored with the award once before in 2016 for his book Degrees of Freedom: The Origins of Civil Rights in Minnesota, 1865–1912. The award was last presented in 2018 to Gary Kaunonen for his book Flames of Discontent: The 1916 Minnesota Iron Ore Strike.

The Children of Lincoln reveals a pattern of racial paternalism in Minnesota after Emancipation, describing how even “enlightened” white Northerners, fatigued with the “Negro Problem,” would come to embrace policies that reinforced a notion of black inferiority. White people, Frederick Douglass said in a speech in 1876, were “the children of Lincoln,” while black people were “at best his stepchildren.” Emancipation became the law of the land, and white champions of African Americans in the state were suddenly turning to other causes, regardless of the worsening circumstances of black Minnesotans. Through four of these “children of Lincoln” in Minnesota, Green’s book brings to light a little known but critical chapter in the state’s history as it intersects with the broader account of race in America.

In a narrative spanning the years of the Civil War and Reconstruction, the lives of these four Minnesotans mark the era’s most significant moments in the state, the Midwest, and the nation for the Republican Party, the Baptist church, women’s suffrage, and Native Americans. Morton Wilkinson, the state’s first Republican senator; Daniel Merrill, a Saint Paul business leader who helped launch Pilgrim Baptist Church, Minnesota’s first African American place of worship; Sarah Burger Stearns, founder and first president of the Minnesota Woman Suffragist Association; and Thomas Montgomery, an immigrant farmer who served in the Colored Regiments in the Civil War: each played a part in securing the rights of African Americans and each abandoned the fight as the forces of hatred and prejudice increasingly threatened those hard-won rights. Together, their lives – so differently and deeply connected with nineteenth-century race relations – create a telling portrait of Minnesota as a microcosm of America during the tumultuous years of Reconstruction.

According to the judge, Green’s book was chosen “based on its significance to Minnesota’s history, and its contribution to the broader panorama of race relations and the context of Reconstruction in American history.” 

A professor of history at Augsburg College and the former superintendent of the Minneapolis Public Schools, Green is also the author of A Peculiar Imbalance: The Fall and Rise of Racial Equality in Minnesota, 1837-1869 and Degrees of Freedom: The Origins of Civil Rights in Minnesota, 1865–1912. He has published many pieces on history and law, including work in Minnesota History and The Journal of Law and Politics, as well as editorials in the Star Tribune.

The Hognander Minnesota History Award stems from the Hognander family’s belief in the importance of studying and preserving history. As Joe Hognander notes, “We established this award because of our relationship with the Minnesota Historical Society. Its commitment to excellence is noteworthy in promoting scholarly research and writing. We hope this award will inspire more such activity by recognizing and rewarding the finest work in this field.”

Green will be honored at the 32nd annual Minnesota Book Awards Ceremony on Tuesday, April 28 at the Ordway Center for Performing Arts. Awards will also be presented to winners in nine categories, and to recipients of the Book Artist Award and Kay Sexton Award. The Preface Reception begins at 6:30 p.m., followed by the Awards Ceremony at 8:00 p.m. Tickets are $45 and can be purchased at www.ordway.org/mnba or by calling 651.224.4222. The official hashtag for social media is #mnbookawards.

About the Minnesota Book Awards:
The Minnesota Book Awards is a year-long program of The Friends of the Saint Paul Public Library that connects readers and writers throughout the state with the stories of our neighbors. The process begins in the fall with book submissions and continues through winter with two rounds of judging. Winners are announced at the Minnesota Book Awards Ceremony each spring. Woven throughout the season are events that promote the authors and connect the world of Minnesota books – writers, artists, illustrators, publishers, editors, and more – to readers throughout the state. In recognition of this and its other statewide programs and services, the Library of Congress has recognized The Friends of the Saint Paul Public Library as the state’s designated Center for the Book. For more information visit thefriends.org/mnba.