UCLA history professor Kelly Lytle Hernández has won the Organization of American Historians’ 2018 James A. Rawley Prize, annually awarded to the best book dealing with the history of race relations in the United States.
Lytle Hernández, who is interim director of the Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American Studies, was honored for “City of Inmates: Conquest, Rebellion, and the Rise of Human Caging in Los Angeles, 1771–1965” released in February 2017 by University of North Carolina Press. This bold and compelling account places contemporary issues of mass incarceration and mass deportation within a much broader historical context.
Undeterred by systemic constraints on access to primary sources of data, Lytle Hernández marshaled archival evidence to establish that Los Angeles — “a hub of incarceration” that imprisons more people than any other city in the country that imprisons the most people in the world — has been the site of various manifestations of human caging. Lytle Hernández documents how this reality is inextricably bound to conquest, settler colonialism, institutional racism, and structural assaults on the working poor, irrespective of race or ethnicity.
From the 18th-century incarceration of Indigenous communities in the Tongva Basin, to the 19th-century detention and imprisonment of Chinese immigrants, to the rise of racist mass incarceration during the 20th century, “City of Inmates” demonstrates how the carceral state has developed over time. The book draws upon what Lytle Hernández has termed the “rebel archive” of documentation, which underscores the existence of ongoing resistance to such incarceration in Los Angeles, resistance that has taken many forms.
The prize was presented April 13 by the organization’s 2017–18 president Edward Ayers and 2018–19 president Earl Lewis.
Founded in 1907, the Organization of American Historians is the world’s largest professional association dedicated to American history scholarship. It publishes the quarterly “Journal of American History,” the leading scholarly publication and journal of record in the field of American history for more than a century. It also publishes The “American Historian” magazine.