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The William and Mary Quarterly Prize Lecture series features scholars whose work is transforming our sense of the past.



On Thursday, February 23, 2023, at 5:00 pm in room Tidewater B of the Sadler Center on the campus of William & Mary, scholar Vanessa Holden (University of Kentucky) delivered “Survival and Resistance: African American Women in Nat Turner’s Community.”

Vanessa Holden is an associate professor of History at the University of Kentucky and director of the Central Kentucky Slavery Initiative. Her book Surviving Southampton: African American Women and Resistance in Nat Turner’s Community was published in 2021 by the University of Illinois Press.


Join us on November 11, 2019, at 5:00 p.m. in the Wren Building, Grammar School Classroom (1st floor), on the campus of William & Mary, as we welcome historian Alex Byrd for the fourth annual WMQ Prize Lecture. Professor Byrd (Rice University) will deliver “Spare No Expense: Diversity in Defense of White Privilege in Urban Schools.”

Currently researching the intersection of urban history and the history of education in twentieth and twenty-first century America, Professor Byrd began his career as a student of free and forced transatlantic black migration in the era of the American Revolution. His book Captives and Voyagers was awarded the 2009 Wesley-Logan prize in African diaspora history. He is also the recipient of the 2010 Douglass Adair prize from the William and Mary Quarterly for his article “Eboe, Country, Nation, and Gustavus Vassa’s ‘Interesting Narrative,’” which appeared in the January 2006 issue. The Adair prize is awarded for the best article published in the WMQ in the preceding six years.


On Monday, October 22, 2018, we welcomed OI author and Richard L. Morton prizewinner Douglas Winiarski (University of Richmond). He presented “Death by Pancakes and Other Incidents in the History of New Light Evangelicalism,” an illustrated lecture which explored the varied ways in which the “people called New Lights”—progenitors of today’s evangelical Protestants—resolved perplexing mind-body problems associated with their transformative conversion experiences. Drawing upon a wide range of examples from maritime Canada to the Carolinas and from New England to the trans-Appalachian frontier, Professor Winiarski demonstrated how the religious revivals of the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries fueled controversies over marriage, the family, sexuality, and the body.

Douglas Winiarski is professor of Religious studies and American studies at the University of Richmond. His first book, Darkness Falls on the Land of Light: Experiencing Religious Awakenings in Eighteenth-Century New England, published in 2017 by the Omohundro Institute with partner the University of North Carolina Press, was awarded the 2018 Bancroft Prize.


On Monday, October 23, 2017, we welcomed Lester J. Cappon Award winner Juliana Barr (Duke University). Professor Barr delivered “Mapping Indian Sovereignty in the Cartography of Colonial America.” She explored the cartography of colonial North America to show how we can better understand the power American Indians exerted in their relations with Europeans and how European maps offer proof of that Indian power. By looking at maps made by and for Europeans “on the ground” in the Americas, rather than maps made for rulers and politicians in London, Paris, Seville, and later Washington DC, Professor Barr shows clear European documentation of sovereign Indian power. In turn, she revealed “colonial relations” not as cultural encounters between individuals but as imperial relations between European and Native nations.

Professor Barr received her M.A. and Ph.D. (1999) in American women’s history from the University of Wisconsin Madison and her B.A. (1988) from the University of Texas at Austin. She joined the Duke University Department of History in 2015 after teaching at Rutgers University and the University of Florida. She specializes in the history of early America, the Spanish Borderlands, American Indians, and women and gender. Her book, Peace Came in the Form of a Woman: Indians and Spaniards in the Texas Borderlands was published by the University of North Carolina Press in 2007. She is currently at work on a new book, “La Dama Azul (The Lady in Blue): A Southwestern Origin Story for Early America.”


On Tuesday, October 4, 2016, the first lecture featured Lester J. Cappon Award winner Sarah Barringer (Sally) Gordon with her talk titled “The First Wall of Separation between Church and State: Slavery and Disestablishment in Late Eighteenth-Century Virginia.”

Professor Gordon is the Arlin M. Adams Professor of Constitutional Law and Professor of History at the University of Pennsylvania. She studies the legal history of religion in America, especially the history of constitutional protections of religious liberty and separation of church and state. Her first book, The Mormon Question: Polygamy and Constitutional Conflict in Nineteenth-Century America (Chapel Hill, 2002), was followed by The Spirit of the Law: Religious Voices and the Constitution in Modern America (Cambridge, MA, 2010). She is currently at work on a study of separation of church and state from independence through Reconstruction, titled “Freedom’s Holy Light: Disestablishment in America, 1776–1876.” Her talk at the OI was drawn from that project, and designed to revisit and revise long-accepted narratives of how separation of church and state became politically popular in the 1780s.

For more information on the WMQ Prize Lecture, contact Martha Howard at or 757-221-1115.

The WMQ Prize lectures are supported by a bequest from the late Michael (Mike) McGiffert who served as editor of the WMQ at the Omohundro Institute from 1972–1997 and also taught at William & Mary.