New York University historians Nicole Eustace and Ada Ferrer have each been awarded the 2022 Pulitzer Prize in History for their respective works—Eustace’s "Covered with Night: A Story of Murder and Indigenous Justice in Early America" and Ferrer’s "Cuba: An American History".
New York University historians Nicole Eustace and Ada Ferrer have each been awarded the 2022 Pulitzer Prize in History for their respective works—Eustace’s Covered with Night: A Story of Murder and Indigenous Justice in Early America (Liveright) and Ferrer’s Cuba: An American History (Scribner).
Covered with Night recounts a 1722 killing of an Indigenous hunter by two white fur traders in Conestoga, Pa., while Cuba: An American Story is a comprehensive history of Cuba’s complex ties to the United States.
“With Covered With Night, Eustace takes us deep into the cultural worlds and worldviews of early 18th-century native peoples of the Susquehanna Valley,” says Pulitzer Board member Tommie Shelby, a professor at Harvard University. “In an examination of a confrontation between indigenous peoples’ conceptions of justice and English law used by colonial settlers, we find extraordinary research skill, particularly with the deft handling of indigenous languages, gripping storytelling, and elegant writing.”
“Ada Ferrer, a leading historian of Cuba, provides a succinct yet wide-ranging history of U.S.-Cuba relations from the point of view of the island and its inhabitants,” Shelby adds. “It is full of memorable vignettes, beginning with the fact that Christopher Columbus made landfall on the island and not on the North American continent, as is usually assumed. The themes of anti-Black racism, slavery and slave rebellion, imperialism, revolution, the Cold War, land and labor exploitation, and the quest for national self-determination are all seamlessly integrated into a compelling, fast-moving, and vivid narrative.”
Eustace and Ferrer are professors in NYU's Department of History.
While Ferrer’s award-winning book covers 500 years of Cuba’s history, she offers a particular focus on Fidel Castro, the 1959 revolution, and the perceptions of many Americans that stem from its aftermath.
“Because of what the revolution would become, a lot of Americans don’t realize what the revolution originally was or how incredibly popular it was in the beginning,” Ferrer, who also holds an appointment in NYU's Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies, said in an interview last year. “And it wasn’t popular support for communism—it wasn’t clear at that point that the government would become communist. So in some sense, this discourse, which has been a mainstay of official American discourse towards Cuba, just doesn’t describe what the social experience of that country was over the last 60 years.”
Eustace’s work surfaces alternative forms of justice that were deployed in the colonial period by Native American communities—and that were eventually discarded by the new nation, which opted for the Anglo-European model we’re familiar with today.
In contrast to Anglo-European forms of justice, which center on individual responsibility and then retributive justice and punishment against the offender, Indigenous peoples saw crimes, even the most heinous ones, as breaks in “community relationships that needed to be repaired and that needed to be repaired over time—it’s not one and done,” Eustace explained in a 2021 interview. “There needed to be acknowledgment of the wrong done. There needed to be sympathizing with the victims of a crime, including members of the wider community. Reparations needed to be paid and then there needed to be reparative rituals of bringing people back together.”
The first Pulitzer Prizes were given in 1917 for work done in 1916. Each year, 22 prizes are awarded. The yearlong process begins with the appointment of 113 distinguished jurors who make three recommendations in each category. More information is available on the Pulitzer Prize website.