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Keir Graff and editors from Booklist's adult and youth departments write candidly about books, book reviewing, and the publishing industry

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Friday, June 1, 2007 11:35 am
Charles Rappleye Wins the George Washington
Posted by: Keir Graff

From pink-slipped to prizewinner: Charles Rappleye, a former investigative journalist who used his free time after being fired to get going on that book he’d always wanted to write, has won the George Washington Book Prize. From (where else?) the Washington Post (“Biographer Wins Washington Prize for Book on Slave Trade,” by DeNeen L. Brown):

Charles Rappleye, who was once an investigative journalist, has won the third annual $50,000 George Washington Book Prize for his biography “Sons of Providence: The Brown Brothers, the Slave Trade, and the American Revolution.” It’s the story of John and Moses Brown, brothers who founded Brown University but were dramatically opposed to each other on the business of slavery. It was a system that Rappleye describes in his book as “the most hazardous and the most lucrative business of the time.”

The book, which sheds light on how controversial slavery was in this country long before the Civil War, covers 100 years, from the birth in 1736 of John Brown, a robber baron who ran slave ships from Providence, R.I., to the 1836 death of Moses, the younger brother, who with slave blood on his hands became an abolitionist.

Here’s how he got started:

Rappleye, 51, who lives in Los Angeles, said he began working on the book about three years ago after he lost his job as a journalist at the LA Weekly, where he was an editor and a staff writer. “I was fired by the LA Weekly when a new regime at the paper came in,” he said. “They cleaned house and I went out the door.” He had wanted to write about the Brown brothers for some time and the firing gave him time.

And here’s a link to the Booklist review:

Sons of Providence: The Brown Brothers, the Slave Trade, and the American Revolution, by Charles Rappleye (Simon & Schuster)

I learned about this from The Biographer’s Craft newsletter, which described the book as “a kind of prosopography.” I learn a new word every day.


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