The Melvin E. Bradford & Theodore C. Delaney Dissertation Prize is an annual award that recognizes the best dissertation written on any aspect of the American South.

The award was established in 1993 in honor of the late Mel Bradford, Professor of Literature at the University of Dallas. Bradford completed his PhD at Vanderbilt University under the direction of Donald Davidson, the Fugitive Poet. Bradford was best known, however, as a conservative political theorist. He participated at the first two St. George Tucker Society meetings.

In early 2021, the society honored the late Theodore C. Delaney, Professor of History & Africana Studies at Washington & Lee University by adding his name to the award. An alumnus of Washington & Lee (1985), Delaney completed his PhD at The College of William & Mary in 1995 and returned thereafter to his undergraduate alma mater full time where he remained until his retirement in 2020. Widely noted for his passion for justice and inclusion in both his teaching and scholarship, Delaney taught courses on colonial North America, comparative slavery in the Western Hemisphere, African American history, civil rights, and gay and lesbian history, while his scholarship focused on the untold histories of African Americans in Virginia, including especially important work on John Chavis as well as recorded oral histories of western Virginians directly involved in the battle over school desegregation 15 years after the Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court ruling. As longtime and dedicated member of the St. George Tucker Society, Delaney proved equally passionate in his commitment to providing professional mentorship for graduate students and early career scholars.

The M.E. Bradford & T.C. Delaney Prize recognizes the best dissertation focused on the South, any time period and any discipline. The prize includes a $1,000 award and the opportunity to discuss the project at the Society’s annual meeting. Attendance at the 2024 annual meeting at Hampden-Sydney College near Farmville, VA is mandatory for receipt of the prize.

Eligible dissertations will have been completed and defended in the 2023 calendar year and must be written in English. Self-nominations accepted. Please submit a letter of application, CV, dissertation abstract, and an electronic copy of the dissertation by April 1, 2024 to Dr. Tina Irvine (Assistant Professor of History, Critical Disability Studies, and SIS at Purdue University) via email: Award recipient will be notified by the prize committee chair in late spring in advance of the annual meeting in July.

Bradford-Delaney Dissertation Committee Chair

Dr. Tina Irvine (Assistant Professor of History, Critical Disability Studies, and SIS, Purdue University)

Recent Bradford-Delaney Dissertation Prize Winners:

(2023) ““‘Secession’s Moving Foundation’: Fugitive Slave Rendition and the Politics of American Slavery.” Evan Turiano (PhD, History, Queens College, CUNY), 2023 Walter O. Evans Fellow at Yale University

(2022) ““Building the White Right of Textile Work: Dan River Mills and the Development of Schoolfield Village, 1882-1931.” Ina Dixon (PhD, American Studies, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill), Pubic Scholar, Storied Capital

(2021) “Mass Incarceration in the Age of Slavery and Emancipation: Fugitive Slaves, Poor Whites, and Prison Development in Louisiana, 1805 – 1877” John K. Bardes (PhD, History, Tulane University), Assistant Professor of History, Louisiana State University

(2020) “Reclaiming Appalachia: Mountain Reform and the Preservation of White Citizenship, 1890-1929.” Tina A. Irvine (PhD, History, University of Pennsylvania), Visiting Assistant Professor of History, Indiana University

(2019) “Planters’ Plots to Backlot Stewpots: Food, Race, and Labor in Charleston, South Carolina, 1780-1850.” Kelly Kean Sharp (PhD, History, UC-Davis), Assistant Professor of Africana Studies & History, Luther College (IA)

(2018) “The Man Who Started the Civil War: Southern Honor, Emotion, and James Chestnut, Jr.” Anna Koivusalo (PhD, History, University of Helsinki)

(2017) “Married to the Confederacy: The Emotional Politics of Confederate Widowhood.” Angela Esco Elder (PhD, History, University of Georgia), Post-Doctoral Fellow at Virginia Tech Department of History & Virginia Center for Civil War Studies

(2016) “Aesthetic Activism: Race, Ethnicity, Literary Experimentalism, and the U.S. South.” Chad Jewett (PhD, History, University of Connecticut.

(2015)”‘A Second Degree of Slavery’:  How Black Emancipation Freed the Deep South’s Poor Whites.” Keri Leigh Merritt (PhD, History, University of Georgia)

(2014) “Murder in the Shenandoah: Commonwealth v. John Crane and Law in Federal Virginia.” Jessica Lowe (PhD, History, Princeton University)

(2013) “Gaslights, Progress, and the Old South, 1801-1865.” Phillip (Jay) Richardson, Jr. (PhD, History, University of South Carolina)

(2012) “Georgia Imagined, Georgia Illustrated: Reading the Landscape, 1717-1859.” Christopher Lawton (PhD, History, University of Georgia)

(2011) “Intellectual Manhood: Becoming Men of the Republic at a Southern University, 1795-1861.” Tim Williams (PhD, History, University of North Carolina Chapel Hill)

(2010) “The Builders of a New South: Merchants, Capital, and the Remaking of Natchez, 1865-1914.” Aaron Anderson (PhD, History, University of Southern Mississippi)

(2009) “Executing, and Not Executing Criminals in North Carolina History.”
Seth Kotch (PhD, History, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill)

(2008) “Creating ‘a truly Democratic Party’” – Georgia Loyalists in the 1960s.” Tim Boyd (PhD, History, Vanderbilt University)

(2007) “Merchants and the Political Economy of Nineteenth- Century Louisiana: New Orleans and Its Hinterland.” Scott Marler (PhD, History, Rice University)