Mitchell Honored by Organization of American Historians for Graphic History Book

Brian Mitchell is photographed in front of a portrait of his ancestor, Oscar James Dunn. Photo by Lonnie Timmons III/UA Little Rock Communications.

Dr. Brian Mitchell, associate professor of history at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, has received an award for his graphic history book highlighting Oscar Dunn.

The Organization of American Historians (OAH) has awarded “Monumental: Oscar Dunn and His Radical Fight in Reconstruction Louisiana” with an honorable mention from the 2022 OAH Civil War and Reconstruction Book Award Committee.

“I am delighted that ‘Monumental’ has been embraced as widely as it has,” Mitchell said. “It is my fondest hope that teachers and professors around the nation add the book to their lesson plans and syllabi. I would also like to thank the members of the Organization of American Historians for bestowing this honor and recognizing ‘Monumental.’”

Mitchell’s first graphic history book tells the story of Mitchell’s relative, Oscar Dunn, who emerged as a national political leader during the Reconstruction Era. Dunn was elected lieutenant governor of Louisiana in 1868. He also briefly served as acting governor and was the first Black man to serve in either position in American history.

Mitchell worked with Nick Weldon, an editor, and Barrington Edwards, an illustrator, to bring Dunn’s story to life in the 256-page book.

“Seeing ‘Monumental’ receive a national honor such as this further validates the years of work our team poured into it,” Wheldon said. “Also, I hope it will help more readers see how the stories of Dunn and Reconstruction in Louisiana are essential components of broader narratives about race, power, and civil and political rights in American history.”

The Organization of American Historians committee members described the book as an important story about Black communities and politics in a period of great historical transformation.

“‘Monumental: Oscar Dunn and His Radical Fight in Reconstruction Louisiana’ is a graphic history that chronicles Oscar Dunn’s efforts to navigate the complexities of race and party as an African American politician during Reconstruction,” the committee members said. “A deeply researched community history plus the stunning visual narrative of Reconstruction combine to illuminate a compelling story of Black organizing, striving for political power and resilience in the face of white supremacist violence and political repression.”

Mitchell received the award during the Organization of American Historians Conference on American History on April 3 in Boston. The book has earned several honors since it was published last year. The Louisiana Center for the Book also honored the book during the 2021 Library of Congress National Book Festival’s Great Reads from Great Places. In addition, “Monumental” is a 2022 Orbis Pictus Recommended Book (a shortlist created by the National Council of Teachers of English) and recipient of the Phillis Wheatley Book Award.

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