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Dartmouth history professor receives national book award

Dartmouth College Office of Public Affairs • Press Release
Posted 12/13/06 • Genevieve Haas • (603) 646-3661

Myers Outstanding Book Award for Annelise Orleck's Storming Caesars Palace
Storming Caesars Palace

The Gustavus Myers Center for the Study of Bigotry and Human Rights has named Storming Caesar's Palace, by Dartmouth Professor of History Annelise Orleck, among its 10 new books outstanding in showing the possibility for social change and resiliency in the face of obstacles.

Storming Caesars Palace, published in 2005, is the story of the mothers of Las Vegas' Westside, a group of poor, mostly African-American women drawn to the desert boomtown by the promise of a better life. What they found was a system intent on taking a hard line against "welfare mothers." In her exhaustively researched narrative, Orleck reveals how this ignored, discounted group mobilized and fought back, bringing the fight to the gaming floors of the Caesars Palace casino as well as to the halls of Congress and the White House.

The Myers Center named the winners on Sunday, Dec. 10 in the 22nd annual awards to works that challenge social injustices and redress ignored histories. The independent center is housed at Simmons College in Boston, and was established in 1984 to promote ways for people to become more active in creating an equitable world for all.

According to Orleck, "I am gratified to win this particular award with its focus on helping to reveal the roots of racism and portraying an alternative vision of how we can all live together."

Storming Caesars Palace chronicles the fight led by Ruby Duncan, a hotel maid and mother of seven. Duncan and the Westside mothers educated themselves and formed their own antipoverty organization, Operation Life, which won millions of dollars in federal contracts to run community programs that included Westside's first medical center, library, and senior citizen housing. These welfare mothers created job training programs and day care centers and helped poor women develop their own small businesses. According to Orleck, their story remains relevant to the current poverty crisis in America, as Congress prepares to vote this September on every federal program providing aid to the poor.

Orleck is the author of two earlier books, Common Sense and a Little Fire: Working Class Women's Activism in the 20th Century U.S. and Soviet-Jewish Americans and she is the co-editor of The Politics of Motherhood: Activist Voices from Left to Right.

Also awarded 2006 Myers Awards were What If All The Kids Are White? Anti-Bias Multicultural Education with Young Children and Families, by Louise Derman-Sparks and Patricia G. Ramsey with Julie Olsen Edwards; Roots, Too: White Ethnic Revival in Post-Civil Rights in America, by Matthew Frye Jacobson; The Color of Wealth: The Story Behind the U.S. Racial Wealth Divide, by Meizhu Lui, Barbara Robles, Betsy Leondar Wright, Rose M. Brewer, and Rebecca Adamson; Freedom Is Not Enough: The Opening of the American Workplace, by Nancy MacLean; We Are All Suspects Now: Untold Stories from Immigrant Communities after 9/11, by Tram Nguyen; Creating Black Americans: African-American History & Its Meaning: 1619 to the Present, by Nell Irvin Painter; And Tango Makes Three (Children's Book), by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell; Lighting the Way: Nine Women Who Changed Modern America, by Karenna Gore Schiff; and Covering: The Hidden Assault on Our Civil Rights, by Kenji Yoshino.

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