Lamar history professor Forret wins Cromwell fellowship

Lamar University history professor Jeff Forret has received a prestigious fellowship to support work on his latest book.

The $5,000 William Nelson Cromwell Foundation Research Fellowship is given to emerging scholars in the field of legal history, particularly during the Colonial and early American era.

Forret has published four books on slavery. His latest is "Williams’ Gang: A Slave Trader, His Cargo, and Justice in the Old South," and will focus on the activities of William H. Williams, a Washington D.C. slaveholder who kept slaves in the shadow of the U.S. Capitol.

"I’m looking at the slave-trading career of William H. Williams and how it intersects with the law,” Forret said. “In particular, I’m focusing on a case which surrounded Williams’ purchase of 27 slaves – all of them sentenced to death – out of the Virginia State Penitentiary in Richmond in 1840. At the time, convicted slaves could have their sentences commuted by the governor, but only if they were to be transported outside of the United States.”

Forrest said the grant will help him research in the Washington, D.C. area, which will help him move on to the writing of the book. He has taught at Lamar since 2005 and teaches courses on slavery, race and sex in American history, and other topics related to early America and the Old South.

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