With the roars of an excited crowd in the background, we are proud to announce that we have a winner of the 2013 Thomas D. Clark Undergraduate Writing Award!
Joseph B. Brown, an undergraduate at the University of Kentucky, wrote “‘Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power?’: Politics of the Antebellum Baptist Schism in Kentucky” for his HIS499 project for Dr. Joanne Melish in the spring semester of 2013.
The paper was selected in a blind review by two judges who volunteered for the KATH Clark Award Committee. Here are some of their comments on Mr. Brown’s work.“The author offers a keen assessment of the relationship between religion and politics in the early 19th century, and postulates that two distinct denominations of the Baptist faith, Antimissionary and Missionary, were diametrically opposed both religiously and politically. The assertion here is that the way these faithful adherents interpreted the Bible was also reflected in the way they interpreted the Constitution. For example, the case is presented that Antimissionary Baptists preferred a strict constructionists approach to the New Testament and the Constitution, nurturing grave concern for strong institutions within the church and the U.S. government. Kentucky is given special consideration, and evidence is presented that in certain counties where Antimissionary Baptists dominated, Democrats were voted into office, and by the same token, Missionary Baptists predominately voted Whig. Adding to the relevance of this discussion was the consideration of modern religious movements and their relationship to constitutional interpretation, the author noted that today’s fundamentalist Christians are also committed to a strict interpretation of the Constitution, thus indicating that religious beliefs continue to influence policy positions and attitudes toward government, just as they did in the 19th century. Well done!” “The paper is an excellent effort by an undergraduate, it shows hard work, originality, and it handled a complex problem very well. Although it sheds light on an important aspect of Kentucky and the nation’s past, the paper brings forward the questions of the past and demonstrates how they are still relevant in the present. The data contained within the Appendixes are welcomed and add much to the paper. The list of works cited show both secondary and primary sources. There is a good opening to the paper, it presents the problem, while the rest of the paper relates the final disposition of the problem (the schism in the Baptist Church). The Epilogue brings the story to the present. The author writes in an interesting and engaging style, which will hold most readers attention. … It is interesting, well written, shows originality of thought, and the ability handle a difficult topic. The errors found are for the most part minor, showing lack of experience and typical of ones made by undergraduates. I have no reservations of recommending this paper for highest honors.”
When informed yesterday of his award and invitation to attend the upcoming KATH Annual Meeting on September 28th, Mr. Brown replied, “I am honored to receive this award and I am ecstatic about the wonderfully positive feedback my work has received from the judges.” He agreed that KATH could publish his paper on our website for future competitors to see the quality of work done. He went on to say, “It is sincerely an honor for my paper to be recognized by such an esteemed and venerable body of scholars.”
With such gracious civility as well as excellent writing and research skills, Mr. Brown’s prospects loom large. We are sure that all of Kentucky’s history educators are cheering for this young scholar!