The Lincoln Prize was awarded last month, and this year’s winner sounds fascinating:
“Aberration of Mind: Suicide and Suffering in the Civil War–Era South,” made her one of the five authors nominated for the 2019 Gilder Lehrman Lincoln Prize.
Sommerville began thinking about writing the book, which focuses on mental health in the 19th century American South, after she tried and failed to find scholarly information about mental illness during the era…
The Lincoln Prize is awarded annually for the best historical, nonfiction work on the Civil War. Throughout her book, Sommerville examines the ways class and race influence mental health issues by examining how they coincided with a period of collective suffering. She argues that in the period following the Civil War, suicide within white communities in the South started to be seen as a valorous act, while black communities saw an opposite effect, with African Americans being labeled manic and dangerous when they struggled with mental health.