Jessica Marie Johnson, an assistant professor of history at the Johns Hopkins University and the Spring 2021 Sheila Biddle Ford Foundation Fellow at the Hutchins Center for African and African American Studies at Harvard University, has won the Kemper and Leila Williams Prize in Louisiana History. The honor is bestowed by The Historic New Orleans Collection and the Louisiana Historical Association since 1974. The Kemper and Leila Williams Prize in Louisiana History recognizes excellence in research and writing on Louisiana.
Dr. Johnson was recognized for her book Wicked Flesh: Black Women, Intimacy, and Freedom in the Atlantic World (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2020). In the book, Dr. Johnson, a historian of Atlantic slavery and the Atlantic African diaspora, explores the story of freedom as it relates to the choices Black women made to retain control over their bodies and selves, their loved ones, and their futures in the New World. Her research included searching archival documents from three continents, written in multiple languages and largely from the perspective of colonial officials and slave-owning men, to re-create Black women’s experiences from coastal Senegal to French Saint-Domingue (present-day Haiti) to Spanish Cuba to the swampy outposts of the Gulf Coast.
In addition to receiving the 2020 Williams Prize in Louisiana History, Wicked Flesh was chosen as a finalist for the Pauli Murray Book Prize in Black Intellectual History, granted by the African American Intellectual History Society, and received an honorable mention for the Organization of American Historians’ Frederick Jackson Turner Award.
Dr. Johnson earned a Ph.D. at the University of Maryland College Park.