UB historian’s book receives New Deal Book Award

Published May 18, 2023

Victoria Wolcott, professor of history, has received The Living New Deal’s 2022 New Deal Book Award for her book “Living in the Future: Utopianism and the Long Civil Rights Movement.”

The award committee described the book as a “profound and engaging study of interracial cooperative communities that experimented with new ways of life in the years of the Depression and New Deal.”

The book examines the largely unexplored ways utopian thinking became a model for civil rights activists and provided the foundation for a worldview that informed the work of people who would later emerge as key figures in the long movement, including Martin Luther King Jr., Pauli Murray, Father Divine and Howard Thurman.

This utopian thought assumed various shapes among the groups detailed in Wolcott’s book, but each iteration shared three central tenets in their united call for immediate social change: building cooperatives, interracialism and radical nonviolence.

“The New Deal was a period of turmoil but also inspired experimentation on the part of ordinary people and state actors,” Wolcott says. “I worked to capture this dynamic in my book and am so honored to have received this award.”

The Living New Deal is an ongoing research project and archive that grew out of a 2005 book on the Works Progress Administration in California to become, by the end of 2010, a national organization dedicated to interpreting the New Deal’s impact on American life.

The organization’s annual book award recognizes and encourages nonfiction writing about the New Deal, the Great Depression and the nation’s entry into World War II.