Princeton alumna R. Isabela Morales was awarded the Huntington Library’s 2023 Shapiro Book Prize for her book “Happy Dreams of Liberty: An American Family in Slavery and Freedom.” The prize is awarded biennially for an outstanding first scholarly monograph in American political, social, intellectual, or cultural history.
“Happy Dreams of Liberty,” which was adapted from Morales’ dissertation, narrates the history of the descendants of Samuel Townsend, a wealthy plantation owner who upon his death granted emancipation to his enslaved children and nieces. The Shapiro Prize review committee described the bookas “beautifully written and utterly engrossing” and “a work of prodigious research.”
Morales earned a Ph.D. in history from Princeton in 2019. She is a public historian and digital project manager at the Stoutsburg Sourland African American Museum in Skillman, New Jersey. Since 2017, Morales has served as the editor and project manager of the Princeton & Slavery Project. The Humanities Council is a primary funder of the project, which investigates the University’s involvement with the institution of slavery.