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MELVIN PATRICK ELY

Historian and Teacher

Melvin Patrick Ely (the family name rhymes with really) writes and teaches about the history of African Americans and of the South. In his books and other writings, he chronicles the lives that black Americans built for themselves as well as the ways black and white folk have interacted and thought about one another.

Lawrence W. Levine praised Ely for writing wonderfully original books, which probe beyond the received wisdom about race, upset facile assumptions, and enable readers to take a deeper look at aspects of our past and our culture we thought we fully understood. C. Vann Woodward credited Ely's writings with bring[ing] new and refreshing subtlety and complexity to our understanding of American racial attitudes, black as well as white. Ely's most recent book, Israel on the Appomattox, won the Bancroft Prize, the Beveridge Award for the year's best book on the history of the Americas, the Wesley-Logan Prize for best volume on the African diaspora, and other awards. In that work, according to Edward L. Ayers, Ely has recreated an entire world in a forgotten corner of the slave South--a world whose people emerge from a dark past to stand before us in sharp relief and help us understand the American South in a new and more profound way. Ely's work, adds James Oliver Horton, illuminates the past and, in so doing, poses striking possibilities for America's future.

Ely, whose family come from Virginia and Tennessee, was born and grew up in Richmond. He has taught at Yale--where he won prizes both for Teaching Excellence and for Outstanding Research and Publication--and at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. He is currently the William R. Kenan Jr. Professor of Humanities at the College of William and Mary, Williamsburg, Virginia; he received the Virginia Outstanding Faculty Award in 2006.

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And in a different field...
English Version: Naama-Zahavi Ely and Melvin Patrick Ely