The recipients of the 2019 Oliver W. Koonz Prize — which recognizes the innovative work being done on human rights by students — were Anna Chulak, Christiana Oshotse, and Erin Williams.

Below are the responses of the 2019 Koonz Prize judges, Professors Claudia Koonz and James Chappel of the History Department.

2019 Best Essays

Anna Chulack, “How and to what extent did the Nature of Civil Rights Activism perpetuate Gender Oppression and Hinder the work of Black Female Activists?”

Anna Chulack’s “How and to what extent did the Nature of Civil Rights Activism perpetuate Gender Oppression and Hinder the work of Black Female Activists?” documents the pervasiveness of misogyny in the civil rights organizations of the 1960s and in the traditions of the black church.  Clearly written and carefully researched, this study foregrounds the challenges of combatting masculine privilege in a movement that fights for racial justice. This case study reveals how efforts to secure the human rights of two minorities may intersect — and clash. We are increasingly aware of the need for intersectionality in our human rights movements. Chulack’s work details the dangers that can take place when this approach is avoided, and it provides, too, a usable history for a black freedom struggle, today, that gives far more attention to issues of gender and queer justice.  Read Anna Chulak’s paper.

Christiana Oshotse, “The Medical Brain Drain: Impact on Sub-Saharan African Countries”

Christiana Oshotse’s examination of “The Medical Brain Drain: Impact on Sub-Saharan African Countries,” situates two case studies, Nigeria and Malawi, within a global economic system that not only extracts wealth, minerals, and crops from Africa, but also incentivizes African doctors to leave their homelands and practice in richer countries. Besides enumerating the systemic origins of this critical shortage, Oshotse proposes practical measures that can expand Africans’ right to health. In doing so, she demonstrates a great deal of sophistication, notably an awareness of the limitations of social justice activism and of the proper regional rights frameworks that are too often overlooked. Read Christiana Oshotse’s paper.


2019 Best Alternative Project

Erin Williams, Silent no More

In Erin Williams’s film, Silent no More, women in the Oglala Lakota and Northern Cheyenne communities mourn the loss of three young women (two were murdered and one is still “missing”). As the girls’ relatives talk, their grief, rage and despair is heartbreaking. Community leaders’ brief reflections on misogynist tribal norms and citizens’ protest demonstrations place their sorrow in a broader context. By taking their experiences to broader audiences Williams contributes to indigenous people’s battle for the most basic human rights. Documentary film is one of the best, and most challenging, genres to use in human rights activism. Williams’s work reminds us why.  Watch the trailer for Erin Williams’s film, Silent No More.