The William Plummer French Prize

WILLIAM PLUMMER FRENCH PRIZE, Annual Book Prize in African and African American Studies.

A book prize will be awarded to the undergraduate student from any academic department who has collected the best personal library focusing on some aspect of African or African American culture and history. The prize was established in 1997 in memory of William Plummer French.

An avid bibliophile, William Plummer French was born in 1943 to Frank J. French, a chemical engineer and vice-president of Allied Chemical Company, and Bettina Plummer French, a pianist. By age 20, he was employed at the University Place Book Shop in New York City, which specialized in African-American books. The shop served two important customers, Arthur Schomburg and Arthur Spingarn. Schomburg's private collection became the basis of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture of the New York Public Library, and Spingarn's collection is now the foundation of the Moorland-Spingarn Research Center at Howard University.

Self-educated through the books in his store, French became known to collectors, scholars, librarians, and fellow dealers as the most sophisticated and knowledgeable bibliographer of African Americana. His expertise coincided with the rise of interest in black culture, the development of African-American Studies departments, and the greater collectability of African American books, manuscripts, and pamphlets. William Plummer French passed away in New York City on January 14, 1997.

Interested students should submit a bibliography to Sandra Browne Walker, Department of Afro-American Studies, Barker Center, 2nd floor, 12 Quincy Street, no later than five o'clock in the afternoon on the day of the deadline (Friday, May 4, 2001). The bibliography must be accompanied by a cover letter listing the entrant's Harvard ID number, telephone number, mailing address, permanent legal address. The collection must be available for examination. The prize will be awarded at the Department's Graduation Celebration (held on Wednesday, June 6th between 4-6 p.m. in the Thompson Room at the Barker Center). For further information, please contact the Department of Afro-American Studies.

William Plummer French Prize Winners:

1997: Ciara Torres
1998: Kevin Matthew Burke
1999: Phillip Atiba Goff
1999-2000: Kamil Elaine Redmond
2000-2001: Megan K. Whyte

Note: My thanks to Jennifer Wood-Nangombe, Graduate and Undergraduate Program Coordinator, Department of Afro-American Studies, and to Shaw Hubbard, Prize Office, Harvard University, for their gracious assistance. — Ralph Dumain

A Memorial Tribute to Bill French

"Black Studies: Getting Started in a Specialty" by William P. French

Finding Aid: University Place Book Shop Papers, 1968-1988

 "New York City Bookshops in the 1930s and 1940s: The Recollections of Walter Goldwater"

The Bill French Center
An information center for the documentation
of bookseller Bill French and the University Place Bookshop,
co-sponsored by The C.L.R. James Institute

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