Lytle Hernández Receives Bancroft Prize in American History

Kelly Lytle Hernández, professor of history, African American studies and urban planning, has been awarded the 2023 Bancroft Prize for her book “Bad Mexicans: Race, Empire and Revolution in the Borderlands.” The book tells the story of the band of Mexican rebels, led by journalist and dissident Ricardo Flores Magón, that helped spark the 1910 Mexican Revolution. Awarded annually by the trustees of Columbia University, the Bancroft Prize is considered one of the most prestigious honors for writing on American history and diplomacy. “Bad Mexicans” was also a finalist for the 2022 National Book Critics Circle Award in the nonfiction category, and was named one of New Yorker magazine’s best of 2022. The book focuses on how Flores Magón and his magonistas — intellectuals, poor workers, dispossessed rural dwellers and other marginalized groups — waged a campaign to overthrow U.S.-backed Mexican dictator Porfirio Díaz. Drawing on archives in both Mexico and the United States, the book explores how the cross-national movement threatened not only Díaz, who would eventually be deposed, but Mexican elites and powerful American capitalist interests that benefited from Díaz’s economic policies. In announcing the award, the Bancroft Prize jury praised Lytle Hernández’s “riveting story of revolution and counterrevolution,” adding that the book “helps shift the boundaries of what constitutes American history.” Lytle Hernández, who was awarded a MacArthur “genius” grant in 2019, is also the author of “Migra! A History of the U.S. Border Patrol” and “City of Inmates: Conquest, Rebellion, and the Rise of Human Caging in Los Angeles.”

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