Emet Prize Laureates

Prof. Mechal Sobel


2019 Laureates of Emet Prize

In Category: Humanities
In Field: General History

Mechal Sobel

Jury Statement

“The EMET Prize is awarded to Prof. Mechal Sobel for the extraordinary intellectual daring she brought to historical research in Israel through her wide-ranging studies in understanding the worlds of black Americans in the post-slavery era, and for her restoration of voices that over generations had been suppressed or barred from the mainstream historical narrative.”

C.V.

Prof. Mechal Sobel of Haifa University has earned international acclaim as a historian of the black population of the United States, so much so that in 2011 she was made an honorary member of the American Historical Society, an honor accorded once a year to only one foreigner.  

American scholars agree that Prof. Sobel’s research on slavery’s impact, racial identity, understanding of the self and the other, and the social construction of race relations in the United States transformed the way American history is understood. In her first book, Trabelin’ On: The Slave Journey to an Afro-Baptist Faith (Princeton, 1988), and in her second book, The World They Made Together: Black and White Values in Eighteenth-Century Virginia (Princeton, 1989), Prof. Sobel reconstructed the impact of black society’s evolving culture on the surrounding white society’s culture. The consequent redefinition of US blacks, from objects of history to its subjects, carried far-reaching meaning for American historiography.

Along her scholarly career Prof. Sobel argued that the key to historic change in American society lay in relations with the other, meaning American individuals’ ability to incorporate the other in their dreams and lives. This is the context in which Prof. Sobel turned to a research that was innovative not only in its eventual statement, but also in its method, when she collected whites’ and blacks’ descriptions of their dreams, in Teach Me Dreams: The Search for Self in the Revolutionary Era (Princeton, 2002).  In doing so, she established a new field in historiography, the research of feelings.