March 5, 2024—The Tennessee Historical Society and the Tennessee Historical Commission announced March 5 that the Tennessee History Book Award for 2023 goes to A Most Tolerant Little Town: The Explosive Beginning of School Desegregation by Rachel Louise Martin. The prize includes $2,000 to the winning author.

Published by Simon & Schuster, one prize panelist described the book as a new, raw perspective about the Civil Rights movement in Tennessee. Martin’s comprehensive research as well as her moral conviction provide a solid foundation for the narrative.

Judged by a panel of four historians from across Tennessee, two other books were finalists for the prize: Who is James K. Polk? The Presidential Election of 1844 by Mark R. Cheathem (University Press of Kansas) and The Civil War Letters of Sarah Kennedy: Life under Occupation in the Upper South edited by Minoa Uffelman, Ellen Kanervo, and Phyllis Smith (University of Tennessee Press).

The award program received a record number of submissions for the 2023 publication year. THS executive director Jennifer C. Core said, “The Tennessee Historical Society is pleased that this important story is being told through this comprehensive work.”

“We are delighted to partner with the Tennessee Historical Society on this longstanding annual award program that highlights works centering on Tennessee History,” said Patrick McIntyre, Tennessee Historical Commission executive director.

The winning author, Rachel Louise Martin, PhD, is a historian and writer whose work has appeared in the Atlantic and Oxford American. She is also the author of Hot, Hot Chicken, a cultural history of Nashville hot chicken.

Nominations of the 2024 Tennessee History Book Award will be accepted beginning in November 2024.


The Tennessee Historical Society and the Tennessee Historical Commission invite nominations for the Tennessee History Book Award for excellence in historical writing. This award is presented each year at the annual Tennessee Historical Society membership meeting. Honorees receive $2000.

Content and theme should be centered on Tennessee history and the publication imprint must be during the year 2024. A jury panel of qualified experts in the field of Tennessee history will make the award selection.

The following categories are not eligible for this award: children’s books, fiction, poetry, genealogy, reprints, or individual volumes in an uncompleted set or series. Authors may nominate themselves.

In a change from previous years, nominators will be asked to initially submit a digital file of materials. Please format as one pdf the title page, an abstract (up to 500 words), and, if available, the bibliography and index. Maximum file size is 1 GB. The pdf can be attached to the nominating form. Finalists will be asked to submit the complete book digitally.

The deadline for nominations is Monday, December 2, 2024, 4:00 PM ET/5:00 PM CT.

Click here to nominate a book.