UA Press Author Kenneth Barnes Wins Ragsdale Award

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FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Anti-Catholicism in Arkansas: How Politicians, the Press, the Klan, and Religious Leaders Imagined an Enemy, 1910–1960, by Kenneth Barnes, received the 2017 J.G. Ragsdale Award in Arkansas History. The book was published in November 2016 by the University of Arkansas Press.

The Arkansas Historical Association has presented the Ragsdale award annually since 2002 to the best book-length historical study of an aspect of Arkansas History.

Anti-Catholicism in Arkansas begins with a vivid illustration: the whore of Babylon atop the masthead of The Liberator, an anti-Catholic newspaper published in Magnolia, Arkansas. The image depicts an immoral woman sitting on a seven-headed beast, holding a golden cup “full of her abominations,” and intended to represent the Catholic Church. This provocative image serves as prologue to Barnes’s account of a half-century of prejudice in Arkansas, the region, and the United States. Sex, liquor, two world wars, the Ku Klux Klan, immigration, school choice, politics, propaganda, and presidential elections all feature in this story of a religious minority cast as a feared and despised “other.” Barnes, a professor of history at the University of Central Arkansas, makes the case that this phenomenon was particularly strong in Arkansas.

However, the volatile political environment described in the book still resonates today, and far beyond Arkansas.

“Since the book’s publication we have all become more aware that prejudice and intolerance are still alive and well,” Barnes said. “Many of the things said about Roman Catholics a hundred years ago are still being said today about Muslims and immigrants.”

David Sesser, the chair of the Ragsdale award committee, praised Barnes’s examination of an overlooked minority in Arkansas’ history. “The detailed research coupled with the engaging narrative will be useful to both serious researchers and readers simply interested in Arkansas history,” Sesser said.

This marks the sixth time a book published by the  University of Arkansas Press has won the Ragsdale Award:

  • Judge Morris Arnold received the inaugural Ragsdale award in 2002 for his book The Rumble of a Distant Drum: The Quapaws and Old World Newcomers, 1673-1804.
  • Governor Sidney McMath won in 2004 for his memoir Promises Kept.
  • Billy Higgins was the co-winner of the 2005 award for A Stranger and a Sojourner: Peter Caulder, Free Black Frontiersman in Antebellum Arkansas.
  • Grif Stockley was the 2009 winner for Ruled by Race: Black/White Relations in Arkansas from Slavery to Present.
  • Brooks Blevins received the award in 2011 for Arkansas/Arkansaw: How Bear Hunters, Hillbillies, and Good Ol’ Boys Defined a State.

Kenneth Barnes was also the co-winner of the 2005 Ragsdale Award for his book Journey of Hope: the Back-to-Africa Movement in Arkansas in the Late 1800s, which was published by the University of North Carolina Press.


About the University of Arkansas Press: The University of Arkansas Press was founded in 1980 as the book publishing division of the University of Arkansas. A member of the Association of American University Presses, it has as its central and continuing mission the publication of books that serve both the broader academic community and Arkansas and the region.

About the Arkansas Historical Association: The Arkansas Historical Association was established in 1941 to “promote interest in the history of Arkansas, to locate, collect, and preserve historical material, and to publish scarce and important source material, and also historical articles, news, and notes.” The J.G. Ragsdale Book Award is given annually to the best book on Arkansas history and is named in honor of a founding member of the Arkansas Historical Association.

About the University of Arkansas: The University of Arkansas provides an internationally competitive education for undergraduate and graduate students in more than 200 academic programs. The university contributes new knowledge, economic development, basic and applied research, and creative activity while also providing service to academic and professional disciplines. The Carnegie Foundation classifies the University of Arkansas among only 2 percent of universities in America that have the highest level of research activity. U.S. News & World Report ranks the University of Arkansas among its top American public research universities. Founded in 1871, the University of Arkansas comprises 10 colleges and schools and maintains a low student-to-faculty ratio that promotes personal attention and close mentoring.


Charlie Shields, Marketing Assistant
University of Arkansas Press

Steve Voorhies, manager of media relations
University Relations


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