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Nuamah's Latest Book Named PROSE Award Finalist

March 20, 2024

"When schools shut down, so too does Black citizens’ access to, and belief in, American democracy," says Sally Nuamah.

Sally Nuamah’s latest book, Closed for Democracy, which examines how closing public schools can influence democracy, was named a finalist for the 2024 Professional and Scholarship Excellence (PROSE) Award in the government and politics division.

Described as a “rigorous and compelling account of the costs of participation for Black citizens in US democracy,” Closed for Democracy investigates the 2013 school closings in largely poor, segregated neighborhoods in Chicago and Philadelphia. Early in the process, affected residents mobilized politically to save their schools.

“They basically become model citizens, protesting, voting, and attending community meetings at higher rates than any other racial group,” said Nuamah, a political scientist and associate professor of human development and social policy at Northwestern’s School of Education and Social Policy.

When their efforts failed to achieve what Nuamah calls “equitable democratic responsiveness,” community members lost faith in the power of political participation.

Ultimately, her book reveals that “when schools shut down, so too does Black citizens’ access to, and belief in, American democracy,” she said. “They are everything a liberal democracy demands, and yet, democracy is closed to them.”

Closed for Democracy also received three awards from the American Political Science Association: the Dennis Judd Award, the Ralph J. Bunche Award, and the Best Book Award from the Race, Ethnicity and Politics section.

Nuamah raises an important question, Matthew Nelsen wrote in a book review published in the Journal of Race, Ethnicity and Politics. “Why are Black Americans asked to embody a kind of ‘superhuman civic sacrifice’ to protect democratic ideas and processes that oftentimes do not survey them?”

Another review noted that both policy scholars and those studying racial and ethnic policies as well as urban studies would find the book useful. “It is sure to spark debate and stimulate broader discussions regarding the contemporary state of Black citizenship,” AJ Rice wrote in Perspectives on Politics.

Nuamah’s first book, How Girls Achieve, received the PROSE Award in 2020. In it, she looked across race and gender to shed light on the unequal costs—school closure, sexual harassment, punishment—facing poor black girls striving to succeed.

The PROSE Awards annually recognize the very best in professional and scholarly publishing. A panel of 19 judges reviewed more than 630 entries in this year’s competition, ultimately discovering works that speak to the breadth, depth, and essential need for of scholarly publishing.