UChicago Press awards top honor to Eve L. Ewing’s ‘Ghosts in the Schoolyard’

Crown Family School scholar wins 2020 Laing Award for study of racism in Chicago Public Schools

The University of Chicago Press has awarded the 2020 Gordon J. Laing Award to Asst. Prof. Eve L. Ewing for Ghosts in the Schoolyard: Racism and School Closings on Chicago’s South Side, which draws on her experience in Chicago Public Schools—as a student, a teacher and a researcher.

Given annually since 1963 as the Press’ top honor, the Laing Award is given to the UChicago faculty author, editor or translator of a book published in the previous three years that brings the Press the greatest distinction.

The 2020 award, which was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, will be presented during a reception in September at the University of Chicago’s David Rubenstein Forum. Books published in 2018 and 2019 were eligible for this award.

Published in hardcover in 2018 and reprinted in paperback in 2020, Ghosts in the Schoolyard situates Chicago’s wave of school closings in 2013 within a larger context. An assistant professor at UChicago’s Crown Family School of Social Work, Policy, and Practice, Ewing reveals that this issue is about much more than just schools. Black communities see the closing of their schools—schools that are certainly less than perfect but that are theirs—as one more in a long line of racist policies. The fight to keep them open, Ewing argues, is yet another front in the ongoing struggle of Black people in America to build successful lives and achieve true self-determination.

“The University of Chicago Press has published some of the most challenging and important scholarly texts ever—in my own personal academic life, and in the nation and the world—and it was already a point of pride for me to be counted among them,” Ewing said. “So above and beyond that, I’m now stunned and honored to be the recipient of this award.”

Ghosts in the Schoolyard drew praise from other acclaimed authors, including Ta-Nehisi Coates, and was widely discussed on NPR, “The Daily Show with Trevor Noah,” The Nation and many other news organizations.

“The enthusiastic reception of Ewing’s book speaks to the power and necessity of the work,” said Garrett Kiely, director of the UChicago Press. “It is a fantastic example of writing and research that speaks to ongoing and significant conversations about public schools and racism in Chicago and across the country. I am very proud to have this book on Chicago’s list.”

The prize is named in honor of Gordon J. Laing, the scholar who, serving as general editor from 1909 until 1940, firmly established the character and reputation of the University of Chicago Press as the premier academic publisher in the United States. The award is conferred annually by vote of the Board of University Publications, a committee of faculty members who oversee the Press’ imprint.

“The Laing Award recognizes significant work by University faculty that has been published by the Press, and Eve Ewing’s work has provided a distinctive and important voice on educational issues in Chicago and nationwide,” said President Robert J. Zimmer. “I am delighted that the 2020 Laing Award honors her achievement in Ghosts in the Schoolyard.”

“Eve Ewing’s Ghosts in the Schoolyard is a shining example of an extremely rare sort of book: a carefully researched, beautifully written and masterfully executed piece of scholarship that speaks not just to academics, but to a readership that extends far beyond the academy,” said Ryan Coyne, chair of the Board of University of Publications. “Ewing renders with stunning clarity and poignancy the lived experience of those directly affected by recent school closures in Chicago, and she boldly challenges the assumptions guiding these and other school closures. The Press Board is deeply honored to recognize Ewing’s achievement by recommending Ghosts in the Schoolyard for the 2020 Laing Award.”

In winning the Laing Award, Ewing joins a distinguished list of previous UChicago scholars that includes Adrian Johns, Deborah Nelson, Alison Winter, Robert Richards, Martha Feldman, Bernard E. Harcourt, Philip Gossett and W. J. T. Mitchell.

—Adapted from a release published by the University of Chicago Press.