One of the nation's top literary awards, the prize will be presented at a gala dinner at the Yale Club in New York on Feb. 24. It will be a major feature of Black History Month, according to the announcement by Yale University's Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, and Abolition, which selects the prize-winner.
It said Yellin spent 20 years researching "Harriet Jacobs: A Life" (Basic Books) and cited it as the best non-fiction book on the subject of slavery in 2004.
Yellin is distinguished professor emeritus at New York's Pace University. Her book enriches Jacob' own account of her years as a slave, including seven years of hiding from a sexually predatory master, her escape to the North, her harassment by her former owner, and her return to the South during the Civil War to establish a school for black refugees behind Union lines.
Jacobs book was widely read in the North and is considered influential in strengthening the abolition movement, the announcement said.