1982: Peter S. Prescott & Janet Sharp Hermann
The Child Savers / The Pursuit of a Dream
1982: Peter S. Prescott & Janet Sharp Hermann

The 1982 Robert F. Kennedy Book Award was presented to Peter S. Prescott for The Child Savers. The Child Savers is hailed as a definitive analytical and historical study of the juvenile justice system. Platt's principal argument is that the "child savers" movement was not an effort to liberate and dignify youth but was instead a punitive and intrusive attempt to control the lives of working-class urban adolescents.

Peter S. Prescott was an American author and book critic, serving for more than two decades as senior book reviewer at Newsweek. In addition to The Child Savers, Prescott published A World of Our Own: Notes on Life and Learning in a Boy’s Preparatory School. He died in 2004.

The Pursuit of a Dream by Janet Sharp Hermann is a fascinating history set in the Reconstruction South is a testament to African-American resilience, fortitude, and independence. It tells of three attempts to create an ideal community on the river bottom lands at Davis Bend south of Vicksburg. There Joseph Davis's effort to establish a cooperative community among the slaves on his plantation was doomed to fail as long as they remained in bondage. During the Civil War the Yankees tried with limited success to organize the freedmen into a model community without trusting them to manage their own affairs. 

After the war the intrepid Benjamin Montgomery and his family bought the land from Davis and established a very prosperous colony of their fellow freedmen. Their success at Davis Bend occurred when blacks were accorded the opportunity to pursue the American dream relatively free from the discrimination that prevailed in most of society. It is a story worthy of celebration. 


Janet Hermann writes here of two men--Joseph Davis, the slaveholder and brother of the president of the Confederacy, and Benjamin Montgomery, an educated freedman. In 1866 Montgomery began the experiment at Davis Bend.