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National Book Awards finalists include book about dispossession of Native Americans

The finalists for the 2020 National Book Awards, one of the country’s top literary contests, includes a book about the removal of Native Americans from their land in the Southeastern U.S. in the 1830s.

“Unworthy Republic: The Dispossession of Native Americans and the Road to Indian Territory,” written by University of Georgia professor of American history Claudio Saunt, chronicles how the U.S. launched a national policy – the Indian Removal Act – to expel Native Americans from their land east of the Mississippi River.

As described on, the book “reveals how expulsion became national policy and describes the chaotic and deadly results of the operation to deport 80,000 men, women, and children. The Indian Removal Act was a fiercely contested political act designed to secure new lands for the expansion of slavery and to consolidate the power of the southern states. Indigenous peoples fought relentlessly against the policy, while many U.S. citizens insisted that it was a betrayal of the nation’s values. When Congress passed the act by a razor-thin margin, it authorized one of the first state-sponsored mass deportations in the modern era, marking a turning point for native peoples and for the United States.”

The book is one of five finalists in the nonfiction category and was chosen from 609 other entries. Other finalists in the category are Karla Cornejo Villavicencio, “The Undocumented Americans”; Les Payne and Tamara Payne, “The Dead Are Arising: The Life of Malcolm X”; Jenn Shapland, “My Autobiography of Carson McCullers”; and Jerald Walker, “How to Make a Slave and Other Essays”.

More than 1,600 books competed for the awards in five categories including fiction, nonfiction, poetry, translated literature and young people’s literature. One winner will be chosen from each category. Winners will be announced Nov. 18 at the 71st National Book Awards Ceremony, which will be streamed online on YouTube and at

The National Book Awards was founded in 1950 to honor books, champion the work of writers, promote discourse in American culture and celebrate literary excellence.

The mission of the National Book Foundation, which oversees the awards, is to celebrate the best literature in America, expand its audience and ensure that books have a prominent place in American culture.

Beverly Bidney
Beverly Bidney has been a reporter and photographer for The Seminole Tribune since 2012. During her career, she has worked at various newspapers around the country including the Muskogee Phoenix in Oklahoma, Miami Herald, Associated Press, USA Today and other publications nationwide. A NAJA award winning journalist, she has covered just about everything over the years and is an advocate for a strong press. Contact her at