November 10, 2017
Msgr. Harry C. Koenig Journal Prize in Catholic Biography
The inaugural Harry C. Koenig Article Prize, for an outstanding biographical study of a Catholic individual published in 2015 or 2016, has been awarded to Paul T. Murray of Siena College, for “‘The Most Righteous White Man in Selma’: Father Maurice Ouellet and the Struggle for Voting Rights,” The Alabama Review 68.1 (January 2015): 31-73. Prof. Murray draws on published records, private papers, and personal interviews to present the story of Father Ouellet’s sustained engagement, at considerable personal risk, in the struggle for African-American civil rights in the early 1960s. Though cast in a biographical mode, this article is not limited to recounting an individual life. The author very effectively sets Father Ouellet’s story in its social and political context, links it with broader historical developments, and brings in the actions and contributions of his brethren in the Society of St. Edmund and the Sisters of St. Joseph, expanding our knowledge of the Catholic contribution to critical questions of racial justice in the civil rights movement. Moreover, while the focus is definitely on Father Ouellet’s engagement with the civil rights movement in Selma, that central episode is situated within the broader arc of his life. The result is a moving story of moral courage, told with great sensitivity to the historical circumstances in which that story unfolds.