Avery Lewis ’21 Receives Baumann Essay Prize
Avery Lewis ’21 has received the Frederick Baumann Essay Prize Award that recognizes excellence in education by encouraging Grinnell College students to explore ideas and society in an interdisciplinary and historical context.
Lewis, from Beloit, Wisconsin, is an English major. His essay abstract reads, “‘On White Eyes’ explores two moments in American history when societal events collided with new modes of visual representation in ways that forced white Americans to pay more attention to their conceptions of race.” The essay portrays the visual legacy of Frederick Douglass during the Civil War years and the bystander digital video representation of George Floyd’s murder in Minneapolis in 2020. His work used primary and secondary sources from the disciplines of history, literary criticism, media studies, and critical race theory.
“Writing the essay for the Baumann Prize was the most important writing I did in my four years at Grinnell College,” says Lewis. His liberal arts course curriculum combined with his summer 2020 Mentored Advanced Project with Professor Steve Andrews in the English department titled “Picture This: Visualizing American Literature,” that explored the impact that the invention of photography had on writing, planted the seeds for his compelling essay that connects historical and present issues regarding race in the United States.
Lewis shared that he plans to donate half of his cash prize to a racial justice organization, and the remainder will support him as he transitions to his work as a paralegal in Washington, D.C. with the U.S. Department of Justice. He has plans for law school with a career interest in how to rethink our criminal justice system from a legal standpoint.
“On White Eyes” and other Baumann Essay Prize writing can be found on Digital Grinnell: On White Eyes | Digital Grinnell.
The Baumann Essay Prize, established in 1993 and funded by David ’51 and Audrey Lowe ’52 Hammer, distinguishes the dynamic classroom contributions of Frederick Baumann, professor of history at Grinnell from 1927 to 1954. The prize is awarded each spring to the student, from any discipline and any class year, who writes the best original essay—taking an interdisciplinary and historical approach—on the general topic of “Ideas and Society.” For additional information about the award, please contact Ann Landstrom, fellowship advisor.