A&T's Smallwood Wins UNC System Holshouser Prize

By Todd Simmons / 02/24/2022

Wearing the Holshouser Award gold medallion, Dr. Arwin Smallwood accepts the prize in a ceremony at the UNC Board of Governors meeting.

Note: A video honoring Dr. Arwin Smallwood was shown Thursday at the UNC System meeting. View the video in its entirety here.

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (Feb. 24, 2022) – The University of North Carolina Board of Governors recognized acclaimed North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University historian Arwin Smallwood, Ph.D., today with the Gov. James E. Holshouser Jr. Award for Excellence in Public Service, one of the top two annual faculty awards bestowed by the UNC System.

This marks the first time a North Carolina A&T faculty member has been chosen for the honor, which was first presented in 2014.

arwinsmallwood-cahss.jpgDr. Arwin Smallwood

 A professor of history, Smallwood also chairs the A&T Department of History and Political Science and is a Carter G. Woodson Distinguished Lecturer, so named by the Association for the Study of African American Life and History.

But it is his exhaustive service to North Carolina through the sharing of its history that made him a strong candidate for the Holshouser Award.

Even a cursory review of presentations Smallwood has made to groups big and small over the past decade reveals a scholar deeply knowledgeable in how Native American, African American and Europeans lived and interacted with each other in what we now know as North Carolina.

Whether interpreting North Carolina history through deeds for enslaved people at an academic gathering or making a presentation on the early history of Tuscarora Indians at the Conference on Iroquois Research, Smallwood digs deeply into the stories of peoples too often ignored. He ensures they are not lost to time, but incorporated into this state’s larger epic and shared with both fellow historians and ordinary North Carolinians.

Along the way, he has made singular contributions to the history of this state, as BOG Chair Randall Ramsey and member Anna Spangler Nelson made clear, calling him a transformational public servant whose work speaks to the highest aspirations of North Carolina.

“NCAT is indeed fortunate to have you as a member of its faculty,” said UNC System President Peter Hans in presenting the award. “The Board of Governors takes great pleasure in presenting you the 2021 Gov. James E. Holshouser Jr. Award for Excellence in Public Service. ... We are all immensely grateful for your talent and your work in making North Carolina a better place to live and work.”

Joined by his wife, son, daughter, father-in-law and other family members, a visibly moved Smallwood accepted the honor, taking care to note he is a product of the UNC System, having earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees (cum laude) in history from North Carolina Central University before moving on to  The Ohio State University for his doctorate.


“NCAT is indeed fortunate to have you as a member of its faculty. ... We are all immensely grateful for your talent and your work in making North Carolina a better place to live and work.” - UNC System President Peter Hans


Serving in faculty positions at Ohio State, Bradley University, the University of Memphis and now A&T, he has amassed an exceptionally long record of publications, including multiple books on topics ranging from local history (“Bertie County: An Eastern Carolina History”) to international texts (“The Atlas of African-American History and Politics: From the Slave Trade to Modern Times”).

Proclaiming his profound love for the state of North Carolina and passion for telling its story, Smallwood thanked his late parents, wife and family for encouraging his scholarship. “I’m very honored to be here and to receive this distinguished award,” said Smallwood before being embraced by Chancellor Harold L. Martin Sr.

“This award focuses on individuals who are making a significant difference in our community, our state and nation,” said Martin, praising Smallwood’s effectiveness in transferring his passion for history to his students by nurturing their excitement about understanding our past. As BOG member Nelson noted, “Through his teaching, research and service, Dr. Smallwood connects students with the community at large.”

In a video presentation recognizing Smallwood’s academic impact, his students lauded him for “seeing something in me that I didn’t see in myself.”

“Having someone who knows you’re capable and wants you to be the best professional you can be is just incredible,” they said.

The Holshouser prize was launched in 2007 as the Public Service Award to “encourage, identify, recognize and reward public service by faculty of the university. Faculty of any of the 17 institutions of the University of North Carolina are eligible.” The BOG renamed the award for Holshouser two months after his death in 2013. Smallwood is its eighth recipient.

Media Contact Information: Jackie Torok

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