American Book Award Winners

Before Columbus Foundation Logo First presented in 1980, by the Before Columbus Foundation, “the American Book Awards Program respects and honors excellence in American literature without restriction or bias with regard to race, sex, creed, cultural origin, size of press or ad budget, or even genre. There would be no requirements, restrictions, limitations, or second places. There would be no categories. The winners would not selected by any set quota for diversity, because diversity happens naturally. Finally, there would be no losers, only winners. The only criteria would be outstanding contribution to American literature in the opinion of the judges.”

Here we present the American Book Award recipients of African descent.

2 Books Honored in 2003


Douglass’ Women: A Novel
by Jewell Parker Rhodes

Publication Date: Sep 23, 2003
List Price: $24.95
Format: Paperback, 358 pages
Classification: Fiction
ISBN13: 9780743410106
Imprint: Washington Square Press
Publisher: Simon & Schuster, Inc.
Parent Company: KKR & Co. Inc.

Book Description: 


Frederick Douglass, the great African-American abolitionist, was a man who cherished freedom in life and in love. In this ambitious work of historical fiction, Douglass’ passions come vividly to life in the form of two women: Anna Murray Douglass and Ottilie Assing.

Douglass’ Women is an imaginative rendering of these two women — one black, the other white — in Douglass’ life. Anna, his wife, was a free woman of color who helped Douglass escape as a slave. She bore Douglass five children and provided him with a secure, loving home while he traveled the world with his message. Along the way, Douglass satisfied his intellectual needs in the company of Ottilie Assing, a white woman of German-Jewish descent, who would become his mistress for decades to come. How these two women find solidarity in their shared love for Douglass — and his vision for a free America — is at the heart of Jewell Parker Rhodes’ extraordinary, epic novel.


Sacred Fire: The QBR 100 Essential Black Books
by Max Rodriguez, Angeli R. Rasbury, Carol Taylor, and Charles Johnson

Publication Date: Jan 18, 1999
List Price: $15.95
Format: Paperback, 252 pages
Classification: Nonfiction
ISBN13: 9781620458440
Imprint: Wiley
Publisher: Wiley
Parent Company: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Read a Description of Sacred Fire: The QBR 100 Essential Black Books

Book Description: 

David Walker's Appeal. The Souls of Black Folk. Things Fall Apart. Their Eyes Were Watching God. The Fire. Next Time. Beloved…

Books are a cornerstone of black culture. Charting over 200 years of transition and turmoil, perseverance and triumph, intelligence, horror, and exquisite beauty, black literature rings with a remarkable people's vitality and passion, improvisational spirit and spiritual questing.

Read about all of the titles captured in the fascinating volume

Now, capturing the full sweep of writing from the Diaspora—from Africa to the Caribbean to America—Sacred Fire: The QBR 100 Essential Black Books celebrates the most influential works in this rich tradition, one of world literature's strongest forces.

QBR: The Black Book Review is the preeminent showcase for the critical review of contemporary African American books and authors. The editors of QBR have tapped a blue-ribbon panel of leading scholars, historians, authors, and booksellers to reach a consensus on works having the most significant impact across the decades —the books that matter most. The resulting list of 100 books is an impressive collection of poetry, short fiction, novels, drama, autobiography, and history.

Divided into six thematic sections —introduced by outstanding young writers like Eisa Nefertari Ulen,Arthur Flowers, andRobert Fleming —the books are excerpted and highlighted with insightful commentary. The first section, "Ancestors, Origins, and Memory," explores books that have shaped our views of slavery, oppression, and the African continent as paradise lost. Included in this section are The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, the first independently written slave narrative; Beloved, Toni Morrison's haunting tale of slavery and its aftermath; and Ivan Van Sertima's groundbreaking challenge to European history, They Came Before Columbus.

The section called "Community and Identity" celebrates books that explore individual freedom and the collective power of the alienated and marginalized, featuring the works of W. E. B. Du Bois,Wallace Thurman, Langston Hughes, Chinua Achebe, andLorraine Hansberry, among others. Their range is matched by their depth. In the sections "Politics, Nationalism, and Revolution" and "Soul and Spirit," one finds Eldridge Cleaver's Soul on Ice,Chancellor Williams's The Destruction of Black Civilization, Martin Luther King Jr.'s Letters from a Birmingham Jail, and Marian Wright Edelman's Guide My Feet. In "Sisters' Stories," works by Maya Angelou,Ntozake Shange, Audre Lorde, and other outstanding writers capture the varied experiences of black women. "Brothers' Lives" salutes the seminal works on black manhood by writers likeRichard Wright, August Wilson, and Ernest Gaines.

Honoring and exploring the greatest achievements in black writing across the centuries, Sacred Fire is soul-shaking, essential reading for all lovers of literature and lively opinion.

"QBR's evolving canon is a splendid way to begin honoring black artists."—Charles Johnson, from the Foreword.