Writers of African Descent to Win Pulitzer Prizes (includes Finalists)
Since 1917 the Pulitzer Prize has honored excellence in journalism and the arts. The first award was presented in 1918. The Prize recognizes American authors in six “Letters and Drama” categories; Biography/Autobiography, Fiction, General Non-Fiction, History, Poetry, and Drama (technically not a book award, but plays are all available as books and have been included here).
The first African-American writer to win a Pulitzer Prize in any of the above categories was Gwendolyn Brooks who received the award for poetry for her collection Annie Allen in 1950.
3 Books were Finalists or Winners of Pulitzer Prizes in 2017
Winner - Poetry
by Tyehimba Jess
Publication Date: Apr 05, 2016
List Price: $35.00 Format: Hardcover
Page Count: 235
Imprint: Wave Books
Part fact, part fiction, Tyehimba Jess’s much anticipated second book weaves sonnet, song, and narrative to examine the lives of mostly unrecorded African American performers directly before and after the Civil War up to World War I. Olio is an effort to understand how they met, resisted, complicated, co-opted, and sometimes defeated attempts to minstrelize them.
So, while I lead this choir, I still find that
I’m being led I’m a missionary
mending my faith in the midst of this flock
I toil in their fields of praise. When folks see
these freedmen stand and sing, they hear their God
speak in tongues. These nine dark mouths sing shelt
Winner - Fiction
The Underground Railroad: A Novel
by Colson Whitehead
Publication Date: Aug 02, 2016
List Price: $26.95 Format: Hardcover
Page Count: 320
“Every now and then a book comes along that reaches the marrow of your bones, settles in, and stays forever. This is one. It’s a tour de force, and I don’t say that lightly.” —Oprah Winfrey says, Oprah’s Book Club 2016 Selection
From prize-winning, bestselling author Colson Whitehead, a magnificent tour de force chronicling a young slave’s adventures as she makes a desperate bid for freedom in the antebellum South
Cora is a slave on a cotton plantation in Georgia. Life is hell for all the slaves, but especially bad for Cora; an outcast even among her fellow Africans, she is coming into womanhood—where even greater pain awaits. When Caesar, a recent arrival from Virginia, tells her about the Underground Railroad, they decide to take a terrifying risk and escape. Matters do not go as planned—Cora kills a young white boy who tries to capture her. Though they manage to find a station and head north, they are being hunted.
In Whitehead’s ingenious conception, the Underground Railroad is no mere metaphor engineers and conductors operate a secret network of tracks and tunnels beneath the Southern soil. Cora and Caesar’s first stop is South Carolina, in a city that initially seems like a haven. But the city’s placid surface masks an insidious scheme designed for its black denizens. And even worse: Ridgeway, the relentless slave catcher, is close on their heels. Forced to flee again, Cora embarks on a harrowing flight, state by state, seeking true freedom.
Like the protagonist of AGulliver’s Travels, Cora encounters different worlds at each stage of her journey—hers is an odyssey through time as well as space. As Whitehead brilliantly re-creates the unique terrors for black people in the pre-Civil War era, his narrative seamlessly weaves the saga of America from the brutal importation of Africans to the unfulfilled promises of the present day. The Underground Railroadis at once a kinetic adventure tale of one woman’s ferocious will to escape the horrors of bondage and a shattering, powerful meditation on the history we all share.
Winner - Drama
by Lynn Nottage
Publication Date: Jan 10, 2017
List Price: $14.95 Format: Paperback
Page Count: 96
Imprint: Theatre Communications Group
Winner of the 2016 Susan Smith Blackburn Prize”From first moments to last, this compassionate but clear-eyed play throbs with heartfelt life, with characters as complicated as any you’ll encounter at the theater today, and with a nifty ticking time bomb of a plot. That the people onstage are middle-class or lower-middle-class folks too rarely given ample time on American stages makes the play all the more vital a contribution to contemporary drama.… If I had pompoms, I’d be waving them now.” Charles Isherwood, The New York TimesNo stranger to dramas both heartfelt and heart-rending, Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Lynn Nottage has written one of her most exquisitely devastating tragedies to date. In one of the poorest cities in America, Reading, Pennsylvania, a group of down-and-out factory workers struggles to keep their present lives in balance, ignorant of the financial devastation looming in their near futures. Set in 2008, the powerful crux of this new play is knowing the fate of the characters long before it’s even in their sights. Based on Nottage’s extensive research and interviews with real residents of Reading, Sweat is a topical reflection of the present and poignant outcome of America’s economic decline.Lynn Nottage’s plays include the Pulitzer Prizewinning Ruined; Intimate Apparel, the most widely produced play of the 20052006 theater season in America, By the Way, Meet Vera Stark, Fabulation, or the Re-Education of Undine; Crumbs from the Table of Joy; Las Meninas; Mud, River, Stone; Por’knockers, and POOF!