Writers of African Descent to Win Pulitzer Prizes (includes Finalists)

Pulitzer Prize Medal

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.


One Book was a Finalist or Winner of a Pulitzer Prize in 2014

Finalist - Poetry

The Big Smoke (Poets, Penguin)
by Adrian Matejka

    Publication Date:
    List Price: $18.00
    Format: Paperback, 128 pages
    Classification: Poetry
    ISBN13: 9780143123729
    Imprint: Penguin Books
    Publisher: Penguin Random House
    Parent Company: Bertelsmann and Pearson PLC
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    Read a Description of The Big Smoke (Poets, Penguin)


    Book Description: 
    Winner of the Anisfield-Wolf Award and finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Poetry and the National Book Award in Poetry—acollection that examines the myth and history of the prizefighter Jack Johnson
    The legendary Jack Johnson (1878-1946) was a true American creation. The child of emancipated slaves, he overcame the violent segregationism of Jim Crow, challenging white boxers—and white America—to become the first African-American heavyweight world champion. The Big Smoke, Adrian Matejka’s third work of poetry, follows the fighter’s journey from poverty to the most coveted title in sports through the multi-layered voices of Johnson and the white women he brazenly loved. Matejka’s book is part historic reclamation and part interrogation of Johnson’s complicated legacy, one that often misremembers the magnetic man behind the myth.





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