List of Books by, or About, People 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.


3 Books were Finalists or Winners of Pulitzer Prizes in 2020

Winner - Fiction

The Nickel Boys: A Novel
by Colson Whitehead

Publication Date:
List Price: $24.95
Format: Hardcover, 208 pages
Classification: Fiction
ISBN13: 9780385537070
Imprint: Doubleday
Publisher: Penguin Random House
Parent Company: Bertelsmann
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Book Description: 
In this bravura follow-up to the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award-winning #1 New York Times bestseller The Underground Railroad, Colson Whitehead brilliantly dramatizes another strand of American history through the story of two boys sentenced to a hellish reform school in Jim Crow-era Florida.

As the Civil Rights movement begins to reach the black enclave of Frenchtown in segregated Tallahassee, Elwood Curtis takes the words of Dr. Martin Luther King to heart: He is "as good as anyone." Abandoned by his parents, but kept on the straight and narrow by his grandmother, Elwood is about to enroll in the local black college. But for a black boy in the Jim Crow South in the early 1960s, one innocent mistake is enough to destroy the future. Elwood is sentenced to a juvenile reformatory called The Nickel Academy, whose mission statement says it provides "physical, intellectual and moral training" so the delinquent boys in their charge can become "honorable and honest men."

In reality, The Nickel Academy is a grotesque chamber of horrors, where the sadistic staff beats and sexually abuses the students, corrupt officials and locals steal food and supplies, and any boy who resists is likely to disappear "out back." Stunned to find himself in such a vicious environment, Elwood tries to hold on to Dr. King’s ringing assertion "Throw us in jail and we will still love you." His friend Turner thinks Elwood is worse than naive, that the world is crooked and the only way to survive is to scheme and avoid trouble.

The tension between Elwood’s ideals and Turner’s skepticism leads to a decision whose repercussions will echo down the decades. Formed in the crucible of the evils Jim Crow wrought, the boys’ fates will be determined by what they endured at The Nickel Academy.

Based on the real story of a reform school in Florida that operated for one hundred and eleven years and warped the lives of thousands of children, The Nickel Boys is a devastating, driven narrative that showcases a great American novelist writing at the height of his powers.

Winner - History

Sweet Taste of Liberty: A True Story of Slavery and Restitution in America
by W. Caleb McDaniel

    Publication Date:
    List Price: $27.95
    Format: Hardcover, 352 pages
    Classification: Nonfiction
    ISBN13: 9780190846992
    Imprint: Oxford University Press
    Publisher: Oxford University Press
    Parent Company: University of Oxford
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    Book Description: The unforgettable saga of one enslaved woman’s fight for justice—and reparations

    Born into slavery, Henrietta Wood was taken to Cincinnati and legally freed in 1848. In 1853, a Kentucky deputy sheriff named Zebulon Ward colluded with Wood’s employer, abducted her, and sold her back into bondage. She remained enslaved throughout the Civil War, giving birth to a son in Mississippi and never forgetting who had put her in this position.

    By 1869, Wood had obtained her freedom for a second time and returned to Cincinnati, where she sued Ward for damages in 1870. Astonishingly, after eight years of litigation, Wood won her case: in 1878, a Federal jury awarded her $2,500. The decision stuck on appeal. More important than the amount, though the largest ever awarded by an American court in restitution for slavery, was the fact that any money was awarded at all. By the time the case was decided, Ward had become a wealthy businessman and a pioneer of convict leasing in the South. Wood’s son later became a prominent Chicago lawyer, and she went on to live until 1912.

    McDaniel’s book is an epic tale of a black woman who survived slavery twice and who achieved more than merely a moral victory over one of her oppressors. Above all, Sweet Taste of Liberty is a portrait of an extraordinary individual as well as a searing reminder of the lessons of her story, which establish beyond question the connections between slavery and the prison system that rose in its place.




    Winner - Poetry

    The Tradition
    by Jericho Brown

    Publication Date:
    List Price: $17.00
    Format: Paperback, 110 pages
    Classification: Poetry
    ISBN13: 9781556594861
    Imprint: Copper Canyon Press
    Publisher: Copper Canyon Press
    Parent Company: Copper Canyon Press
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    Book Description: 
    "By some literary magic—no, it’s precision, and honesty—Brown manages to bestow upon even the most public of subjects the most intimate and personal stakes."—Craig Morgan Teicher, "I Reject Walls: NPR 2019 Poetry Preview" "A relentless dismantling of identity, a difficult jewel of a poem."—Rita Dove, in her introduction to Jericho Brown’s "Dark" (featured in the New York Times Magazine in January 2019) "Winner of a Whiting Award and a Guggenheim Fellowship, Brown’s hard-won lyricism finds fire (and idyll) in the intersection of politics and love for queer Black men."—O, The Oprah Magazine Featured in NPR’s "I Reject Walls" A 2019 Poetry Preview" Named a Lit Hub "Most Anticipated Book of 2019" One of Buzzfeed’s "66 Books Coming in 2019 You’ll Want to Keep Your Eyes On" The Rumpus poetry pick for "What to Read When 2019 is Just Around the Corner" One of Book Riot’s "50 Must-Read Poetry Collections of 2019" Jericho Brown’s daring new book The Tradition details the normalization of evil and its history at the intersection of the past and the personal. Brown’s poetic concerns are both broad and intimate, and at their very core a distillation of the incredibly human: What is safety? Who is this nation? Where does freedom truly lie? Brown makes mythical pastorals to question the terrors to which we’ve become accustomed, and to celebrate how we survive. Poems of fatherhood, legacy, blackness, queerness, worship, and trauma are propelled into stunning clarity by Brown’s mastery, and his invention of the duplex—a combination of the sonnet, the ghazal, and the blues—is testament to his formal skill. The Tradition is a cutting and necessary collection, relentless in its quest for survival while reveling in a celebration of contradiction.