Pulitzer Prize Winning Books by Black Writers (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.
4 Books were Finalists or Winners of Pulitzer Prizes in 2020
Winner - Drama
A Strange Loop
by Michael R. Jackson
Publication Date: Jan 19, 2021
List Price: $15.95
Format: Paperback, 120 pages
Imprint: Theatre Communications Group
Publisher: Theatre Communications Group
Parent Company: Theatre Communications Group
Read a Description of A Strange Loop
Winner of the 2020 Pulitzer Prize for Drama
“To watch this show is to enter, by some urgent, bawdy magic, an ecstatic and infinitely more colorful version of the famous surreal lithograph by M. C. Escher: the hand that lifts from the page, becoming almost real, then draws another hand, which returns the favor. Which came first? A Strange Loop is complex, teasing, thrilling.” —Vinson Cunningham, New Yorker
Usher is a Black, queer writer, working a day job he hates while writing his original musical: a piece about a Black, queer writer, working a day job he hates while writing his original musical. This blistering musical follows a young artist at war with a host of demons—not least of which are the punishing thoughts in his own head—in an attempt to understand his own strange loop.
Winner - Fiction
The Nickel Boys: A Novel
by Colson Whitehead
- 6 Time AALBC.com Bestselling Book!
- Selected for 1 Book Club’s Reading List
- Kirkus Prize Finalist/Winner 2019
Publication Date: Jul 30, 2019
List Price: $24.95
Format: Hardcover, 208 pages
Publisher: Penguin Random House
Parent Company: Bertelsmann
Read a Description of The Nickel Boys: A Novel
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: Sep 04, 2019
List Price: $27.95
Format: Hardcover, 352 pages
Imprint: Oxford University Press
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Parent Company: University of Oxford
Read a Description of Sweet Taste of Liberty: A True Story of Slavery and Restitution in America
Winner - Poetry
by Jericho Brown
Publication Date: Apr 02, 2019
List Price: $17.00
Format: Paperback, 110 pages
Imprint: Copper Canyon Press
Publisher: Copper Canyon Press
Parent Company: Copper Canyon Press
Read a Description of The Tradition
“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 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.