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.
3 Books were Finalists or Winners of Pulitzer Prizes in 2022
Winner - Biography
Chasing Me to My Grave: An Artist’s Memoir of the Jim Crow South
by Winfred Rembert with Erin I. Kelly
Publication Date: Sep 07, 2021
List Price: $30.00
Format: Hardcover, 304 pages
Imprint: Bloomsbury Press
Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing
Parent Company: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC
Read a Description of Chasing Me to My Grave: An Artist’s Memoir of the Jim Crow South
“A compelling and important history that this nation desperately needs to hear.” —Bryan Stevenson, AALBC bestselling author of Just Mercy and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative
Winfred Rembert grew up in a family of Georgia field laborers and joined the Civil Rights Movement as a teenager. He was arrested after fleeing a demonstration, survived a near-lynching at the hands of law enforcement, and spent seven years on chain gangs. During that time he met the undaunted Patsy, who would become his wife. Years later, at the age of fifty-one and with Patsy’s encouragement, he started drawing and painting scenes from his youth using leather tooling skills he learned in prison.
Chasing Me to My Grave presents Rembert’s breathtaking body of work alongside his story, as told to Tufts Philosopher Erin I. Kelly. Rembert calls forth vibrant scenes of Black life on Cuthbert, Georgia’s Hamilton Avenue, where he first glimpsed the possibility of a life outside the cotton field. As he pays tribute, exuberant and heartfelt, to Cuthbert’s Black community and the people, including Patsy, who helped him to find the courage to revisit a traumatic past, Rembert brings to life the promise and the danger of Civil Rights protest, the brutalities of incarceration, his search for his mother’s love, and the epic bond he found with Patsy.
Vivid, confrontational, revelatory, and complex, Chasing Me to My Grave is a searing memoir in prose and painted leather that celebrates Black life and summons readers to confront painful and urgent realities at the heart of American history and society.
“Rembert’s art expresses the legacy of slavery, the trauma of lynching, and the anguish of racial hierarchy and white supremacy while illuminating a resolve to fight oppression and injustice. He has the ability to reveal truths about the human struggle that are transcendent, to evoke an understanding of human dignity that is broad and universal.” —Bryan Stevenson, New York Times bestselling author of JUST MERCY and founder and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative
“At turns harrowing and haunting, Chasing Me to My Grave is a testament to the rich cultural resources and the poetry of Black Southern life. Rembert’s paintings, brilliantly composed, kinetic, and enchanting, are interspersed through his reflections about life in the cotton and carceral South. The language is elegant and vernacular, his observations are insightful and poignant. And through it all, joy, no matter how elusive, never disappears.” —Imani Perry, Hughes-Rogers Professor of African American Studies at Princeton University
“Chasing Me to My Gravee is both a literary and artistic triumph. Winfred Rembert’s memoir of the carceral state in the Jim Crow South is a profoundly moving, devastatingly painful, and wonderfully transformative experience. Rembert’s earthy prose, evocative images, and grace in the face of racial oppression is an inspiring true story that will forever change the way we look at the system of mass incarceration and unequal justice and those who resisted with love, beauty, and artistic brilliance. This book is a must read for all who are interested in finding out the roots of our current racial crisis as well as the possibilities for truth, justice, and healing.” —Peniel E. Joseph
“Chasing Me to My Grave is a brilliant reminder of where we’ve come from as a country. We’ve come to accept William Faulkner’s adage, ’The past is never dead. It’s not even past.’ But Rembert’s account reminds us that it is in the remembering of the past that we keep it from becoming prologue. From the Jim Crow South to the chain gang to a life as an artist, Rembert reminds us of the terror and the possibility of America. That he became an artist while in prison says something about the gifts we bury, that he lived to tell this harrowing tale says something about the strength of this man.” —Reginald Dwayne Betts
Finalist - Fiction
by Gayl Jones
Publication Date: Sep 14, 2021
List Price: $27.95
Format: Hardcover, 592 pages
Imprint: Beacon Press
Publisher: Beacon Press
Parent Company: Unitarian Universalist Association
Read Our Review of Palmares
Read a Description of Palmares
The epic rendering of a Black woman’s journey through slavery and liberation, set in 17th-century colonial Brazil; the return of a major voice in American literature.
First discovered and edited by Toni Morrison, Gayl Jones has been described as one of the great literary writers of the 20th century. Now, for the first time in over 20 years, Jones is ready to publish again. Palmares is the first of five new works by Gayl Jones to be published in the next two years, rewarding longtime fans and bringing her talent to a new generation of readers.
Intricate and compelling, Palmares recounts the journey of Almeyda, a Black slave girl who comes of age on Portuguese plantations and escapes to a fugitive slave settlement called Palmares. Following its destruction, Almeyda embarks on a journey across colonial Brazil to find her husband, lost in battle.
Her story brings to life a world impacted by greed, conquest, and colonial desire. She encounters a mad lexicographer, desperate to avoid military service; a village that praises a god living in a nearby cave; and a medicine woman who offers great magic, at a greater price.Combining the author’s mastery of language and voice with her unique brand of mythology and magical realism, Jones reimagines the historical novel. The result is a sweeping saga spanning a quarter century, with vibrant settings and unforgettable characters, steeped in the rich oral tradition of its world. Of Gayl Jones, the New Yorker noted, “[Her] great achievement is to reckon with both history and interiority, and to collapse the boundary between them.” Like nothing else before it, Palmares embodies this gift.
Finalist - Poetry
by Will Alexander
Publication Date: Nov 02, 2021
List Price: $16.95
Format: Paperback, 112 pages
Imprint: New Directions Publishing
Publisher: New Directions Publishing
Parent Company: New Directions Publishing
Read a Description of Refractive Africa
Finalist for the Pulitzer Prize
Winner of the California Book Award in Poetry
Three kinetically distilled long poems by the singular American poet who “transfigures ‘thought’ into a weave of lexical magic” (Philip Lamantia)
“The poet is endemic with life itself,” Will Alexander once said, and in this searing pas de trois, Refractive Africa: Ballet of the Forgotten, he has exemplified this vital candescence with a transpersonal amplification worthy of the Cambrian explosion. “This being the ballet of the forgotten,” he writes as diasporic witness, “of refracted boundary points as venom.” The volume’s opening poem pays homage to the innovative Nigerian-Yoruban author Amos Tutuola; it ends with an encomium to the modernist Malagasy poet Jean-Joseph Rabearivelo—two writers whose luminous art suffered “colonial wrath through refraction.” A tribute to the Congo forms the bridge and brisé vole of the book: the Congo as “charged aural colony” and “primal interconnection,” a “subliminal psychic force” with a colonial and postcolonial history dominated by the Occident. Will Alexander’s improvisatory cosmicity pushes poetic language to the point of most resistance—incantatory and swirling with magical laterality and recovery.