The Pulitzer Prize is one of the most reveled awards in across American journalism, literature or music. Only thirteen are awarded each year; and since 1917, the award has signaled excellence across industries. Nominees are announced in April of ever year, with prizes awarded the following May. There are currently 21 categories of the award, and The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead won the award for Fiction under the Letters and Drama category. But Whitehead was not the only Black winner this year; Tyehimba Jess also won the Pulitzer in Poetry for his 2017 publication, Olio.
The Underground Railroad, “an inventive and searing take on slavery in 1850s Georgia,” had already received critical acclaim from the likes of Oprah Winfrey, in addition to securing the 2016 National Book Award. The book’s author, Colson Whitehead, joins the list of African American writers and photojournalists who earned the honor throughout the course of their careers. In true #PushBlack fashion, we’re celebrating their collective wins by showcasing a snapshot of the Black history of the Pulitzer Prize. t
- Gwendolyn Brooks, one of the most highly regarded and highly influential poets of the 20th century, was the first African American woman to win the Pulitzer Prize. She was awarded the 1950 Pulitzer for Poetry for her acclaimed connection, Annie Allen. She went on to become Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress and Poet Laureate of Illinois. In all, she wrote 24 published books over the course of her life.
- Moneta Sleet, Jr.,an award-winning photojournalist, was the first African American man to win the Pulitzer Prize.In 1969, his work entitled “Deep Sorrow,” pictured Martin Luther King, Jr.’s widow, Coretta King, during King’s funeral. The image was original published in Ebony Magazine but has since been showcased across various platforms.
- Suzan-Lori Parks, a creative writing professor at the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University, won the 2002 Pulitzer Prize for her play, “Topdog/Underdog.”
- Ovie Carter, a photojournalist, won the Pulizter Prize in 1975 for International Reporting. Carter, who went form the Air Force, to a lab assistant, and finally a general assignment photographer, captured images of poverty and strife in Chicago neighborhoods and abroad.
Want to learn about more Pulitzer prize winning journalists and authors such as Toni Morrison, Rita Dove and August Wilson? Click here for the full list.
And don’t forget to click the upcoming links to order your copy of Colson Whitehead’s, The Underground Railroad and Tyehimba Jess’, Olio.