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Black Writers Were All Over This Year’s List of Pulitzer Prize Winners

Three of the four black winners dominated in non-journalism categories.
Black Writers Were All Over This Year’s List of Pulitzer Prize Winners
Photo by Susan Biddle/The Washington Post/Getty Images

Black literature won big at this year’s Pulitzer Prize ceremony — a reminder that black storytellers and thought leaders  are creating some of the most provoking and insightful works today. 

Now in its 101st year, the prestigious prize recognized 21 journalists, writers, artists and musicians at a New York City ceremony Monday. Four of these winners were black, with three of them falling under the competitive letters, drama, and music category. They were:

Fiction: The Underground Railroad, by Colson Whitehead.
Drama: Sweat, by Lynn Nottage.
Poetry: Olio, by Tyehimba Jess.
Criticism: Hilton Als, The New Yorker.

Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad continued its critical and bestselling dominance with its fiction prize win. Published last August, the book won the 2016 National Book Award in November, was picked by Oprah Winfrey to be part of her book club, and was optioned to become a TV show written and directed by Oscar Winning director Barry Jenkins.

The Pulitzer called the book “a smart melding of realism and allegory that combines the violence of slavery and the drama of escape in a myth that speaks to contemporary America.”

It is a great win for Whitehead who spent 16 years working on the book.

Sweat is the second Pulitzer drama win for Nottage, who won her first one in 2009 for her drama Ruined. Sweat is a thoughtful examination of the working-class anger that led to the election of President Trump.

“No. 1, I’m representing for women, and No. 2, I’m representing for playwrights of color,” the playwright told The Los Angeles Times. About her win.

As for his poetry win for Olio, Detroit native Jess was recognized by the Pulitzer committee for exploring “collective memory and challenge contemporary notions of race and identity.”

The only journalism winner of the four, Hilton Als has been writing at the New Yorker for 13 years and this is his first Pulitzer for criticism. As the theater critic for the publication, he spent 2016 expertly reviewing such theatrical works as The Color Purple and Nottage’s Sweat. His Pulitzer 

Congrats to the winners. Black excellence all around!