Brooks, Gwendolyn From the first African-American Pulitzer Prize winner, Gwendolyn Brooks, in 1950, to more contemporary winners like Tyehimba Jess, Lynn Nottage, and Colson Whitehead, these authors' unique depictions of black existence are anchored in scholarship and history.
Their works reflect the concerns of their time about racism, injustice, and identity while also speaking to issues such as poverty, violence, and family life today. The Pulitzer Prize is an annual award administered by the Columbia University Press that recognizes excellence in journalism. It is considered the highest honor for writers who are employed as journalists.
The awards ceremony takes place in New York City on April 17th at the $10 million Walter Reade Theater at Lincoln Center. Recipients read excerpts from their works onstage before they are announced by an actor who previously appeared in their winning article or column. This year's judges were Charles Osgood, Ann Marie Lipinski, and Robert S. Greenberger.
Gwendolyn Brooks received her prize for poetry. An acclaimed poet, novelist, and essayist, she used her work to express the suffering of blacks under oppression as well as celebrate the beauty of their lives and culture.
She was born on January 25th, 1917 in Tulsa, Oklahoma to parents who were school teachers.
Whitehead, Colson Colson Whitehead of the United States has become only the fourth writer in history to win the Pulitzer Prize for fiction twice. The African-American novelist was recognized for The Nickel Boys, a book about the maltreatment of black boys at a Florida juvenile reform facility.
He was also awarded the prize for A Zone of Silence, which detailed life in a Japanese American community after the attack on Pearl Harbor. Whitehead's novels have been praised for their authenticity and emotional power.
His first Pulitzer Prize came in 1995 for his novel The Underground Railroad, which is set in 1829 Connecticut. It tells the story of a young girl who escapes slavery and seeks refuge with relatives in Massachusetts. However, upon reaching Boston, she decides to continue her journey north toward Canada where she hopes to start a new life.
Whitehead's second Pulitzer Prize was given to him this year for his novel The Nickel Boys, which is set in Miami during the 1990s and follows the lives of three teenage brothers as they deal with abuse, poverty, and crime within the system.
The Nickel Boys received widespread critical acclaim when it was published in 2012. Many critics called it an important work that captured the violence and injustice that often pervade America's prisons.
Whitehead said he was "honored" by the award and thanked its sponsors for recognizing his work.
Brooks, Gwendolyn E. (1910-1997) won the 1963 Pulitzer Prize for Drama for her off-Broadway play A Streetcar Named Desire.
This was the first Pulitzer Prize awarded for drama and only the third in all categories (the others being literature and music). It was also the first time that an American had won one of these prizes. Brooks was born in Lynchburg, Virginia, and grew up there and in Washington, D.C.
She earned a bachelor's degree from Howard University and a master's degree from New York University. After graduating, she worked as a social worker before turning to acting. She began her career on Broadway in 1950 with a role in The Cool World, which led to other Broadway plays including White Shadow, Heat Wave, and A Streetcar Named Desire. In addition to her work on stage, Brooks has appeared in several films including I Can Get It for You Wholesale, The Defiant Ones, and Malcom X: By Any Means Necessary.
After winning the prize, Brooks declined all subsequent awards offers because she felt that recognition came too late to be useful to those who needed it most.
Ella Fitzgerald was the first black woman to receive a Grammy Award. She won in 1959 for best jazz album with Charles Mingus.
Fitzgerald was born Ella Jean Wiggins on January 4, 1917 in Louisville, Kentucky. Her family moved to Chicago when she was a child where she learned to play piano. In 1935, at age 19, she started her professional career playing with Benny Goodman's band. In 1940, she joined Duke Ellington's band and stayed with him for seven years. During that time, she became one of the leading female voices in jazz and was also beginning to show an interest in other genres such as bebop and classical music.
In 1947, Fitzgerald left Ellington to start her own group. That same year, she met singer-songwriter Bob Dylan who asked her to sing on some of his songs. They fell in love and got married but the marriage only lasted three months because he didn't want to break up the group.
Fitzgerald had several successful albums with Columbia Records between 1955 and 1960, including the classic "The Girl from Louisiana With The Wonderful Smile". In 1959, she received her first Grammy Award for best jazz album for this work.