Hurston Wright Foundation Announces 2017 Legacy Awards Nominations

WASHINGTON, D.C.–The Zora Neale Hurston/Richard Wright Foundation will present merit awards to three pioneers in their fields at the 2017 Legacy Awards on Friday, October 20 at the historic Washington Plaza Hotel in Washington, D.C.

Receiving the North Star Award–the foundation’s highest honor for career accomplishment and inspiration to the writing community–is Carla Hayden, Librarian of Congress. John Lewis, U.S. Congressman and author, will receive the Ella Baker Award, which recognizes writers for work that advances social justice. And, Haki Madhubuti, poet and founder of Third World Press, will receive the Madam C.J. Walker Award for his dedication to supporting and sustaining Black literature.

Dr. Carla Hayden is the first woman and the first African-American to lead the national library. Nominated by President Barack Obama, she was sworn in as the 14th Librarian of Congress in September 2016. Hayden began her professional career in 1973 as a children’s librarian at the Chicago Public Library. Prior to her appointment at the Library of Congress, she spent 13 years as chief executive at Baltimore’s Enoch Pratt Free Library, where she made news for keeping the library doors open during the 2015 protests after Freddie Gray’s death in police custody. For a week, the library became a refuge, even providing food. During her swearing-in speech, she said that “as a descendant of people who were denied the right to read, to now have the opportunity to serve and lead the institution that is our national symbol of knowledge is a historic moment.”

Congressman John Lewis represents Georgia’s 5th District and is one of the most respected members of Congress. Since entering office in 1986, he has pushed for anti-poverty programs, healthcare reform and improvements in education, and oversaw multiple renewals of the Voting Rights Act. Lewis was a Freedom Rider, spoke at 1963’s March on Washington and led the demonstration that became known as “Bloody Sunday.” He is the co-author of the bestselling graphic novel memoir trilogy MARCH, written with Andrew Aydin and illustrated by Nate Powell. In 2016, he won the National Book Award for the third installment in the series, which marked the first time a graphic novel received the honor. He is also the author of Across That Bridge: Life Lessons and a Vision for Change, written with Brenda Jones, and winner of the 2012 NAACP Image Award for Best Literary Work-Biography. His biography, Walking With The Wind: A Memoir of the Movement, received the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award and the Robert F. Kennedy Book Award.

A leading poet and one of the architects of the Black Arts Movement, Haki R. Madhubuti founded Third World Press, the largest independent Black-owned U.S. press, in 1967. He has published more than 31 books including poetry collections Think Black and Don’t Cry, Scream, under the name Don L. Lee. He took his current Swahili name in 1973, publishing numerous poetry and essay collections, including Million Man March/Day of Absence: A Commemorative Anthology. Madhubuti was founder and editor of Black Books Bulletin (1970-1994), a key journal documenting the literature, scholarship and conversations of African-American voices for over two decades. He was also a founding member of The Organization of Black American Culture (OBAC) Writers Workshop (1967) and founded several charter schools in Chicago. He has received numerous awards including National Endowment for the Arts and National Endowment for the Humanities fellowships, the American Book Award, and the Hurston/Wright Legacy prize in poetry in 2010 for his book, Liberation Narratives.

The Hurston/Wright Legacy Awards continue the foundation’s tradition of recognizing literary excellence by writers from the United States as well as the international Black writing community. The evening will culminate in the announcement of the winners of the juried awards for books by Black authors published in 2016.

The Nominees for the 2017 Hurston/Wright Legacy Awards are:

Debut Fiction
Blackass, A. Igoni Barrett (Graywolf Press)
Born on a Tuesday, Elnathan John (Black Cat/Grove Atlantic)
Damnificados, JJ Amaworo Wilson,  (PM Press)

Fiction
The Mother, Yvvette Edwards (Amistad)
The Loss of All Lost Things, Amina Gautier (Elixir Press)
The Book of Harlan, Bernice L. McFadden (Akashic Books)
Swing Time, Zadie Smith (Penguin Press)
The Underground Railroad, Colson Whitehead (Doubleday)
Another Brooklyn, Jacqueline Woodson (Amistad)

Nonfiction
The Firebrand and the First Lady: Portrait of a Friendship: Pauli Murray, Eleanor Roosevelt, and the Struggle for Social Justice, Patricia Bell-Scott (Alfred A.Knopf) Hannah Mary Tabbs and the Disembodied Torso: A Tale of Race, Sex, and Violence in America, Kali Nicole Gross (Oxford University Press)
Stamped from the Beginning, The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America, Ibram X. Kendi (Nation Books)
The Social Life of DNA: Race, Reparations, and Reconciliation After the Genome, Alondra Nelson, (Beacon Press)
In The Wake: On Blackness and Being, Christina Sharpe, (Duke University Press)
Another Day in the Death of America: A Chronicle of Ten Short Lives, Gary Younge (Nation Books)

Poetry
play dead, francine j. harris  (Alice James Books)
Bestiary, Donika Kelly (Graywolf Press)
Third Voice, Ruth Ellen Kocher (Tupelo Press)
Rapture, Sjohnna McCray (Graywolf Press)
Thief in the Interior, Phillip B. Williams (Alice James Books)
The Crown Ain’t Worth Much, Hanif Willis-Abdurraqib (Button Poetry)

Judges
Debut Fiction: Breena Clarke, Anthony Grooms and Kim McLarin
Fiction: Preston L. Allen, Sanderia Faye, Crystal Wilkinson
Nonfiction: Saladin Ambar, Paula Giddings, Karla Holloway
Poetry: Remica Bingham-Risher, Jericho Brown, Geffrey Davis

Winners of the Hurston/Wright Award for College Writers, under the sponsorship of Amistad books, a division of Harper Collins Publishers, also will be honored. The ceremony draws more than 200 literary stars and representatives of the publishing industry, media, arts, politics, and academia. Click here for event details and tickets.

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