Hurston/Wright Legacy Award


WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Zora Neale Hurston/Richard Wright Foundation announced the winners and finalists of the 2016 Legacy Awards and paid tribute to celebrated authors Ernest J. Gaines and Junot Díaz on Friday, October 21st in Washington, D.C.

More than 200 literary stars and representatives of the publishing industry, media, arts, politics, and academia attended. National Public Radio’s Michel Martin served as Mistress of Ceremony and novelist Dolen Perkins-Valdez delivered a tribute to the foundation’s namesakes. The highlight of the evening was the naming of the winners of the juried awards for books by Black authors published in 2015 in the categories of debut fiction, fiction, nonfiction, and poetry.

Mitchell Jackson, author of The Residue Years and a former Legacy Awards finalist, presented the North Star Award — the foundation’s highest honor for career accomplishment and inspiration to the writing community — to Ernest J. Gaines, the award-winning author of A Lesson Before Dying. Marita Golden, co-founder of the Hurston/Wright Foundation, presented Junot Díaz, the Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist and founder of Voices of Our Nation, with the Ella Baker Award for championing diversity in MFA programs, his leadership in creating workshops for writers of color, and social justice advocacy.

The winners and finalists of the Legacy Awards are as follows:

Debut Fiction
Mourner’s Bench by Sanderia Faye (The University of Arkansas Press) – Winner

Delicious Foods by James Hannaham (Little, Brown and Company) – Winner
The Turner House by Angela Flournoy (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) – Finalist
The Lost Child by Caryl Phillips (Farrar, Straus and Giroux) – Finalist

Spectacle: The Astonishing Life of Ota Benga by Pamela Newkirk (Amistad) — Winner
The Light of the World by Elizabeth Alexander (Grand Central Publishing) — Finalist
Confronting Black Jacobins: The United States, the Haitian Revolution, and the Origins of the Dominican Republic by Gerald Horne (Monthly Review Press) – Finalist

Forest Primeval by Vievee Francis (TriQuarterly Books/Northwestern University Press) –Winner
Honest Engine by Kyle Dargan (The University of Georgia Press) — Finalist
Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude by Ross Gay (University of Pittsburgh Press) – Finalist

The Award for College Writers, under the sponsorship of Amistad books, a division of Harper Collins Publishers, also was presented Friday night.  Princeton University’s John S. Wilson III won for fiction and Joy Priest of the University of South Carolina won for poetry, both of whom read from their winning works. Honorable mentions were awarded to Clynthia Burton Graham for fiction, and to Vanity Hendricks-Robinson and Latasha D. Johnson for poetry.

The 2016 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.