Some would say that we’re living in a renaissance of Black art. Whether it be in music, painting or literature, black artists seem to be excelling even more than usual. This belief was further supported on Monday as Pulitzer Prize winners were announced. Out of the 21 writers awarded in New York City for their work, four of them – Colson Whitehead, Lynn Nottage, Tyehimba Jess and Hilton Als – were Black.
Whitehead received an award for fiction for his latest novel, The Underground Railroad. The novel tells the story of a woman who escapes from a Georgia plantation only to discover that the Underground Railroad is an actual train. Many readers feel that the subject manner is even more relevant today than it would’ve been just a year ago.
“I think the book deals with white supremacy as a foundational error in the country’s history and that foundational error is being played out now in the White House,” he told The Associated Press on Monday. “When I was writing the book I wasn’t thinking about current events, but I think you have to look at it differently now.”
The story’s been celebrated for combining fantasy with the harsh realities of slavery. It’s the first book in more than 20 years to win both the National Book Award for Fiction and a Pulitzer Prize, according to CBS. A series based on the book is currently being produced by Amazon.
Lynn Nottage was given her second Pulitzer prize for drama for Sweat, making her the first female playwright to win the award twice, according to Playbill. Sweat follows a group of Pittsburgh factory workers who begin to see fragments in their friendships and relationships after rumors of layoffs begin to circulate. The production began showing on Broadway in late March.
“No. 1, I’m representing for women, and No. 2, I’m representing for playwrights of color,” the playwright told The Los Angeles Times.
Tyehimba Jess wan an award for Olio, a collection of poetry that highlights contemporary thought on race and identity. Hiltol Als has been a theater critic for The New Yorker for 13 years and was awarded for his criticism of productions such as The Color Purple and, coincidentally, Sweat.