Pulitzer starting to look more like America

A new, young, black administrator reveals why things are changing. On a personal note, the working American poets I am most fascinated by are queer poets of colour, like Carl Philips, Jericho Brown (who won this year), Eduardo Coral, Ocean Vuong, etc.

When scrolling through this year’s list of Pulitzer Prize recipients, one thing immediately stands out: the sheer number of Black winners. There is The Nickel Boys, Colson Whitehead’s devastating fictional account of the true story about life at the Dozier reform school, which won for fiction. A Strange Loop, Michael R. Jackson’s semi-autobiographical musical about an aspiring playwright trying to write a musical about an aspiring playwright, secured the win for drama. The Tradition, Jericho Brown’s heartfelt collection, won the prize for poetry, while The Central Park Five, Anthony Davis’s spellbinding opera about its titular group of wrongfully convicted Black and Latinx boys, took home the prize for music. Add to that wins for Nikole Hannah-Jones, who took home the commentary prize for her contributions to The New York Times’ “1619 Project,” as well as a special award for the late investigative journalist and Civil Rights leader Ida B. Wells, and it’s clear that Black art was finally getting its due.

It’s something to be proud of for Dana Canedy, the administrator of the Pulitzer Prize since August 2017. As the first woman, first person of color, and youngest person to ever hold the position, the former New York Times editor has spent the past three years painstakingly working to diversify this prestigious organization in all facets. And while her contributions have been apparent from the very beginning—it was after she took the role that Kendrick Lamar’s DAMN. took home the 2018 Pulitzer for Music, after all—nothing has felt quite like the 2020 results.

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