Isabel Wilkerson, an award-winning journalist, author, and educator, is the recipient of the inaugural NYU/Axinn Foundation Prize, which recognizes distinguished work in literary narrative nonfiction. The honor includes a cash award of $100,000. The prize is administered by the Graduate School of Arts and Science at New York University and funded by the Axinn Foundation. Donald Axinn was the founder and chairman of the Donald E. Axinn Companies, an investment firm and developer of office and industrial parks throughout the New York metropolitan area. He was the author of three novels and 11 books of poetry.
“The purpose of the award is to foster an excellent and influential writer’s continuing contributions to literature and culture,” says Susan Antón, interim dean of NYU’s Graduate School of Arts and Science. “The idea is to encourage ongoing work by writers of important literary narrative nonfiction — to promote books that demonstrate originality of vision and depth of research, books that seek to deepen our understanding of the human condition and are of broad interest and appeal.”
Wilkerson was honored for her book The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration (Random House, 2010). The book chronicles the Great Migration of African Americans from the rural South to other parts of the United States over the course of the twentieth century. Wilkerson’s latest book is Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents (Random House. 2020).
A graduate of Howard University, Professor Wilkerson has taught at Emory University, Princeton University, Boston University, and Northwestern University. She won the Pulitzer Prize for feature writing in 1994, as Chicago Bureau Chief of The New York Times. She was the first African-American woman to win a Pulitzer Prize in journalism.