By Hands Now Known wins The Hurston/Wright Legacy Award

CRRJ Director Professor Margaret Burnham has won The Hurston/Wright Legacy Award, for her latest book, By Hands Now Known: Jim Crow’s Legal Executioners. She received the award at a ceremony in Washington D.C. hosted by the Zora Neale Hurston-Richard Wright Foundation, on October 26, 2023.

The Hurston/Wright Legacy Awards program honors Black writers and is the first national award presented to and by Black authors. Introduced in 2001, the Legacy Award is given to published writers in the categories of fiction, debut fiction, speculative fiction, poetry, memoir nonfiction, and historical nonfiction – Burnham’s category. Dr. Natalie Hopkinson, writer and associate professor at The American University in Washington, D.C., and Briana Thomas, historian, writer and journalist, presented Burnham with her award at The Lincoln Theater last Thursday evening.

By Hands Now Known examines the history of racialized lethal violence during the Jim Crow era. Burnham’s work has also won the 2023 Hillman Prize for Book Journalism and The Los Angeles Times Book Prize. By Hands Now Known was also a finalist for the 2022 Kirkus Prize for Nonfiction, and has been named a Best Book of the Year by The New Yorker, Oprah Daily, Kirkus, Chicago Public Library, and Publishers Weekly.

“In a climate where book bans have affected 1,648 book titles by 1,261 different authors, with approximately 60% of these bans involving books featuring characters of color or addressing subjects like slavery, racism, and activism, we gather tonight to celebrate Black literary excellence,” wrote Khadijah Ali-Coleman, Ed.D. executive director of The Hurston/Wright Foundation, in the ceremony’s program.

“Tonight is an acknowledgment of our resilient spirit, even in the face of the complex relationship this nation has with our literary contributions,” continued Ali-Coleman.

Another finalist for the historical nonfiction award is Caleb Gayle, professor at the School of Journalism and Africana Studies at Northeastern University, with his latest book We Refuse to Forget: A True Story of Black Creeks, American Identity, and Power. Gayle is also one of this year’s CLEAR Faculty Fellows, working on his next book, titled Pushahead: The Story of Edward McCabe and his Dreams of Colonization, which explores the topic of African Americans’ westward expansion during the early 20th century.

The recipients of each Legacy Book Award award are as follows:

Memoir Nonfiction: Inciting Joy by Ross Gay

Historical Nonfiction: By Hands Now Known by Margaret A. Burnham

Poetry: Concentrate by Courtney Faye Taylor

Debut Fiction: A Down Home Meal for These Difficult Times by Meron Hadero

Speculative Fiction: Our Lady of Mysterious Ailments by TL Huchu

General Fiction: Didn’t Nobody Give a Shit What Happened to Carlotta by James Hannaham

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