The annual Pulitzer Prizes were announced yesterday, and among the winners are two acclaimed gay writers.
Jericho Brown won the Pulitzer Prize for poetry with his third collection of poems, The Tradition, which was published in April 2019.
The winner of the Pulitzer Prize for drama was Michael R. Jackson, for his 2019 musical, A Strange Loop.
The Pulitzers have been awarded to those excelling in the fields of journalism and the arts since 1917. Yesterday’s awards were announced digitally because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Jericho Brown is believed to be the first gay, black man to win the prize for poetry. Born in Louisiana, he teaches English and creative writing at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia. His collection, The Tradition, explores how we’ve grown accustomed to terror – from mass shootings to rape to the murder of unarmed people by police.
The Pulitzer judges called the work, “a collection of masterful lyrics that combine delicacy with historical urgency in their loving evocation of bodies vulnerable to hostility and violence.”
In a statement published by Emory University, Brown said, “I have known about the Pulitzer Prize and understood its prestige since I was in elementary school and Rita Dove won it. And I’m so glad I understood it as one of the possibilities for a writer even when I was a kid.
“Understanding it as a possibility doesn’t mean I ever expected to win it, and getting the news that I won is the very best thing to happen to me in 2020 by far,” he said. “I didn’t expect to win it because when I write my poems I mean to be as subversive and radical as possible.”
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His win has been widely celebrated online, with one tweet highlighting it – and reshared by Brown – having over 100k likes.
Y’all, a black gay man just won the Pulitzer Prize for poetry.
— Jabari Allen (@pleasureisblack) May 4, 2020
Detroit-born Michael R. Jackson won the drama prize for his semi-autobiographical musical, A Strange Loop, which played off-Broadway last year. It also won the award for Best Musical of the 2019–2020 season by the New York Drama Critics Circle, and will enjoy a forthcoming run at Washington DC’s Woolly Mammoth theater in the fall (COVID-19 permitting).
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The show follows “Usher” – an usher for The Lion King on Broadway and “a black, queer writer, working a day job he hates while writing his original musical: a piece about a black, queer writer, working a day job he hates while writing his original musical.”
The judges called the work, “A metaﬁctional musical that tracks the creative process of an artist transforming issues of identity, race, and sexuality that once pushed him to the margins of the cultural mainstream into a meditation on universal human fears and insecurities.”
Jackson becomes the first black writer to win the drama prize with a work of musical theatre. It’s also the first time the Pulitzer drama prize has been won by a production that didn’t play on Broadway. You can watch a trailer for A Strange Loop below.
On Twitter, Jackson expressed his joy at winning: “Never in my wildest dreams. NEVER. IN MY. WILDEST. DREAMS. Thank you to everyone who has supported me on my journey to such an incredible honor. I’m sure I’ll have more to say once I’ve caught my breath and looked at all these text messages and emails but for now, THANK YOU.”
Never in my wildest dreams. NEVER. IN MY. WILDEST. DREAMS. Thank you to everyone who has supported me on my journey to such an incredible honor. I’m sure I’ll have more to say once I’ve caught my breath and looked at all these text messages and emails but for now, THANK YOU. https://t.co/P73Aonzy5t
— Michael R. Jackson (@TheLivingMJ) May 4, 2020
Congratulations to both of them!
Seems to be a heavy emphasis on the fact that they’re Black, as if we aren’t capable of Pulitzer worthy art. Looking forward to the day when I can see a headline that doesn’t need to mention my race or sexuality.
Well, since is the first time that two Black gay men–not just Black or gay–have received the Pulitzer Prize simultaneously, it’s a big deal. Just look up the roster of Pulitzer Prize winners and you’ll see, non-White winners and out LGBTQ winners in all categories, but especially the literary ones, have been quite rare until the last 20 years. And the roster of Pulitzer Prize winners in poetry, fiction and drama includes some of the greatest American writers of all time: Faulkner, Hemingway, Cather, Bishop, Steinbeck, Ashbery, Morrison, etc. Also, they both write about being Black and gay, among other things. Jericho Brown’s work in particular is amazing.
Literary awards tend to be more diverse for quite some time than they were in the past, but even there are some recent winners who are black and gay (Marlon James won the Booker and James Hannaham won the PEN/Faulkner) is no that usual, and in this case are two
both hot af, nice
Maybe the first black musical theatre writer, but definitely not the first musical theatre writer to win the drama prize. #factcheck
Off the top of my head…
A Chorus Line – Michael Bennet
Sunday In the Park with George – Stephen Sondheim
Rent – Johnathon Larson
Hamilton – Manuel Lin Miranda
Both are excellent writers. Congrats to them and all the Pulitzer winners!
The Pulitzers aren’t afraid to honor the unconventional or unexpected. Look at this year’s editorial writing prize winner – the little newspaper from small-town Palestine, Texas.
Wow, I guess I missed that one, that towns about 45 minutes from me, I’m across the border in Louisiana, we used to go through Palestine when we’d take the back roads to get to Austin or Houston, it’s a cute little town.
Kudos to both of them for their wins!
Jericho is from my hometown and we are all so proud of him, way to go man!! I cannot wait to read it!!!
Blue Zoo, I believe all of those works won the Pulitzer AFTER they opened on Broadway…what they mean to say was it was the first one to win while it was still off Broadway. Unlike the others that didn’t win until they had made the leap to Broadway. Correct me if I’m wrong though.
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