The Hurston-Wright Foundation, established twenty years ago to promote and encourage writers of African descent, presented its 2010 Legacy Awards last week. Joining a list of Legacy alumni that includes Pulitzer Prize winners Junot Díaz and Edward P. Jones, MacArthur "Genius" fellow Edwidge Danticat, and Dayton Literary Peace Prize finalist Uwem Akpan, are this year's winners, Rita Dove (also a Pulitzer winner) and Haki Madhubuti, who shared the poetry award, and fiction writer Percival Everett.
Dove received the honor for her collection Sonata Mulattica (Norton, 2009), inspired by the life of George Augustus Polgreen Bridgetower, the biracial violinist who in 1803 premiered Beethoven's "Kreutzer" sonata in Vienna with the composer's accompaniment on piano. The poet "is concerned equally with the status of musicians in a world of precarious patronage," according to a review in the New Yorker, "and with 'the radiant web' of music itself." (A poem from the collection is available on the New Yorker online.)
Madhubuti won for his collection Liberation Narratives: New and Collected Poems 1966–2009 (Third World Press, 2009). A pivotal figure in the Black Arts Movement, Madhubuti is the founder of Third World Press and established the Gwendolyn Brooks Center for Black Literature and Creative Writing at Chicago State University, where he had also directed the MFA in creative writing program. He resigned from his work at the university earlier this year.
Everett was honored for his novel I Am Not Sidney Poitier (Graywolf Press, 2009), which follows a character named Not Sidney Poitier on what the Believer calls "journeys through the minefields of American expectation, ugliness, and absurdity" accompanied by "a cadre of beautifully sketched characters, including [Ted] Turner and a rotund professor of 'Nonsense Philosophy' named Percival Everett."
Nonfiction writer Robin D. G. Kelley also took home an award for his book Thelonious Monk: The Life and Times of an American Original (Free Press, 2009).
Each writer received a statuette and five hundred dollars, a prize amount that is revised yearly based on funds raised for the occasion (in the early years of the award, created in 2002, the purse was ten thousand dollars), and the authors were feted at a restaurant in Washington, D.C.