Diane McWhorter

Diane McWhorter

Fellow: Awarded 2009

Field of Study: General Nonfiction

Competition: US & Canada

In 1982, as a young journalist in Boston, Massachusetts, Diane McWhorter got a book contract to write about her hometown of Birmingham, Alabama, and her family’s involvement—on the wrong side—in the civil rights revolution that culminated there in Martin Luther King’s mass demonstrations of 1963 and the deadly church bombing four months later. Thinking that the project would take two years at most, she delivered the manuscript eighteen years later. Carry Me Home: Birmingham, Alabama—The Climactic Battle of the Civil Rights Revolution was published by Simon & Schuster in March 2001. Overnight, the commentary of her acquaintances switched from, “She’s such a chump; she’ll never finish that book,” to “What a journey!” The book won the 2002 Pulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction, the 2001 Southern Book Award for Nonfiction, the J. Anthony Lukas Book Prize, the Sidney Hillman Foundation Award, the University of Alabama’s Clarence Cason Award, the Horace Mann Bond Book Award from Harvard University’s Du Bois Institute, and the English-Speaking Union Ambassador Award. It was named by Time Magazine as one of the Best 10 Books of 2001 and was a Washington Monthly Political Book of the Year. In addition to being a New York Times Notable Book for 2001, it was on the “best books of the year” lists of The Los Angeles Times, The Chicago Tribune, Newsday, Publishers’ Weekly, The St. Louis Post-Dispatch, and others.

Ms. McWhorter’s young-adult history of the civil rights movement, A Dream of Freedom, was published by Scholastic in the fall of 2004. It was one of The New York Times’s nine “Notable Children’s Books of 2004” and USA Today’s “Best Children’s History” of 2004. It was also on the “best books” lists of the American Library Association, the New York Public Library, the Horn Book, School Library Journal, and others. Her work has been anthologized in These United States: Original Essays by Leading American Writers on Their State within the Union, edited by John Leonard (Nation Books, 2003), Stories from the Blue Moon Café IV, edited by Sonny Brewer (MacAdam/Cage, 2005), and Class Matters, by Correspondents of the New York Times (Times Books, 2005). She wrote the foreword for Breach of Peace, a book about the Freedom Rides published by Atlas & Company in May 2008

Ms. McWhorter was a long-time contributor to The New York Times (daily, magazine, book review, op-ed) and is a member of U.S.A. Today’s Board of Contributors, writing for its op-ed page. Her essays and articles have appeared in The Nation, Slate, Salon, The American Scholar, Harper’s, The Washington Post, People, Smithsonian, Legal Affairs, and other publications. She lectures widely on race and has been on the adjunct faculty of the Columbia University Graduate School of the Arts.

Diane McWhorter was educated at Wellesley College, graduating magna cum laude with a B.A. degree in Comparative Literature. In the fall of 2007, she was a Holtzbrinck Fellow at the American Academy in Berlin, researching her book about one of Alabama’s adopted citizens, Hitler’s former rocket specialist Wernher von Braun. She lives with her two daughters in New York City.
 

AWARDS WON

Pulitzer Prize, General Nonfiction, 2002