The National Book Awards were established in 1936 and have been presented every years since 1950. Awards are presented to authors of books in four categories: Fiction, Nonfiction, Poetry, and Young People’s Literature. The first HBCU alum to win the illustrious award was Tuskegee's Ralph Ellison who won the 1953 award for fiction for his novel, 'Invisible Man.' It would be nearly 60 years before another would win. This time Talladega alum, Nikky Finney, won for her book of poetry, 'Head Off & Split' in 2011.
When the 2016 awards were presented, two HBCU alum were among the honorees. Congressman John Lewis was honored for his graphic novel, 'March 3.' The third installment of his 'March' series was the 1st comic book to win the National Book Award for Young People's Literature. Representative Lewis graduated from American Baptist College and Fisk University. Florida A&M alumnus Ibram Kendi, a professor of African-American history at the University of Florida, became the 2nd HBCU alum in 2 years to win for Nonfiction. His book, 'Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America' follows Howard alum, Tah-Nehisi Coate's win for 'Between the World and Me.'
(photo credits: Biography.com, Shorthand Social)