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2007 Lukas Prizes Awarded for Exceptional Works of Nonfiction

Recipients of the 2007 J. Anthony Lukas Prize Project Awards include a stunning account by Lawrence Wright of the events leading up to the destruction of the World Trade Center; a moving chronicle of the search for a homecoming by Americans of African descent, by James T. Campbell; and a harrowing exploration of Hoop Spur, Ark., in 1919, when white mobs and federal troops converged to suppress a nascent sharecroppers union, by Robert Whitaker.

The awards will be presented by Garrison Keillor at a ceremony to be held on Tuesday, May 8 at Columbia’s Graduate School of Journalism.

The prizes, established in 1998 and co-administered by the Graduate School of Journalism and the Neiman Foundation at Harvard University, recognize excellence in nonfiction writing, works that exemplify the literary grace, commitment to serious research and social concern that characterized the distinguished work of the awards’ Pulitzer Prize-winning namesake, J. Anthony Lukas, who died in 1997.

J. Anthony Lukas Book Prize ($10,000)

Lawrence Wright

Lawrence Wright

In The Looming Tower: Al Qaeda and the Road to 9/11 (Knopf), Lawrence Wright has brilliantly brought into focus the history of events leading up to the destruction of the World Trade Center. It’s a stunning example of narrative nonfiction by a master journalist; a tribute to the distinguished writer J. Anthony Lukas and to the award that bears his name. During five years of research, Wright conducted hundreds of interviews in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Sudan, Afghanistan, Europe and the United States. The result is an epic tale—part thriller, part tragedy—told through the lives of four men: two leaders of Al Qaeda, the FBI counter intelligence chief and the former head of Saudi intelligence. This remarkable interweaving of their stories—never fully told before—sheds new light on everything from terrorist plots and CIA failures to the tumultuous cross currents of modern Islam.

Mark Lynton History Prize ($10,000)

James Campbell

James T. Campbell

Middle Passages: African American Journeys to Africa, 1787-2005 (Penguin) chronicles the search for a homecoming by Americans of African descent in the 220 years since the foundation of the United States. James T. Campbell eloquently narrates the human drama of their voyages, the creativity of their visions and the complexity of their discoveries. Campbell’s taut account is made all the more moving by its elegant restraint in portraying these emotionally charged journeys to Africa, to the roots of identity and almost always to the question, What is America to me? This brilliant, surprising and powerful book offers a compelling historical meditation on our widely shared desire to venture beyond the present to navigate the middle passage between the mysteries of our past and the uncertainties of our future.”

J. Anthony Lukas Work-in-Progress Award ($30,000)

Robert Whitaker

Robert Whitaker

The Lukas Work-in-Progress Award is given each year to assist in the completion of a significant work of narrative nonfiction on an American topic of political or social concern. Twelve Condemned to Die: Scipio Africanus Jones and the Struggle for Justice That Remade a Nation (to be published by Crown), Robert Whitaker’s work-in-progress presents a harrowing exploration of Hoop Spur, Ark., in 1919, when white mobs and federal troops converged to suppress a nascent sharecroppers’ union, killing more than 100 black men, women and children. With reportorial incision and a flair for narrative and analysis, Whitaker has excavated “a history that is unknown to most Americans and yet is central to understanding our past—and present.” It is a tale of bravery and oppression in the rural south at the end of World War I, an epic of class and prejudice, rebellion and bloodshed leading all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court—and setting the legal stage for the Civil Rights Movement more than half a century later.

Published: Mar 30, 2007
Last modified: Apr 01, 2007