Dayton Literary Peace Prize to honor Wil Haygood this fall

Author Wil Haygood, whose acclaimed works chronicling the Black experience include “The Butler,” will receive the Dayton Literary Peace Prize’s 2022 Ambassador Richard C. Holbrooke Distinguished Achievement Award at a gala slated Nov. 13.

Haygood, a Columbus native and graduate of Miami University, has spotlighted the struggles and triumphs of 20th century Black Americans from high-profile politicians to high school basketball players. In particular, his seminal works include “Showdown,” detailing the contentious 1967 battle to get Thurgood Marshall onto the Supreme Court, and “Tigerland,” which followed athletes at an all-Black high school as they captured two state titles in Columbus.

His aforementioned “Butler” is the story of Eugene Allen, who served eight presidents at the White House. It was adapted into an award-winning film by Lee Daniels. His most recent book, “Colorization,” takes a century-long look at Hollywood’s handling of the dreams of Black actors, actresses, writers, and directors.

The award will be presented to Haygood by Dayton native Clarence Page, the Pulitzer Prize-winning syndicated columnist, journalist, and Chicago Tribune editorial board member. Page has notably received lifetime achievement awards from the Chicago Headline Club, the National Society of Newspaper Columnists and the National Association of Black Journalists.

“For three decades, Haygood has captured the sweep of American culture, focusing on the rarely or never-told stories of the Black experience with the analysis that this nation so desperately needs,” said Sharon Rab, the founder and chair of the Dayton Literary Peace Prize Foundation, in a release. “We are thrilled to honor one of Ohio’s greatest authors with the international recognition that his body of work deserves.”

The award is named in honor of the celebrated U.S. diplomat who negotiated the 1995 Dayton Peace Accords that ended the war in Bosnia. Founded in 2006, the Dayton Literary Peace Prize is the only international literary peace prize awarded in the United States, honoring writers whose work uses the power of literature to foster peace, social justice, and global understanding.

“The history of America — much of the world even — is marked by a relentless struggle for peace,” Haygood said on winning the Holbrooke Distinguished Achievement Award. “This is our hard climb. Where it concerns Black Americans and their quest for justice, I’ve been drawn to many stories, often stories missing from the history books. My real-life characters ask a simple question when it comes to peace: Why can’t we all get along? From Jackson, Mississippi, to Chicago; from the Los Angeles that had erupted in rebellion because of police brutality to war-torn Somalia, I’ve heard the same question from both young and old. So, the harder the peace, the more I want to write.”

Previous recipients of the Holbrooke Distinguished Achievement Award include Geraldine Brooks (2010), Gloria Steinem (2015), John Irving (2018) and Margaret Atwood (2020).

The finalists for the 2022 Dayton Literary Peace Prize in fiction and nonfiction will be announced Sept. 13.

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