Arnold Rampersad wins Anisfield-Wolf Book Prize Lifetime Achievement Award

ARNOLD RAMPERSAD, professor emeritus of English and an award-winning biographer and literary critic, is the winner of the 77th Annual Anisfield-Wolf Book Awards Lifetime Achievement Award.

Arnold Rampersad

The Anisfield-Wolf Book Awards is the country’s only juried literary competition devoted to recognizing books that have made an important contribution to society’s understanding of racism and the diversity of human cultures.

Rampersad, the Sara Hart Kimball Professor in the Humanities, Emeritus, at Stanford, is the author of The Life of Langston Hughes, which is widely considered the definitive biography of the poet. Volume One, published in 1986, won an Anisfield-Wolf Book Award for Nonfiction; Volume Two, published in 1988, was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. He also has written award-winning biographies of RALPH ELLISON, JACKIE ROBINSON AND W.E.B. DU BOIS.

Each year the Anisfield-Wolf Book Awards jury honors works of fiction and nonfiction and recognizes one individual whose life work has enhanced an understanding of cultural diversity. Previous Lifetime Achievement Award winners include OPRAH WINFREY, AUGUST WILSON and GORDON PARKS.

This year’s jury was overseen by HENRY LOUIS GATES JR., director of the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research at Harvard University. Jurors included poet RITA DOVE, author JOYCE CAROL OATES, psychologist STEVEN PINKER and art historian SIMON SCHAMA.

“Arnold Rampersad has illuminated the lives of the central figures in African American literary and cultural studies,” commented Gates. “By so doing, he has single-handedly inserted the African American character into American biographical literature.”

Rampersad, who also has held teaching positions at Rutgers, Columbia and Princeton, said he was “touched and gratified” to be chosen for this year’s Lifetime Achievement Award.

Stanford English Professor SHELLEY FISHER FISHKIN, who co-edited the book series Race and American Culture with Rampersad, described him as a gifted scholar whose work has had “an enormous impact on our understanding of American culture, illuminating issues of race and racism in America.”

In 2011, President Obama presented Rampersad with a National Humanities Medal. He is an elected member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Philosophical Society.

Administered by the Cleveland Foundation, the book prizes were established by poet and philanthropist EDITH ANISFIELD WOLF in 1935 to reflect her family’s passion for issues of social justice.

The Anisfield-Wolf winners will be honored at a ceremony in Cleveland, Ohio, on Sept. 13.

— BY CORRIE GOLDMAN