Office of University Communications & Marketing

UNA to Host Bestselling Writer, Pulitzer Prize Winner Isabel Wilkerson for 2011 Writer's Series
Dec. 8, 2010



FLORENCE, Ala. – 1994 Pulitzer Prize winning journalist and author of the 2010 New York Times bestseller “The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration,” Isabel Wilkerson will join the 2011 Writer’s Series April 14 at 12:30 p.m. in the Guillot University Performance Center.

Wilkerson, who currently works as a journalism professor and director of narrative nonfiction at Boston University, was the first African American woman to win the Pulitzer Prize for feature writing as the Chicago bureau chief of The New York Times. She has lectured at Harvard University and worked as a professor of journalism at Princeton and Emory universities.

Pam Kingsbury, instructor of English and Writer’s Series organizer, said the Writer’s Series committee chose Wilkerson in early October after English professor Dr. Lisa Minor recommended the author. Minor’s sister, Sherri Graves Smith, of Tuscumbia, participates in a book club with Wilkerson and has developed a friendship with her over the last seven years.

According to Smith, Wilkerson’s book “The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration,” was written over the course of 15 years. The book, which was released in September 2010 and has been named “the best history book of the year” by Amazon, features a sharecropper’s wife, a laborer and a surgeon who fled the South during the Great Migration, when more than 6 million African Americans migrated from the South to the North and West from 1915 to 1970.

“What I admire the most about Isabel is that she cares so much about the book, because it’s such an important part of American history,” Smith said. “When I was started reading it, I was swept away. The book really provides a lot of knowledge about American history, as there haven’t really been many other books with research at this depth.”

Wilkerson’s work was praised as a top 10 book of 2010 by the “Library Journal,” “Publisher’s Weekly,” and “O, The Oprah Magazine.” As a correspondent for “Essence Magazine,” Wilkerson campaigned with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, interviewed actor Denzel Washington and spoke with retired basketball player Magic Johnson and his wife, Cookie, after he announced being HIV positive in 1991.

Pulitzer Prize winning poet and 2008 UNA Writer’s Series headliner Natasha Trethewey refers to Wilkerson as a “Southerner once removed.” Kingsbury said Wilkerson’s parents were participants in the great African American migration from the South. Inspired by her parent’s story, she completed about 1,200 interviews before publishing the book.

“Those who come hear her speak will have a chance to hear someone talk about a part of history that is often ignored,” Kingsbury said. “You get to hear one writer’s family stories and how she linked them to a major movement in American history.”

The Writer’s Series, which is in its 28th consecutive year at UNA, will be a free event for the UNA student body, faculty, community and area schools. A book signing and reception with Wilkerson will follow in the GUC Loft at 2 p.m.

For more information about the event, contact Pam Kingsbury at 256-765-4890 or the English Department at 256-765-4238.