For Immediate Release
June 28, 2023

Media Contact: Khadijah Z. Ali-Coleman,  Executive Director

Hurston/Wright Foundation Announces 2023 Legacy Award Nominees and Merit Awardees

WASHINGTON, D.C. - The Zora Neale Hurston/Richard Wright Foundation is pleased to announce the 2023 Legacy Award lifetime achievement honorees and the nominees for the Legacy Award in the categories of Fiction, Debut Fiction, Speculative Fiction, Historical Nonfiction, Memoir Nonfiction, and Poetry. The winners for the Legacy Awards will be announced on Thursday, October 26, 2023 at 7pm at the historic Lincoln Theater in Washington D.C.

Last year, actress, author and publisher, Karyn Parsons served as mistress of ceremonies for the organization’s third virtual Legacy Awards ceremony, which drew more than 1.9k viewers from the United States and abroad. This year’s celebration will mark the return of the awards event to an in-person venue since 2019. The 2023 Legacy Award host will be announced closer to the event date.

The Hurston/Wright Legacy Awards program honors Black writers in the United States and around the globe for literary achievement. Introduced in 2001, the Legacy Award is the first national award presented to Black writers by a national organization of Black writers. Legacy Awards for Merit are awarded in three categories, including exceptional innovation in supporting and sustaining Black literature; exceptional work that advances social justice; and lifetime literary achievement. The Hurston/Wright Foundation’s Board of Directors selects Legacy Award merit awardees each year. The names of the merit awards are: The North Star Award; The Ella Baker Award and the Madam “CJ” Walker Award.

This year’s merit awardees are: 

Ishmael Reed (The North Star Award), 

Carol Anderson (The Ella Baker Award) and 

Troy Johnson (Madam “CJ” Walker Award).  

The merit awardees will be honored this year during the Legacy Awards ceremony at the Lincoln Theater.

The Legacy Award awarded to published book authors is in recognition of literary excellence. Recognition is awarded in the categories of Fiction, Debut Fiction, Speculative Fiction, Historical Nonfiction, Memoir Nonfiction, and Poetry. More than 245 books were submitted by publishers and self-published authors for consideration this year. The judges – all Legacy Award Honorees from previous years and current Hurston/Wright Writers-in-Residence – evaluated the books for artistic excellence and contribution to the literary canon.

This year’s nominees are: 

Debut Fiction | Judges: Amina Gautier, Ron A. Austin and Preston Allen 

  • A Down Home Meal for These Difficult Times: Stories by Meron Hadero (Restless Books)
  • Nightcrawling by Leila Mottley (Alfred A. Knopf)
  • Finding La Negrita by  Natasha Gordon-Chipembere (Jaded Ibis Press)

Speculative Fiction | Judge: B. Sharise Moore

  • Our Lady of Mysterious Ailments by T.L. Huchu (Macmillan)
  • The Last Dreamwalker by  Rita Woods (Macmillan)
  • Goliath by Tochi Onyebuchi (Macmillan)

General Fiction | Judges: Morgan Christie, Lauren Francis-Sharma and Kim McLarin

  • Didn’t Nobody Give a Shit About Carlotta by James Hannaham (Little Brown)
  • Take My Hand by Dolen Perkins-Valdez (Berkley)
  • The Islands by Dionne Irving (Catapult)
  • People Person by Candice Carty-Williams (Simon & Schuster)
  • Mother Country, Jacinda Townsend (Graywolf Press)

Historical Nonfiction | Judges: Gerald Horne and Ron Stodghill

  • By Hands Now Known by Margaret Burnham (W.W. Norton & Company)
  • Antagonistic Cooperation: Jazz, Collage, Fiction, and the Shaping of African American Culture by Robert O’Meally (Columbia University Press)
  • We Refuse to Forget: A True Story of Black Creeks, American Identity, and Power by Caleb Gayle, (Riverhead Books)
  • Claude McKay: The Making of a Black Bolshevik by Winston James (Columbia University Press)

Memoir Nonfiction | Judges: Laurie Jean Carter and Sheri Booker

  • Inciting Joy by Ross Gay (Algonquin Books)
  • This Boy We Made,Taylor Harris,  (Catapult)
  • Black Boy Smile, D. Watkins, (Legacy Lit)
  • Invisible Boy: A Memoir of Self-Discovery , Harrison Mooney, (Steerforth Press)

 Poetry | Judges: Asiya Wadud, Brian Gilmore and Chanda Feldman

  • Concentrate, Courtney Faye Taylor, (Graywolf Press)
  • Best Barbarian, Roger Reeves (W.W. Norton)
  • To the Realization of Perfect Helplessness, Robin Coste Lewis (Knopf)
  • Null Landing, Isaiah A. Hines (Slope Editions)
  • Plans for Sentences, Renee Gladman (Wave Books)
  • We Are Not Wearing Helmets, Cheryl Boyce-Taylor


About the Hurston/Wright Foundation: The Zora Neale Hurston/Richard Wright Foundation was founded in 1990 in Washington, D.C., and is dedicated to discovering, mentoring and honoring Black writers. Through workshops, master classes and readings, the organization preserves the voices of Black writers, serves as a community for writers, and continues a tradition of literary excellence in storytelling established by its namesakes. The Hurston/Wright Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit. Learn more at


We are grateful for the support of our partners and funders:

To become a sponsor of the 2023 Legacy Awards, email us at

Unsubscribe or Manage Your Preferences