Four Women With Current Ties to the Academic World Win Pulitzer Prizes

In his will, Joseph Pulitzer bestowed an endowment on Columbia University of $2,000,000 for the establishment of a School of Journalism, one-fourth of which was to be “applied to prizes or scholarships for the encouragement of public service, public morals, American literature, and the advancement of education.” The Pulitzer Prizes were first awarded in 1917. In addition to journalism, the Pulitzer Prize board also gives out awards in literature, drama, poetry, music, and photography.

This year, four women with current ties to the academic world won Pulitzer Prizes.

Nicole Eustace, a professor of history at New York University, won the Pulitzer Prize in history for her book Covered With Night: A Story of Murder and Indigenous Justice in Early America (Liveright/Norton, 2021). The book recounts a 1722 killing of an Indigenous hunter by two white fur traders in Conestoga, Pennsylvania. According to the Pulitzer Board, Covered With Night offers “a gripping account of Indigenous justice in early America, and how the aftermath of a settler’s murder of a Native American man led to the oldest continuously recognized treaty in the United States. It transforms a single event into an unforgettable portrait of early America. A necessary work of historical reclamation, it ultimately revives a lost vision of crime and punishment that reverberates down into our own time.”

Professor Eustace is also the author of 1812: War and the Passions of Patriotism (University of Pennsylvania Press, 20212) and Passion Is the Gale: Emotion, Power, and the Coming of the American Revolution (University of North Carolina Press, 2008).

Professor Eustace earned a Ph.D. at the University of Pennsylvania.

Ada Ferrer, Julius Silver Professor of History and Latin American and Caribbean Studies at New York University, also was awarded a Pulitzer Prize in history. She was honored for her book Cuba: An American History (Scribner, 2021). The Pulitzer Board said that the book “provides us with a front-row seat as we witness the evolution of the modern nation, with its dramatic record of conquest and colonization, of slavery and freedom, of independence and revolutions made and unmade. This is a story that will give Americans unexpected insights into the history of their own nation and, in so doing, help them imagine a new relationship with Cuba.”

Born in Cuba and raised in the United States, Professor Ferrer is also the author of Insurgent Cuba: Race, Nation, and Revolution, 1868–1898 (University of North Carolina Press, 1999) and Freedom’s Mirror: Cuba and Haiti in the Age of Revolution (Cambridge University Press, 2014).

Professor Ferrer joined the faculty at New York University in 1995. She is a graduate of Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, New York, where she majored in English. She holds a master’s degree in history from the University of Texas and a Ph.D. in history from the University of Michigan.

Salamishah Tillet, the Henry Rutgers Professor of Creative Writing and African American and African Studies at Rutgers University-Newark in New Jersey, has been selected as the winner of the Pulitzer Prize in criticism. She is being honored for her commentaries in The New York Times on “Black stories in art and popular culture – work that successfully bridges academic and nonacademic critical discourse.”

Professor Tillet is also the director of Express Newark, the Center for Socially Engaged Art and Design at Rutgers. Earlier in her career, Dr. Tillet was the Robert S. Blank Presidential Associate Professor of English and Africana Studies at the University of Pennsylvania.

Dr. Tillet is a contributing critic at large for The New York Times, where she has written about popular culture, gender, sexuality, and race since 2015. Before joining The Times, she wrote about politics and culture for The Nation and The Root. She is the author of In Search of the Color Purple: The Story of an American Masterpiece (Abrams, 2021) and Sites of Slavery: Citizenship and Racial Democracy in the Post-Civil Rights Imagination (Duke University Press, 2012).

Professor Tillet is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, where she majored in English and African American studies. She holds a master’s degree in English education from Brown University, as well as a master’s degree in English and American literature and a Ph.D. in American studies from Harvard University.

Erin I. Kelly, a professor of philosophy at Tufts University in Medford, Massachusetts, won the Pulitzer Prize for biography for the book Chasing Me to My Grave: An Artist’s Memoir of the Jim Crow South (Bloomsbury, 2021). The book tells the story of Winfred Rembert who grew up in a family of Georgia field laborers and joined the civil rights movement as a teenager. He was arrested after fleeing a demonstration, survived a near-lynching at the hands of law enforcement, and spent seven years on chain gangs. At the age of 51, he started drawing and painting scenes from his youth using leather tooling skills he learned in prison. Rembert died in 2021.

The Pulitzer Prize board said: “Vivid, confrontational, revelatory, and complex, Chasing Me to My Grave is a searing memoir in prose and painted leather that celebrates Black life and summons readers to confront painful and urgent realities at the heart of American history and society.”

Professor Kelly joined the philosophy faculty at Tufts University in 1995. She was promoted to associate professor in 2002 and to full professor in 2018. Her research interests are in moral and political philosophy and the philosophy of law, with a focus on questions about justice, the nature of moral reasons, moral responsibility and desert, and theories of punishment.

A native of Rochester, Minnesota, Dr. Kelly is a graduate of Stanford University. She earned a master’s degree in philosophy at Columbia University and a Ph.D. in philosophy at Harvard University.

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