UChicago Fellow Mitchell S. Jackson Wins Pulitzer Prize for Essay on Ahmaud Arbery

Ass. Professor Mitchell S. Jackson of the University of Chicago received a Pulitzer Prize for Writing Feature Films for his essay in The runner’s world on the life and death of Ahmaud Arbery.

Arbery, an unarmed 25-year-old black man, was shot and killed in February 2020 while jogging in Georgia after being chased by white men in vehicles. Arrests were made just weeks after the murder, after video of the incident was widely shared on social media.

Jackson interviewed Arbery’s friends and family remotely during a New York quarantine, he said. The essay, published in June of last year, about four months after Arbery’s death, provides a detailed account of his life, personality and relationships and “how to run fails in black America.”

“I was truly grateful because many of Ahmaud’s family and close friends really opened up to me about him,” said Jackson, a faculty member in the Creative Writing Program and in the Language Department. and English literature.

“You can tell a lot about a person through whom she has in her life; who cares about them. It was really clear that they cared deeply for him and that they were really good people. It gave me a lot of energy when I wrote the play.

the The Pulitzer Prize jury recognized Jackson “for a deeply moving account of the murder” of Arbery that “combined lively writing, in-depth reporting and personal experience to shed light on systemic racism in America.”

Arbery’s murder, along with those of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd and other black Americans, contributed to a wave of protests last summer in the movement against systemic racism and police brutality.

“Often, victims of police brutality or misconduct… are just seen as victims,” Jackson said. “It was really important for me to show how Arbery lived, which is why I named the play ‘Twelve Minutes and a Life” because his life was just as important as the 12 minutes he was kicked out. “

Jackson noted that the murder trial is still ongoing and that justice has “not been served.” He said he hopes his victory over Pulitzer will help keep society’s attention “where it belongs”.

Prolific writer and columnist for Squire whose work has appeared in The New Yorker, Time, The Guardian, The New York Times Book Review, Harpists, The Parisian review and other prominent publications, Jackson’s non-fiction often explore important social and political topics through an intimate and personal lens.

Jackson is the author of several works of fiction and non-fiction, including the recent memoir Survival Math, about his childhood in the black community of Portland, Oregon; and the novel Years of residue. He is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Creative Capital Fellowship, a PEN / Hemingway Award for First Fiction and many other writing honors.

“The particular genius of Mitchell S. Jackson, announced in his memoir, ‘Survival Math,’ lies in presenting each black man with respect, honesty and love, following with detailed research and powerful prose how each found means of surviving in a hostile world. “said Professor John Wilkinson, Chair of UCicago’s Creative Writing Program and English Language and Literature Department.

Jackson said he was deeply honored by the award, which he didn’t know he had won until a friend called him. Jackson initially thought the congratulations were for the National Magazine Award he won yesterday, he said.

“I don’t think anyone can expect to win a Pulitzer,” he said. “I felt stunned when I heard the news. It was a surreal moment. “

After June 30, 2021, he will leave UChicago and join the Faculty of English and Creative Writing at Arizona State University.

Other recent Pulitzer Prize winners affiliated with UChicago include Brent Staples, AM’76, PhD’82 (editorial writing, 2019); Martyna Majok, AB’07 (drama, 2018); Tyehimba Jess, AB’91 (poetry, 2017).

New York Times longtime columnist Bret Stephens, author Philip Roth Washington post publisher Katharine Graham, historian John Hope Franklin, astronomer Carl Sagan and novelist and playwright Thornton Wilder are also former laureates who are former students of UChicago or former teachers.

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