There are seven writers of African descent who were awarded at the Whiting Awards 2021 announced on April 14, 2021.

The Whiting Award is an American award presented annually to ten emerging writers in fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and plays. The award is sponsored by the Mrs. Giles Whiting Foundation and has been presented since 1985. The nominees are chosen through a juried process, and the final winners are selected by a committee of writers, scholars, and editors, selected each year by the Foundation. Writers cannot apply for the prize themselves, and the Foundation does not accept unsolicited nominations.  The prize worth $50,000 prize has been won in the past by among others Colson Whitehead, Nadia Owusu, Ocean Vuong, and, Agymah Kamau.

The winners for the 2021 edition were announced at a virtual ceremony that included a keynote by former US Poet Laureate Tracy K. Smith and brief readings from each winner, introduced by previous Whiting Award winner Elena Passarello. The writers of African descent who have won are;

  • Joshua Bennett, for poetry and nonfiction
  • Jordan E. Cooper, for drama
  • Steven Dunn, for fiction
  • Tope Folarin, for fiction
  • Donnetta Lavinia Grays, for drama
  • Ladan Osman, for poetry
  • Xandria Phillips, for poetry

“In a year of singular difficulty, these writers accessed joy, honoring past voices in their own family histories, and in the culture,” Courtney Hodell, director of literary programs, said in a statement. “To a striking degree, they move fluidly across restrictive genre borderlines to create a vibrant picture of new writing in this country.”

Author remarks

Xandria Phillips
Xandria Phillips

Even after knowing in advance, the shock has not worn off. I’m feeling so grateful to be seen and celebrated. I’m so excited to join this lineage of poets.

Ladan Osman
Ladan Osman

Congratulations to all the winners! It’s an honor to be included in this formidable cohort

Tope Folarin
Tope Folarin

Can’t even begin to describe how meaningful this is—so much love to whoever nominated me, to the selection committee, to the Whiting Foundation, to @SilverbergIra for believing in me, my agent Maria Massie, and anyone who’s read my work. More to come!