Richard Wright Award

Richard Wright Award Picture

The Richard Wright Literary Excellence Award was established in 1994 by the Natchez Literary and Cinema Celebration (NLCC) to honor the internationally known author Richard Wright. The son of a country schoolteacher and sharecropper, Wright was born near Natchez in 1908. His first novel, Native Son, was published in 1940 and was an immediate success. Black Boy, a fictionalized autobiography, was published in 1945 and sold 400,000 copies in three months. After leaving Natchez, Wright worked in Chicago and later moved to Paris, where he died in 1960.

Each year, winners of the award are honored for a body of literary work. They must be outstanding, living writers with a strong Mississippi connection. The award has been funded annually by Natchez Newspapers Inc., publisher of The Natchez Democrat and The Miss-Lou Guide.

Wright was honored by the NLCC on June 9, 1990, when a historic marker bearing his name was erected on the Natchez Bluff in ceremonies attended by Wright family members and friends. On the 100th anniversary of his birth, the NLCC again paid tribute to Wright with a conference called "Richard Wright, the South, and the World: A Centennial Celebration." During this conference, a of portion of U.S. Highway 84 was designated the Richard Wright Memorial Highway.

Winners of the award are:

  • Eudora Welty, 1994
  • Margaret Walker Alexander, 1995
  • Ellen Douglas and Willie Morris, 1996
  • Shelby Foote and Elizabeth Spencer, 1997
  • Richard Ford and Will Campbell, 1998
  • Barry Hannah and Sterling Plumpp, 1999
  • Beth Henley and David Sansing, 2000
  • John Grisham and Bill Minor, 2001
  • Lewis Nordan and John Marszalek, 2002
  • T.R. Hummer and Clifton Taulbert, 2003
  • Greg Iles and William Scarborough, 2004
  • William Raspberry and Mildred D. Taylor, 2005
  • William Ferris and Noel Polk, 2006
  • Beverly F. Lowry and Al Young, 2007
  • Lerone Bennett, Jr., and Brooks Haxton, 2008
  • Carolyn Haines and Natasha Trethewey, 2009
  • Robert S. McElvaine and Steve Yarbrough, 2010
  • Rick Cleveland and Jerry W. Ward, Jr., 2011
  • Patti Carr Black and John D.W. Guice, 2012
  • Jesmyn Ward and Curtis Wilkie, 2013
  • Kathryn Stockett and James Meredith, 2014
  • Glen Ballard and Robert V. Haynes, 2015
  • Suzanne Marrs and Jerry Mitchell, 2016
  • Peggy Prenshaw and Stanley Nelson, 2017
  • Charles Regan Wilson and Billy Watkins, 2018
  • Howard Bahr and Jack Elliott, 2019
  • Martha Hall Foose, 2020
  • Alferdteen Harrison, 2021
  • Ellen Gilchrist, 2022
  • Katy Simpson Smith, 2023
  • Angie Thomas, 2024