Colson Whitehead Wins Pulitzer for ‘The Underground Railroad’

Colson Whitehead. Photo by Madeline Whitehead
Colson Whitehead. Photo by Madeline Whitehead

Bestselling author Colson Whitehead, who spent his formative years in Sag Harbor and is a longtime East End summer resident, has won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction for his novel “The Underground Railroad,” the Pulitzer organization announced Monday.

Mr. Whitehead’s book was lauded “for a smart melding of realism and allegory that combines the violence of slavery and the drama of escape in a myth that speaks to contemporary America.”

“The Underground Railroad” is the eighth novel written by Mr. Whitehead, who is a previous Pulitzer finalist as well as a recipient of MacArthur and Guggenheim fellowships. The novel, released in August 2016, is also a National Book Award winner and was reportedly former President Barack Obama’s book of choice during his summer vacation in Martha’s Vineyard last year.

The book tells the story of Cora, a Georgia-born slave who kills a white boy in an attempt to escape, and finds herself hunted. The Underground Railroad in Mr. Whitehead’s retelling is an actual subterranean train, with chapters inspired by the experiences of Harriet Tubman and Harriet Jacobs.