Sag Harbor’s Colson Whitehead Wins Second Pulitzer Prize for Fiction

Author Colson Whitehead.

Sag Harbor’s native son Colson Whitehead has just joined a rarified group of authors who have won not one, but two Pulitzer Prizes for fiction.

And he’s the first in history to do it for back-to-back novels.

On Monday, May 4, Mr. Whitehead was awarded the 2020 Pulitzer Prize in fiction for his novel “The Nickel Boys” (Doubleday), which the Pulitzer Board described as “A spare and devastating exploration of abuse at a reform school in Jim Crow-era Florida that is ultimately a powerful tale of human perseverance, dignity and redemption.”

The novel beat out “The Topeka School” (Farrar, Straus and Giroux) by Ben Lerner and “The Dutch House” (Harper) by Ann Patchett for the award. In 2017, Mr. Whitehead won the Pulitzer fiction award for “The Underground Railroad,” besting “Imagine Me Gone” by Adam Haslett and “The Sport of Kings” by C.E. Morgan.

Mr. Whitehead is now just the fourth author to have won two Pulitzers for fiction — the others are Booth Tarkington, William Faulkner and John Updike — and he’s the first to do it with consecutive novels.

Pulitzer Administrator Dana Canedy announced the 2020 Pulitzer Prizes on Monday via video stream at

Colson Whitehead.

“In the past, we have announced the Prizes from Columbia University’s Journalism School, following the Pulitzer Board’s selection of winners,” said Canedy. “This year, of course, is different. I’m speaking to you today from my living room, following days of rigorous virtual and digital debate, discussion, and contemplation among our Board, as they selected this year’s winners in 15 journalism and seven arts and letters categories.

“It goes without saying that today we announce the Pulitzer winners during deeply trying times,” she added. “Ironically, the very first time the Prizes were presented was June 1917 — less than a year before the 1918 outbreak of the Spanish Flu pandemic.”

In addition to the Pulitzer, “The Nickel Boys” won the Kirkus Prize for Fiction, was a New York Times Bestseller, a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award, and was longlisted for the Carnegie Medal and the National Book Award.

In 2009, Mr. Whitehead published “Sag Harbor,” a semi-autobiographical novel about teenagers hanging out in Sag Harbor during the summer of 1985. That book was a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner award and the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award.