Black Caucus of the American Library Association, Inc.

BCALA Literary Awards

Contact: Gladys Smiley Bell, 757-727-5185 or [email protected]

Press Room – The Pennsylvania Convention Center

Press Release

For Immediate Release

January 26, 2020

BCALA Announces the 2020 Literary Awards Winners

The Black Caucus of the American Library Association, Inc. (BCALA) announces the winners of the 2020 BCALA Literary Awards during the Midwinter Meeting of the American Library Association in Philadelphia, PA. The awards recognize excellence in adult fiction and nonfiction by African American authors published in 2019, including an award for Best Poetry and a citation for Outstanding Contribution to Publishing. The recipients will receive awards during the 2020 11th National Conference of African American Librarians in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

The Water Dancer

The winner of the 1st Novelist Award is The Water Dancer: A Novel by Ta-Nehisi Coates (Random House).

The Nickel Boys

The Fiction category winner is The Nickel Boys: A Novel by Colson Whitehead (Knopf Doubleday).

The Honor books for Fiction are:


Africaville: A Novel by Jeffrey Colvin (HarperCollins);

The Last Thing You Surrender: A Novel of World War II

The Last Thing You Surrender: A Novel of World War II by Leonard Pitts, Jr. (Bolden);

Red at the Bone: A Novel

Red at the Bone: A Novel by Jacqueline Woodson (Riverhead Books).

Dapper Dan: Made in Harlem: A Memoir

The winner in the Nonfiction category is Dapper Dan: Made in Harlem: A Memoir by Daniel R. Day (Random House).

Hattiesburg: An American City in Black and White

The Honor book for the Nonfiction category is Hattiesburg: An American City in Black and White by William Sturkey (The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press).

1919 by Eve L. Ewing

The winner for BCALA’s Best Poetry Award is 1919 by Eve L. Ewing (Haymarket Books).

New and Selected Poems

The Honor book for Best Poetry Award is I: New and Selected Poems by Toi Derricotte (University of Pittsburgh Press).

Hollywood Black: The Stars, the Films, the Filmmakers

The BCALA Literary Awards Committee presents the Outstanding Contribution to Publishing Citation Award to Hollywood Black: The Stars, the Films, the Filmmakers by Donald Bogle (Running Press).

Members of the BCALA Literary Awards Jury are: Gladys Smiley Bell (Chair), Hampton, VA; Tiffany A. Duck, Suffolk, VA; Dana G. Evans, Virginia Beach VA; Ritchie A. Momon, Independence, MO; John Page, Washington, D.C.; Jamar Rahming, Wilmington, DE; and Deimosa Webber-Bey, Kew Gardens, NY.

Official Press Release

Letter to Publishers and Authors:

The Literary Awards Committee of the Black Caucus of the American Library Association, Inc. (BCALA) is now accepting submissions for the annual BCALA Literary Awards. The Committee will present four prizes of $500.00 each for adult books written by African American authors: a First Novelist Award, a Fiction Award, a Nonfiction Award, and a Poetry Award. The First Novelist Award is given to recognize an outstanding work by a first time African American fiction writer. Honor Book citations are also awarded in fiction and nonfiction without any accompanying monetary remuneration. Additionally, an Outstanding Contribution to Publishing citation is provided to an author and/or publishing company for unique books that offer a positive depiction of African Americans.

First presented at the Second National Conference of African American Librarians in 1994, the BCALA Literary Awards acknowledge outstanding works of fiction and nonfiction for adult audiences by African American authors. Recipients of these awards offer outstanding depictions of the cultural, historical, or sociopolitical aspects of the Black Diaspora and embody the highest quality of writing style and research methodology, if applicable.

Books from small, large, and specialty publishers are welcome for review consideration. Titles forwarded for review must be published in 2020. Sets or multi-volume works are eligible. New editions of previously published works are eligible only if more than 30% of the total content is new or revised material. Inspirational, self-help, and adult graphic novels are ineligible. Only finished, published books should be submitted; galleys (bound or unbound) and chapbooks are unacceptable.

Please send one copy of each title submitted to each member of the Literary Awards Committee. A Committee roster with their addresses can be found at

Supply all available information regarding the submission, including promotional material, author biography, and available news articles and reviews.

BCALA Literary Awards Criteria

BCALA presents four (4) $500.00 awards: one for adult fiction, one for nonfiction, one for a first novelist, and one for poetry. These awards acknowledge outstanding achievement in the presentation of the cultural, historical, and sociopolitical aspects of the Black Diaspora.

The Fiction Award recognizes depictions of sensitive and authentic personal experience either within the framework of contemporary literary standards and themes or which explore innovative literary formats.

The Nonfiction Award honors cultural, historical, political, or social criticism or academic and/or professional research which significantly advances the body of knowledge currently associated with the people and the legacy of the Black Diaspora. (Categories could include the humanities, science and technology, social and behavioral sciences and reference).

The First Novelist Award acknowledges outstanding achievement in writing and storytelling by a first time fiction writer.

The Outstanding Contribution to Publishing Citation recognizes the author and/or the publishing company (for their support and publication of) special and unique books that recognize the outstanding achievements and positive depiction of contributions of the people and legacy of the Black Diaspora.

The Poetry Award strives to recognize and promote emerging and established poets that introduce and foster the joys of poetry writing.

Additionally, honor books may be selected in each category.

Purpose: To encourage the artistic expression of the African American experience via literature and scholarly research including biographical, historical and social history treatments by African Americans.


  1. Must portray some aspect of the African American experience past, present or future.
  2. All authors, editors and contributors must be African American(s) born in the United States.
  3. Must be published in the United States in the year preceding presentation of the award.
  4. Must be an original work.

The final submission date to each juror is December 31, 2020. Decisions will be made during the American Library Association’s (ALA) Midwinter Meeting in Indianapolis, IN, in January 2021. The awards will be presented in Chicago, IL during ALA’s Annual Conference in June 2021. Publishers and winning authors will be advised of the Literary Award Committee’s decision in advance of the annual conference.

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me at

757-727-5185 or email: [email protected]


Gladys Smiley Bell, Chair
BCALA Literary Awards Committee

Seals can be purchase by sending an email request to:

Gladys Smiley Bell
[email protected]

Literary Award Seals Price List

Pack of 24: $17.00 (each category, i.e. fiction, nonfiction, poetry and contribution to publishing
Winner Rolls of 100: $70.00
Honor Rolls of 50: $35.00