Black Caucus American Library Association
Black Caucus American Library Association

Black Caucus of the American Library Association, Inc.

BCALA Literary Awards

Press Release Contact: Gladys Smiley Bell, 757-727-5185
For Immediate Release or [email protected]
January 26, 2019 Press Room – The Washington State Convention Center

BCALA Announces the 2019 Literary Awards Winners

The Black Caucus of the American Library Association, Inc. (BCALA) announces the winners of the 2019 BCALA Literary Awards during the Midwinter Meeting of the American Library Association in Seattle, WA. The awards recognize excellence in adult fiction and nonfiction by African American authors published in 2018, including an award for Best Poetry and a citation for Outstanding Contribution to Publishing. The recipients will receive awards during the 2019 annual meeting of the American Library Association in Washington, DC.

The winner of the 1st Novelist Award is They come in all colors: a novel by Malcolm Hansen (Atria Books).

The Fiction category winner is An American marriage: a novel by Tayari Jones ( Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill).

The Honor Books for Fiction are Praise song for the butterflies: a novel by Bernice L. McFadden (Akashic Books) and Vain conversation: a novel by Anthony Grooms (University of South Carolina Press).

The winner in the Nonfiction category is The new Negro: the life of Alain Locke by Jeffrey C. Stewart (Oxford University Press).

The Honor Books for the Nonfiction category are Black fortunes: the story of the first six African Americans who escaped slavery and became millionaires by Shomari Wills (HarperCollins Publishers), The heritage: Black athletes, a divided America, and the politics of patriotism by Howard Bryant (Beacon Press), Looking for Lorraine: the radiant and radical life of Lorraine Hansberry (Beacon Press) by Imani Perry and Becoming by Michelle Obama (Crown Publishing Group).

The winner for BCALA’s Best Poetry Award is Door of no return by Neal Hall (Neal Hall). The Honor Books for Best Poetry are Indecency: poetry by Justin Phillip Reed (Coffee House Press), and If God invented baseball: poems by E. Ethelbert Miller (City Point Press).

The BCALA Literary Awards Committee presents the Outstanding Contribution to Publishing Citation to Farming while Black Leah Penniman (Chelsea Green Publishing).

Members of the BCALA Literary Awards Jury are: Gladys Smiley Bell (Chair), Hampton University, Hampton, VA; Tiffany A. Duck, Suffolk Public Library, Suffolk, VA; Tiffeni Fontno, Boston College, Boston, MA; LeRoy LaFleur, Tufts University, Boston, MA; Dana Evans, Hampton University, Hampton, VA; Ritchie A. Momon, Mid-Continent Public Library, Independence, MO; and John Page, Retired, Washington, D.C.

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 2019. 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, 2019. Decisions will be made during the American Library Association’s (ALA) Midwinter Meeting in Philadelphia, PA in January 2020. The awards will be presented in Tulsa, OK during the National Conference of African American Librarians, which will take place August 5-9, 2020. 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
P.S.: BCALA Literary Award Seals are available for purchase and may be displayed on the 2019 winners as well as all previous winners.