Hooks Institute's National Book Award

Celebrating the Civil Rights Movement and Its Legacy

The Hooks Institute’s National Book Award is presented annually to a non-fiction book that best furthers understanding of the American Civil Rights Movement and its legacy.

2018 Hooks National Book Award Winner

An American Odyssey Book CoverThe Benjamin L. Hooks Institute for Social Change at the University of Memphis has selected An American Odyssey: The Life and Work of Romare Bearden by Dr. Mary Schmidt Campbell as the winner of its 2018 Hooks National Book Award.

About An American Odyssey
An American Odyssey provides a telling biography of the artist Romare Bearden, whose iconic collages conveyed the richness and complexity of African American life in the civil rights era. As Campbell demonstrates, Bearden’s work transcended the visual stereotypes of African Americans. He situated his characters in a deep past, while employing a modernist style that was re-envisioning the black experience. 

“The book is deeply researched, beautifully written and crisply paced,” said Dr. Aram Goudsouzian, Hooks Institute National Book Award chair and professor of History. “Art presents a unique lens upon the struggle for black freedom. An American Odyssey situates Bearden’s art within his personal history, transformations in art and technology, and the larger context of black politics in the 20th century. It is, without any doubt, a most worthy winner of the 2018 Hooks National Book Award.”Mary Schmidt Campbell

“It is an honor to receive an award named for the transformative civil rights leader, Benjamin Hooks,” said Campbell (pictured), who is president of Spelman College. “I am honored as well to join the distinguished lineage of past awardees and to have been among the outstanding finalists for this recognition.” 

The Hooks Institute will host a lecture by Dr. Campbell at the Hooks Hyde Hall, National Civil Rights Museum on Nov. 7. For more information visit the Hooks Institute event page.

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2018 Hooks National Book Award Committee

The Hooks Institute extends its gratitude to the 2018 Hooks National Book Award committee.

  • Dr. Aram Goudsouzian, Professor, UofM Department of History, Hooks National Book Award Committee chair
  • Dr. Beverly Cross, Lillian and Morrie Moss Chair of Excellence in Urban Education at the UofM
  • Daniel Kiel, associate professor at the Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law
  • Dr. Ladrica Menson-Furr, UofM associate professor of English and director of African and African American Studies
  • Dr. Terrence Tucker, UofM associate professor of English and coordinator of African American Literature

About the Award

  • book award sealA panel of judges representing various disciplines and academic institutions in Memphis awards the annual prize to the book that best furthers understanding of the American Civil Rights Movement and its legacy.
  • An award of $1,000 will be made to the author(s).
  • The recipient(s) of the award will receive an invitation to deliver an address at the University of Memphis as part of the Hooks Institute Lecture Series during the 2019-2020 academic year.


For questions or comments: Please contact Rorie Trammel, Associate Director of the Hooks Institute, at 901-678-3974 or via email at rtrammel@memphis.edu.

About the Hooks Institute

The Benjamin L. Hooks Institute implements its mission of teaching, studying and promoting civil rights and social change through research, education and direct intervention programs. Institute programs include community outreach; funding faculty research initiatives on community issues; implementing community service projects; hosting conferences, symposiums and lectures; and promoting local and national scholarship on civil and human rights. The Hooks Institute is an interdisciplinary center at the University of Memphis. Contributed revenue for the Hooks Institute, including funding from individuals, corporations and foundations, is administered through the University of Memphis Foundation, a 501(c)(3) organization.

Past National Book Award Recipients

Locking Up Our Own Cover Photo2017 | Locking Up Our Own: Crime and Punishment in Black America

By James Forman, Jr.
Press Release: Locking Up Our Own

In his remarkable book, Forman argues that the disproportionate impact of long prison sentences on African American communities was not shaped solely by whites, but in part by the exasperation of some African Americans who urgently demanded action to deescalate crime in their communities related to drugs. Forman encourages a candid examination of the forces that created draconian criminal sentences related to drugs to encourage honest and transformative reform of the criminal justice system.

2016 | We Are an African People: Independent Education, Black Power, and the Radical Imagination

We Are an African PeopleBy Russell Rickford
Press Release: We Are an African People

In the midst of the more well-studied educational changes of the school desegregation era, a handful of "Pan African nationalist" independent black schools emerged as an alternative mechanism for African-American uplift. We Are an African People examines the ideas and motivations behind these autonomous black institutions and places them within a broader discussion about how best to achieve liberation for the next generation of African Americans. Rickford's work expands upon the understanding of a very specific topic within the quest for the intellectual liberation of African-Americans and grapples with very broad questions about education, freedom and the diversity of viewpoints during the civil rights era.

2015 | Eye On the Struggle: Ethel Payne, the First Lady of the Black Press

Eye On the StruggleBy James McGrath Morris
Press Release: Eye On the Struggle

Morris' biography excavates the story of Ethel Payne, a journalist whose work for the Chicago Defender during her multi-decade career provided a lens to thousands of African-American readers into the action of the civil rights movement and beyond. Covering the school desegregation crisis in Little Rock, interviewing black troops in Vietnam or quizzing multiple presidents during her years at the White House, Payne's career demonstrated the role journalists could play both in helping to build a movement by informing the public and in furthering that movement by putting pointed questions to those in power.

2014 | Stokely: A Life

Stokely: A LifeBy Peniel E. Joseph (Basic Civitas Books, 2014)
Press Release: Stokely: A Life

In the 1960s, Civil Rights activist Stokely Carmichael coined the phrase "Black Power" with the symbolic image of the raised black fist to embody it. A charismatic, forceful, young and brilliant intellectual with civil rights rooted in non-violent tactics, Carmichael became increasingly dissatisfied with racial inequality. This led him to more militant approaches to achieve political self-determination for African Americans. The book, Stokely: A Life, winner of the 2014 Benjamin L. Hooks Institute National Book Award, provides an illuminating profile of Carmichael's journey of disappointments, conflict, and hope for a more just nation and world.

2013 | How it Feels to be Free: Black Women Entertainers and the Civil Rights Movement

How it Feels to be Free: Black Women Entertainers and the Civil Rights Movement

by Ruth Feldstein (Oxford University Press 2013)
Press Release: How it Feels to be Free


2013 | On the Corner: African American Intellectuals and the Urban Crisis

On the Corner: African American Intellectuals and the Urban Crisis
by Daniel Matlin (Harvard University Press 2013)
Press Release: On the Corner

2012 | The Black Revolution on Campus

The Black Revolution on Campusby Martha Biondi (University of California Press 2012)
Press Release: The Black Revolution on Campus

2011 | Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention

Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention
by Manning Marable (Viking 2011)
Press Release: Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention

2010 | Hands on the Freedom Plow: Personal Accounts by Women in SNCC

Hands on the Freedom Plow: Personal Accounts by Women in SNCC
by Faith S. Holsaert, Martha Prescod, Norman Noonan, Judy Richardson, Betty Garman Robinson, Jean Smith Young, and Dorothy M. Zellner (University of Illinois Press 2010)
Press Release: Hands on the Freedom Plow