Hooks Institute Selects An American Odyssey: The Life and Work of Romare Bearden as Winner of the 2018 Hooks Institute National Book Award

July 17, 2019 - The 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.

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.”

“It is an honor to receive an award named for the transformative civil rights leader, Benjamin Hooks,” said Campbell, 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.”

She will present a lecture at the University of Memphis this fall.

About the Hooks National Book Award

The Hooks Institute's National Book Award is presented to a nonfiction book published in the calendar year that best furthers understanding of the American civil rights movement and its legacy. A panel of judges representing various disciplines and academic institutions in Memphis awards the annual honor.

The winner was chosen from a group of 29 nominations covering a diverse field of subjects related to the civil rights movement and its legacy. The other finalists for the award were Let the People See: The Story of Emmett Till by Elliott J. Gorn; The Promise and the Dream: The Untold Story of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy by David Margolick; Set the World on Fire: Black Nationalist Women and the Global Struggle for Freedom by Keisha N. Blain; and Tigerland: 1968-1969: A City Divided, a Nation Torn Apart, and a Magical Season of Healing by Wil Haygood.

The Hooks Institute extends its gratitude to the 2018 Hooks National Book Award committee. In addition to Goudsouzian, it included 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; and Dr. Terrence Tucker, UofM associate professor of English and coordinator of African American Literature.

About the Benjamin L. Hooks Institute for Social Change

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.

For more information, visit https://www.memphis.edu/benhooks/programs/book-award.php.


Nathaniel C. Ball l 901.678.3655 | ncball@memphis.edu