Columbus-native author Wil Haygood to receive Dayton Literary Prize
In November, acclaimed author Wil Haygood will return to his home country to receive perhaps his highest honour.
The author of non-fiction books “The Butler,” “Tigerland” and “Colorization” — and Columbus native — Haygood has been selected to receive the 2022 Ambassador Richard C. Holbrooke Achievement Award.
The prize, one of an assortment of honors given annually to writers of fiction and non-fiction by the Dayton Literary Peace Prize organization, is named after the American diplomat whose record includes negotiating the peace accords of Dayton of 1995 which ended the war in Bosnia. Holbrooke, U.S. Ambassador to Germany from 1993 to 1994 and U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations from 1999 to 2001, died in 2010.
According to the Dayton Literary Peace Prize website, the award reflects Holbrooke’s belief that “peace can be forged with words.”
Haygood will be in Dayton on Nov. 13 to receive the honor, whose previous recipients include authors John Irving (2018), Marilynne Robinson (2016), Elie Wiesel (2007) and Studs Terkel (2006).
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In a statement in the press release announcing the news, Dayton Literary Peace Prize Foundation founder and president Sharon Rab congratulated Haygood as a worthy recipient of the award.
“For three decades, Haygood has captured the sweep of American culture, focusing on the rarely or never told stories of the black experience with the analysis this nation desperately needs,” Rab said in the release.
Reached by phone last week by The Dispatch from his home in Washington, DC, Haygood described himself as “overwhelmed” by the price.
“Receiving an award on behalf of Ambassador Holbrooke is quite amazing,” said Haygood, 67, who was a writer for many years at The Washington Post. “I traveled to some of the same war-torn countries he did when I was at the Boston Globe newspaper.”
Haygood, whose books have often addressed issues facing black Americans but whose work as a journalist has taken him around the world, said “race is the colossal story of our time.
“We neglect the race at our peril,” he said. “I think people are increasingly interested and intrigued by … how writers can open the curtains, whether in Rwanda, Liberia, Bosnia or America, to show the reality of life on the ground. “
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Haygood — whose 2003 biography of Sammy Davis Jr. is being made into an eight-part limited series on Hulu — calls the Holbrooke Distinguished Achievement Award “a highlight of my life as a writer.” And he will have more to say in November at Dayton.
“I will be giving a brief speech about peace and about my work and about the majesty of what Ambassador Holbrooke stood for and what he meant to the world,” he said.