Columbia Journalism School Announces the 2020 J. Anthony Lukas Prize Project Awards Shortlist | Columbia Journalism School

Columbia Journalism School Announces the 2020 J. Anthony Lukas Prize Project Awards Shortlist

Columbia Journalism School and the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard University are pleased to announce the 2020 shortlists for the J. Anthony Lukas Work-in-Progress Awards, the J. Anthony Lukas Book Prize and the Mark Lynton History Prize. The Lukas Prizes, established in 1998, honor the best in American nonfiction writing.

The winners and finalists of the 2020 Lukas Prizes will be announced on Wednesday, March 18, 2020. The awards will be presented at a ceremony on Tuesday, May 5, 2020, at Columbia Journalism School in New York City.

J. Anthony Lukas Work-In-Progress Awards (two winners each receive $25,000): The J. Anthony Lukas Work-in-Progress Awards are given annually to aid in the completion of significant works of nonfiction on American topics of political or social concern. These awards assist in closing the gap between the time and money an author has and the time and money that finishing a book requires.

• Bartow J. Elmore’s SEED MONEY: Monsanto's Past and the Future of Food (W. W. Norton)

Drawing on documents acquired via Freedom of Information Act requests, confidential files housed in corporate archives, sensitive interviews with company employees, courtroom testimony, and field research in Vietnam, Brazil, and beyond, Seed Money exposes how a company that once made Agent Orange and PCBs survived its complicated chemical past to seed our food future.

• Shahan Mufti’s AMERICAN CALIPH: The True Story of the Hanafi Siege, America’s First Homegrown Islamic Terror Attack (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

The story of the Hanafi Siege, the first-ever but largely forgotten attack by Muslim militants on American soil, serves as the centerpiece of American Caliph, detailing the formation and development of competing Muslim communities in America and exploring contemporary issues of race, immigration, foreign policy, Islam, and terrorism.

• Michelle Nijhuis’s BELOVED BEASTS: The Story of Conservation and the Fight to Protect Life on Earth (W. W. Norton)

Beloved Beasts traces the lives and work of the scientists, activists, self-taught philosophers, and others who built the modern conservation movement, and shows how their legacy can advance the cause of conservation.

• Sarah Schulman’s LET THE RECORD SHOW: A Political History of the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power, ACT UP, NY 1987-1993 (Farrar, Straus & Giroux)

Contrasting the different social positions of people infected with the same virus and asserting that all people with AIDS are equally important, Let the Record Show provides crucial information to today's activists about the specifics of direct action, non-violent civil disobedience, affinity group structure, and the applied experience of working with simultaneity of approach instead of consensus.

• Lawrence Tabak’s FOXCONNED: How the Mindless Pursuit of Good Jobs Destroys Homes, Wastes Billions and Enriches the Few (The University of Chicago Press)

Foxconned tells the story of Wisconsin’s $4+ billion dollar commitment to lure Taiwanese tech giant Foxconn to the state not as a singular event, but as emblematic of a trend that shifts tax dollars from education, health care and infrastructure to corporate coffers.

2020 J. Anthony Lukas Work-In-Progress Award Judges: MacKenzie Fraser-Bub Collier (chair), Peter Ginna, Lucas Wittmann


J. Anthony Lukas Book Prize ($10,000):  The J. Anthony Lukas Book Prize recognizes superb examples of nonfiction writing that exemplify the literary grace, the commitment to serious research, and the original reporting that characterized the distinguished work of the award’s namesake, J. Anthony Lukas. Books must be on a topic of American political or social concern published between January 1, 2019, and December 31, 2019.

• Emily Bazelon’s CHARGED: The Movement to Transform American Prosecution and End Mass Incarceration (Random House)

Charged features in-depth reporting and accessible writing about some of the most powerful public officials who receive some of the least journalistic scrutiny: local prosecutors. At a time when the nation is rethinking the role of the prosecutor and questioning society’s reliance on incarceration, Emily Bazelon asks hard questions and dives deep to find the answers.

• Jennifer Berry Hawes’s GRACE WILL LEAD US HOME: The Charleston Church Massacre and the Hard, Inspiring Journey to Forgiveness (St. Martin’s Press)

Jennifer Berry Hawes has created an extremely detailed and sensitive account of the murder of nine African-American members of the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina, on June 17, 2015. The senselessness of racism and its appalling consequences, and the inspiring capacity of some of the victims’ relatives for forgiveness, fully unveil themselves in Grace Will Lead Us Home.

• Jodie Adams Kirshner’s BROKE: Hardship and Resilience in a City of Broken Promises (St. Martin’s Press)

Broke provides a deeply reported and well-written look at post-bankruptcy Detroit that examines, from the ground up, the critical themes of income inequality, the criminalization of poverty, the changing nature of work, and the future of cities. Jodie Adams Kirshner takes readers inside the lives of a handful of struggling Detroiters, illustrating in very human terms the larger conundrums facing this city and so many others.

• Alex Kotlowitz’s AN AMERICAN SUMMER: Love and Death in Chicago (Nan A. Talese/Doubleday)

A beautifully written yet chilling series of “dispatches,” as Alex Kotlowitz calls them, An American Summer lays out the effects of gun violence on several residents of Chicago in the summer of 2013. By confining his account to one city, one summer, and only a dozen or so people, Kotlowitz paradoxically reveals the enormity of the problem: millions live with these tragedies every day. Kotlowitz amazingly finds hope amid the wreckage.

• Margaret O’Mara’s THE CODE: Silicon Valley and the Remaking of America (Penguin Press)

Margaret O’Mara delivers an elegant, sweeping history of a place, culture, and industry vital to understanding the present. A colorful cast of characters carry a narrative that deftly moves through the decades, touching on themes as varied as misogyny, the importance of the defense industry, and above all, the hopes, fears, and power of technology. The Code is powerful, readable, and a first-rate example of writing history that illuminates the present and future.

2020 J. Anthony Lukas Book Prize Judges: Barbara Clark (chair), Wesley Lowery, Miriam Pawel


Mark Lynton History Prize ($10,000): The Mark Lynton History Prize is awarded to the book-length work of narrative history, on any subject, that best combines intellectual distinction with felicity of expression. Books must have been published between January 1, 2019, and December 31, 2019.

• Carrie Gibson’s EL NORTE: The Epic and Forgotten Story of Hispanic North America (Atlantic Monthly Press)

Fast-paced and populated by colorful heroes and villains, El Norte, by independent scholar and author Carrie Gibson, rewrites the history of North America to give proper credit to the centuries of Spanish rule that began with Christopher Columbus’s fateful 1492 voyage. Seminal events in the zero-sum dynamic between the United States and Mexico like the war of 1846 and the Mexican Revolution that began in 1910 are seen through a new lens, placing the current controversy over immigration in a context of centuries of power politics and shifting borders.

• Kerri K. Greenidge’s BLACK RADICAL: The Life and Times of William Monroe Trotter (Liveright)

Black Radical is the most complete biography yet of William Monroe Trotter, one of the most interesting black intellectual leaders of the early 20th century: an upper-class Harvard graduate from Boston who founded the most militant black newspaper of the era, joined W.E.B. Du Bois in launching the Niagara Movement crusade for black legal rights, and pioneered the practice of civil disobedience during the brutal backlash against Reconstruction. In elegant, engrossing prose, author Kerri K. Greenidge brings alive this deeply complex man, as well as the rich and rarely explored world of black New England from which he emerged.

• Pekka Hämäläinen’s LAKOTA AMERICA: A New History of Indigenous Power (Yale University Press)

Lakota America narrates the history of this remarkable people who transformed along with their political and physical environment, from their origins in the woodlands along the upper Mississippi River to their movement ahead of the expanding United States into the Great Plains, where they belatedly adopted horses and buffalo hunting. With meticulous research including extensive Native American sources, Oxford Professor Pekka Hämäläinen connects Crazy Horse and Sitting Bull’s ingenious resistance at the end of the 19th century to modern protests against fuel pipelines through their lands.

• Daniel Immerwahr’s HOW TO HIDE AN EMPIRE: A History of the Greater United States (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

Immensely readable and highly entertaining, How to Hide an Empire traces the history of America’s offshore territories, past and present, from eventual states such as Hawaii and Alaska, to second-tier commonwealths such Puerto Rico, to abandoned one-time U.S. protectorates such as the Philippines. In addition to those fascinating individual stories, historian Daniel Immerwahr also offers a revelatory analysis of how their fates shaped the course of political, cultural, and technological events on the American mainland.

• Brendan Simms’s HITLER: A Global Biography (Basic Books)

Hitler focuses on the monstrous dictator’s obsession with the United States, which Cambridge Professor Brendan Simms traces back to the First World War, when a young Corporal Adolph Hitler saw the German armies overwhelmed by waves of enthusiastic, energized Americans. Using new sources and fresh insight, Simms follows Hitler’s ascent from leader of a minor antisemitic extremist group to chancellor of a crumbling democracy and finally to delusional dictator of a nation engaged in a suicidal war.

2020 Mark Lynton History Prize Judges: Ethan Michaeli (chair), Imani Perry, Mark Whitaker


Read the full announcement including authors' bios and short descriptions of this year's nominees.