Nieman News

NEW YORK, N.Y. (March 29, 2004) — A definitive work on the Vietnam era by David Maraniss, a biography of photographer Eadweard Muybridge by Rebecca Solnit and an examination of slavery by John Bowe were named the winners of this year’s J. Anthony Lukas Prize Project Awards by the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and the Nieman Foundation at Harvard University.

The prizes recognize excellence in nonfiction writing, works that exemplify the literary grace, commitment to serious research and social concern that characterized the distinguished work of the awards’ Pulitzer-Prize winning namesake, J. Anthony Lukas. One of the three prizes is named for the late Mark Lynton, business executive and author of Accidental Journey: A Cambridge Internee’s Memoir of World War II. Lynton was an avid reader of history books, and his family sponsors the three Lukas prizes.

Winners were chosen from 286 submissions, the largest ever in the history of the awards.

The J. Anthony Lukas Book Prize ($10,000)

David Maraniss won the J. Anthony Lukas Book Prize for his book They Marched into Sunlight: War and Peace, Vietnam and America, October 1967 (Simon & Schuster).

“With a reporter’s eye for detail, a historian’s sense of proportion and a novelist’s command of narrative, David Maraniss has written one of the best books about the Vietnam era to date,” the judges noted. “Out of one of the most familiar and oft-dissected traumas in recent American history, Maraniss has created a grand epic with a Tolstoyan cast of characters, extraordinary battle scenes and intimate vignettes that reveal the agonizing moral dilemmas of that time and, not coincidentally, ours.

They Marched into Sunlight is so fresh and full of light, sound and emotion that the reader feels like an eyewitness to the conflicts being fought in the steamy jungles of southeast Asia, tear-gas-filled streets back home, and closed-door meetings in Washington, D.C. It is, in short, a triumph of scholarship and storytelling of the kind the Lukas Prize was created to honor.”

Judges also noted two finalists: Steve Oney’s And the Dead Shall Rise: The Murder of Mary Phagan and the Lynching of Leo Frank (Pantheon) and Franklin Toker’s Fallingwater Rising: Frank Lloyd Wright, E. J. Kaufmann, and America’s Most Extraordinary House (Knopf).

“An exemplary work of historical research and narrative by a masterly journalist, And the Dead Shall Rise vividly portrays the political and social milieu of early 20th century Atlanta in which Leo Frank was convicted of murder, spared execution by the governor, and ultimately lynched,” the judges said. “The book combines gripping courtroom narrative with a controlled, knowing exploration of themes of racial and religious tension, the nature of justice, and the role of the press.”

Of Toker’s work, the judges noted: “In Fallingwater Rising, a historian of art and architecture brings imaginative research, fascinating detail, a broad social perspective and gritty prose to the story of one of America’s most famous 20th-century buildings — the country house that Frank Lloyd Wright suspended over a Pennsylvania waterfall in 1937 for E. J. Kaufmann, the merchant prince of Pittsburgh.”

The Mark Lynton History Prize ($10,000)

Rebecca Solnit won the Mark Lynton History Prize for her book River of Shadows: Eadweard Muybridge and the Technological Wild West (Viking).

“Solnit has given us a beautifully written meditation on speed, space and time told through the tumultuous life of the photographer Eadweard Muybridge,” noted the prize jurors. “Playing artfully with the conventions of biography, Solnit peers through the camera’s lens and back at the photographer himself. What she sees reveals as much about the bracing modernity of the late 19th century, as about the man who captured it on film. River of Shadows is a stunning account of the origins of cinema, the imagery of the American West, the grandeur and corruption of the transcontinental railroad and the manic ambitions of Leland Stanford, whose speeding racehorse Muybridge froze in time.”

Two finalists for the Mark Lynton History Prize were noted: Anne Applebaum, for Gulag: A History (Doubleday) and Steven Hahn, for A Nation Under Our Feet: Black Political Struggles in the Rural South from Slavery to the Great Migration (Harvard University Press).

Judges commented on the works of these finalists: “Using a wide range of sources, from her own travels to material buried deep in Soviet-era archives, Applebaum has produced a judicious, magisterial history of the giant network of prison camps whose scars remain on the Russian psyche today.” Of Hahn’s A Nation Under Our Feet, judges cited “the quiet beauty of the prose, braided into a powerful argument for the importance of its subject to the history and fate of American democracy.”

J. Anthony Lukas Work-in-Progress Award ($45,000)

John Bowe is the winner of the J. Anthony Lukas Work-in-Progress Award for Slavery Inc., to be published by Random House.

“John Bowe’s work — an examination of slavery throughout the modern world, including the United States — is characterized by a reasoned and painstaking approach to the gathering of his material,” said jurors. “His description has no taint of moral superiority. His writing is understated and stylish; he does not labor to make points, he allows the inexorable drift of his narrative to inform and in all places avoids sensationalism. His account gathers force by means of an accumulation of detail rendered with a steady objectivity. Bowe has drawn the reader’s awareness to intolerable practices, abuses of the deepest and most indisputable rights of humanity: the right to be free of oppression and economic tyranny. The slow movement forward of human rights will almost surely be advanced by his book.”

Two finalists for the Work-in-Progress Award were also noted: Eyal Press, for In the Line of Fire, and Beryl Satter, for Family Properties; Cons, Contracts and the Fight to Save Chicago’s West Side, 1950-1980. Both are slated to be published by Henry Holt.

“Press’ In the Line of Fire offers a heartfelt look at the abortion war in America from all sides as well as, at long last, an invitation to dialogue,” noted the judges. “Set in Buffalo, New York, it combines memoir, history and journalism, tackling a subject that could not be more complicated but which rarely receives the level-headed discussion it deserves. Beryl Satter has reached far into her family’s past, as well as into a treasure trove of archival material, to show us yet another way in which racism creates more racism as she documents the elaborate and diabolical ways in which white landlords conspired to keep black people homeless in Chicago.”

Jurors for the 2004 Lukas Prize Project Awards

Jurors for the J. Anthony Lukas Book Prize were Sylvia Nasar, author of A Beautiful Mind and Knight Professor at Columbia’s Graduate School of Journalism; Christopher Lehmann-Haupt, author of Me and DiMaggio and A Crooked Man, who is also former daily book reviewer for The New York Times; and James Fallows, author of Breaking the News, winner of the 1981 National Book Award for National Defense and 2003 National Magazine Award for “Iraq: The Fifty-First State?” Fallows is currently national correspondent for The Atlantic Monthly.

The Mark Lynton History Prize jurors were Christine Stansell, author of American Moderns, professor of history at Princeton University, and reviewer and essayist for The New Republic; Adam Hochschild, author of King Leopold’s Ghost, 1999 winner of the J. Anthony Lukas/Mark Lynton Prize and finalist the same year for the National Book Critics Circle Award for General Nonfiction; and Edward Berenson, author of The Trial of Madame Caillaux and director of the Institute of French Studies at New York University.

Jurors for the J. Anthony Lukas Work-in-Progress Award were James Tobin, author of three books, including To Conquer the Air, which won the 2000 J. Anthony Lukas Work-in-Progress Award, and Ernie Pyle’s War: America’s Eyewitness to World War II, which won a 1998 National Book Critics Circle Award; Alec Wilkinson, author of Mr. Apology, who is currently a writer at The New Yorker; and Madeleine Blais, author of Uphill Walkers: Portrait of a Family and who is a professor of journalism at the University of Massachusetts.

About the Awards

The J. Anthony Lukas Prize Project awards are co-administered by the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and the Nieman Foundation at Harvard University, and are sponsored by the family of the late Mark Lynton, a historian and senior executive at the firm Hunter Douglas in the Netherlands. The awards will be presented at Harvard University on May 4. The dean of Columbia’s Graduate School of Journalism, Nicholas Lemann, will moderate a panel discussion with the winners following the ceremony.

Established in 1998, the Lukas Prize Project honors and perpetuates the work that distinguished the career of acclaimed journalist and author J. Anthony Lukas, who died in 1997. The winner of two Pulitzer Prizes, the National Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award, Lukas published five epic books, each of which examined a critical fault line in America’s social and political landscape by examining individual lives caught up in the havoc of change. A former foreign and national correspondent for The New York Times, Lukas tackled the country’s generational conflict in Don’t Shoot: We Are Your Children; examined the impact of school desegregation in Common Ground; and told a sweeping tale of class conflict at the turn of the century in Big Trouble, completed just before his death.

Arthur Gelb, author and director, The New York Times College Scholarship program, and Linda Healey, editor and Mr. Lukas’ widow, are co-chairs of the J. Anthony Lukas Prize Committee. Other members are Alan Brinkley, Columbia University provost and Allan Nevins Professor of History; Ellen Chesler, author and senior fellow, Open Society Institute; Robert Giles, curator, Nieman Foundation; Vartan Gregorian, president, The Carnegie Corporation; Bill Kovach, chairman of the Committee of Concerned Journalists; Nicholas Lemann, dean of Columbia’s Graduate School of Journalism; Marion Lynton, Mr. Lynton’s widow; Kati Marton, author and human rights activist; and Brent Staples, author and New York Times editorial board member.

Show comments / Leave a comment