Nieman News

NEW YORK (March 24, 2006) — The recipients of the 2006 J. Anthony Lukas Prize Project Awards for exceptional nonfiction include a chilling account of racially-biased drug enforcement in the Texas panhandle by Nate Blakeslee; a portrait of the Peabody sisters, who were influential in the transcendental movement, by Megan Marshall; and a fresh look at Emily Post as a writer, whose celebrated advice on etiquette was really about ethics, by Laura Claridge.

The awards ceremony will be held on Tuesday, May 9, at Harvard University. Established in 1998, 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, who died in 1997. One of the three prizes, The Mark Lynton History Prize, 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 proponent of the writing of history and the Lynton Family has sponsored the Lukas Prize Project since its inception.

Following are the winners, finalists, judges and the judges’ citations.

J. Anthony Lukas Work-in-Progress Award ($30,000)

Laura Claridge for Emily Post and the Rise of Practical Feminism (to be published by Random House)

The Lukas Work-in-Progress Award is given each year to assist in the completion of a significant work of narrative nonfiction on an American topic of political or social concern.

The judges noted: “Laura Claridge thinks and writes about Emily Post in a way Tony Lukas would have cheered, producing the kind of rigorous and imaginative cultural history that he both pioneered and championed.” Claridge’s book is “a fresh look at the deeply influential advice-giver who showed that manners were about ethics, not just etiquette, and who in the process helped advance the democratic promise that made America special among nations: that anyone could rise into the middle class and beyond.”

Two finalists for the J. Anthony Lukas Work-in-Progress Award were also named: Bruce Barcott for The Last Flight of the Scarlet Macaw (to be published by Random House) and Dudley Clendinen for Canterbury Tales (to be published by Viking, Penguin Group).

Judges noted that in The Last Flight of the Scarlet Macaw, “Bruce Barcott employs a novel’s worth of colorful characters in his brightly written, tightly focused tale of the battle between those who would build a dam and those who would save a bird.” And about Canterbury Tales, the judges wrote, “Living for years with his subjects — the residents of the geriatric facility that has become his mother’s final home — Dudley Clendinen has produced a sharp and wise portrait of what he rightly calls the ‘new old age’ in America.”

Judges for the J.Anthony Lukas Work-in-Progress Award were Susan Braudy, Kevin Coyne and Richard Pollak.

The Mark Lynton History Prize ($10,000)

Megan Marshall for The Peabody Sisters: Three Women who Ignited American Romanticism (Houghton Mifflin)

“Through their elegantly entwined biographies,” the judges noted, “Megan Marshall takes us into the life of family, intellectual innovation, gender relations, and even health in New England in the first half of the nineteenth century … Megan Marshall’s interweaving of domestic life and the wider world of American culture, reform and experimental thought is accomplished with the observant eye of the best social history and the nuance of a Jane Austen novel.”

One finalist was named: Tony Judt for Postwar: A History of Europe since 1945. In Postwar, Judt has drawn on 40 years of reading and writing about modern Europe to create a fully rounded, deep account of the continent’s recent past. Judges for the Mark Lynton History Prize were Robert Harms, Louis Masur and Natalie Zemon Davis.

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

Nate Blakeslee for Tulia: Race, Cocaine, and Corruption in a Small Texas Town (Public Affairs Press)

“Tulia is a classic expose of justice denied in small town America, written with meticulous documentation and dramatic flair,” judges noted. “A chilling account of racially-biased drug enforcement in the Texas panhandle, Tulia opens in July 1999 with a police sweep that apprehended 47 alleged cocaine dealers, nearly all of them black. Blakeslee reveals how the suspects were arrested and convicted solely on the word of an undercover cop so unfit for law enforcement that he was wanted for a crime in another Texas town. The assembly-line legal system — controlled by an obstinate sheriff and a cynical judge — churned out prison sentences as severe as 361 years. Almost miraculously set right by a determined coalition of local citizens and pro-bono attorneys, these prosecutions ultimately led to state legislative reforms.”

Two finalists for the J.Anthony Lukas Book Prize were also named: Kurt Eichenwald for Conspiracy of Fools: A True Story (Broadway Books) and co-authors Kai Bird and Martin Sherwin for American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer (Alfred A. Knopf).

Judges noted that “Conspiracy of Fools recreates the culture of complicity that inflated and finally exploded Enron … a forensic investigation of corporate behavior uninhibited by the constraints of legal, regulatory, and moral accountability.” About American Prometheus, judges said, “Offers not only a vivid psychological portrait of its subject, but also a richly-textured history of the atom bomb’s creation and the post-war era of anti-communist hysteria.”

Judges for the J. Anthony Lukas Book prize were: Joe Conason, John Darnton, and Elizabeth Kolbert.

The J. Anthony Lukas Prize Project Committee

Arthur Gelb, author, and Linda Healey, editor and Mr. Lukas’ widow, are co-chairs of the J. Anthony Lukas Prize Project Committee. Other members are Jonathan Alter, author and Newsweek columnist; Alan Brinkley, Columbia University Provost and Allan Nevins Professor of History; Ellen Chesler, author; Phyllis Grann, editor; 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; Lili Lynton, business consultant; Marion Lynton, Mr. Lynton’s widow; Kati Marton, author and human rights activist; and Rosalind Rosenberg, Professor of History at Barnard College.

About the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism

For almost a century, the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism has been preparing journalists in a program that stresses academic rigor, ethics, journalistic inquiry and professional practice. Founded by Joseph Pulitzer in 1912, the school offers Master of Science, Master of Arts and Doctor of Philosophy degrees.

About Columbia University

Founded in 1754 as King’s College, Columbia University in the City of New York is the fifth oldest institution of higher learning in the United States and today is one of the world’s leading academic and research institutions. For more information about Columbia University, visit

About the Nieman Foundation

The Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard University administers the nation’s oldest midcareer fellowship program for journalists. Since 1938, more than 1,100 men and women from the United States and 77 other nations have come to Harvard as part of the fellowship program. In addition to the fellowships, the Nieman Foundation publishes Nieman Reports, the nation’s oldest magazine devoted to a critical examination of the practice of journalism. The foundation also is the home of the Nieman Program on Narrative Journalism and the Nieman Watchdog Project, which encourages reporters and editors to monitor and hold accountable those who exert power in all aspects of public life.

Show comments / Leave a comment