The Anisfield-Wolf Awards

2019 Winners ©Cleveland Foundation

For the past two years, I’ve had the pleasure of attending the Anisfield-Wolf Awards in downtown Cleveland. The Anisfield-Wolf Awards was established by Edith Anisfield Wolf in 1935 with a vision in mind: “The Anisfield-Wolf Book Awards recognize books that have made important contributions to our understanding of racism and our appreciation of the rich diversity of human cultures. For over 80 years, the distinguished books earning Anisfield-Wolf prizes have opened and challenged our minds.” This award ceremony has gained more national attention as it grew bigger and it’s an amazing experience. Some previous winners include Martin Luther King Jr, Toni Morrison, and Maxine Hong Kingston.

There’s something magical about being able to sit in front of authors who have worked so hard to accomplish what they’ve set out to do. Most times, I have never heard of the authors but watching them speak and learning about their work makes me gravitate towards their writing and makes me want to learn more. The idea of racism and diversity is so prevalent and important that this award ceremony is crucial and brings such joy into the community and most times, around the world. This year’s winners were Andrew Delbanco, Tommy Orange, Sonia Sanchez, and Tracy K. Smith. I enjoyed all of their speeches and most of them held so much emotion and gratitude. My favorite author, although I had no idea who she was prior to the event, was Sonia Sanchez. She’s not only a poet, but a performer and her poems are beautiful and meaningful. What I loved most about her was her passion for her craft and for advocating through it. She moved me in a way I wasn’t expecting, and I felt connected to her in a very strong way.

As a reader and a writer, this event is not only encouraging but also helpful. Going to the award ceremony gives me more inspiration and confidence to continue writing no matter what my writing is about. I’ve learned that advocating any issue through writing can be the most powerful and it brings people together in a way nothing else can. I felt connected to every single person in the room just by being there and I felt strengthened by being surrounded by people who have the same passions as me. Overall, the experience is amazing and feels almost surreal sometimes. It’s empowering to enter a building knowing I will be encircled by love, it’s a safe place where so many people of different walks of life come to celebrate the writing of amazing human beings.

Works Cited:

Anisfield-Wolf Awards, The Cleveland Foundation, Accessed 7 October, 2019.

2 thoughts on “The Anisfield-Wolf Awards”

  1. I have never really been one for award ceremonies and the like – especially for people I do not know. I am glad that you used the opportunity to appreciate authors you already enjoyed and that you learned about new authors. I’ll try to keep the same positive outlook next time I get caught sitting through an award presentation.


  2. I had never heard of this awards ceremony before, but wow! I can sense the encouragement and excitement you felt from attending by your last paragraph. I’ve often read an author that I completely related to, and thought “I’m not alone.” I’m glad to see others do the same!


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