In 2011, the National Book Foundation awarded book awards in poetry and fiction to Nikky Finney and Jesmyn Ward, respectively. I go back to that moment in 2011 because it is and was a rare occasion when not one, but two black women received one of the premier prizes for writers. Furthermore, it was the first time that I—a young black man tuned in to watch what became an interesting moment in history.
In addition to Finney and Ward, Yusef Komunyakaa and the late Manning Marable were also nominated for The Chameleon Couch and Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention. With the exception of Jesmyn Ward, all of the writers/scholars mentioned above were already established and successful prior to the nominations. Of course, it never hurts to win a National Book Award!