2020 Lukas Prizes Winners and Finalsits

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

The awards ceremony, originally scheduled for May 5, is postponed until further notice.

Winners and Finalists of the 2020 Lukas Prizes:

The J. Anthony Lukas Work-In-Progress Awards

  • Winner: Bartow J. Elmore, an associate professor of environmental history and core faculty member of Ohio State University’s Sustainability Institute, has won for SEED MONEY: Monsanto’s Past and the Future of Food (W. W. Norton), which addresses the pressing question of how to feed a growing population in the years ahead and exposes how a company that once made Agent Orange and PCBs survived its complicated chemical past to seed our food future.
  • Winner: Shahan Mufti, a journalist and professor of journalism at the University of Richmond in Virginia, has won for AMERICAN CALIPH: The True Story of the Hanafi Siege, America’s First Homegrown Islamic Terror Attack (Farrar, Straus and Giroux), which details the formation and development of competing Muslim communities in America and explores issues of race, immigration, foreign policy, Islam, and terrorism in 20th century America.

The J. Anthony Lukas Book Prize

  • Winner: Alex Kotlowitz, the author of the national bestseller There Are No Children Here: The Story of Two Boys Growing Up in the Other America and a writer in residence at Northwestern University, has won for AN AMERICAN SUMMER: Love and Death in Chicago (Nan A. Talese/Doubleday), which upends what we think we know about gun violence and the individuals who have emerged from it though a spellbinding collection of intimate profiles chronicling one summer in Chicago.
  • Finalist: Emily Bazelon, a staff writer at The New York Times Magazine, and a lecturer at Yale Law School, has been named a finalist for CHARGED: The New Movement to Transform American Prosecution and End Mass Incarceration (Random House), which closely tracks two cases of people caught up in the criminal justice system and illustrates how that system can begin working toward a different and profoundly better future.

The Mark Lynton History Prize

  • Winner: Kerri K. Greenidge, a lecturer in Tufts University’s Consortium of Studies in Race, Colonialism, and Diaspora, where she is the director of the program in American Studiesand and co-director of the African American Trail Project, has won for BLACK RADICAL: The Life and Times of William Monroe Trotter (Liveright), a long-overdue biography of American civil rights hero William Monroe Trotter, whose life offers a link between the vision of Frederick Douglass and black radicalism in the modern era.
  • Finalist: Daniel Immerwahr, an associate professor of history at Northwestern University and the author of Thinking Small: The United States and the Lure of Community Development, has been named a finalist for HOW TO HIDE AN EMPIRE: A History of the Greater United States (Farrar, Straus and Giroux), which presents a history of the United States’ reach offshore, from Puerto Rico to the Philippines and beyond.

About the Prizes:

Established in 1998, the Lukas Prize Project honors the best in American nonfiction writing. Co-administered by the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard, and sponsored by the family of the late Mark Lynton, a historian and senior executive at the firm Hunter Douglas in the Netherlands, the Lukas Prize Project annually presents four awards in three categories.

J. Anthony Lukas Work-In-Progress Awards (two $25,000 prizes)

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. Judges this year: MacKenzie Fraser-Bub Collier (chair), Peter Ginna, and Lucas Wittmann.

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

Bartow J. Elmore

Bartow J. Elmore


Bio: Bartow J. Elmore is an associate professor of environmental history, a core faculty member of Ohio State University’s Sustainability Institute, and a class of 2017 National Fellow at the New American Foundation. His award-winning first book, Citizen Coke: The Making of Coca-Cola Capitalism (W. W. Norton, 2015) examined the environmental impact of Coca-Cola’s worldwide operations. He has given a TEDx talk based on his Coke research and, for the better part of the last decade, has worked on a book project titled SEED MONEY: Monsanto’s Past and the Future of Food.

Judges’ citation: SEED MONEY is a deeply researched and revelatory expose on Monsanto’s complicated and radical influence on the food we eat. Through field work, investigative research, and archival exploration, Bartow J. Elmore tells a detailed environmental and social history of the world’s largest genetically engineered seed enterprise—a history with deep implications for the future of food. This informative book follows the best tradition of the Lukas Work-in-Progress Awards to expand our understanding of a pressing social issue: sustainably and responsibly feeding a growing population.

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

Shahan Mufti

Shahan Mufti


Bio: Shahan Mufti is a journalist whose work has been published by Harper’s Magazine, The New York Times Magazine, The Nation, Wired, Bloomberg Businessweek, The Atlantic, and many others. He is a professor of journalism at the University of Richmond in Virginia. Previously, he worked as a daily news reporter for The Christian Science Monitor and was a Fulbright scholar in India researching political Islam. His first book, The Faithful Scribe: A Story of Islam, Pakistan, Family and War, is based on his time living and reporting in South Asia.

Judges’ citation: Speaking directly to the mission and purpose of the Lukas Work-in-Progress Awards, this timely and powerful investigation of the Hanafi Siege illuminates the first-ever attack by Muslim militants on American soil—a pivotal moment when our nation was confronted with the intersection of Islam and terrorism. In AMERICAN CALIPH, Shahan Mufti, self-described as “100 percent Muslim, 100 percent American, 100 percent outsider and 100 percent insider,” explores the complex root of homegrown terror and its relationship to Islam, immigration, and the very nature of American society.

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. Judges this year: Barbara Clark (chair), Wesley Lowery, and Miriam Pawel.

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

Alex Kotlowitz and the cover of his book: AN AMERICAN SUMMER: Love and Death in Chicago

Alex Kotlowitz


Bio: Alex Kotlowitz is the author of the national bestseller There Are No Children Here: The Story of Two Boys Growing Up in the Other America, selected by the New York Public Library as one of the most important books of the 20th century. His book The Other Side of the River: A Story of Two Towns, a Death, and America’s Dilemma was awarded the Heartland Prize for nonfiction, and his documentary, “The Interrupters,” received an Emmy and a Film Independent Spirit Award for Best Documentary. Kotlowitz’s work has appeared in The New York Times Magazine, The New Yorker, and on “This American Life,” and he has won two Peabody Awards, two duPont-Columbia University Awards, and a George Polk Award. He is a writer in residence at Northwestern University. Kotlowitz lives with his wife, Maria Woltjen, and their two children outside of Chicago.

Judges’ citation: Chicago has some of the most impoverished and segregated urban neighborhoods in the country. In the past 20 years, more than 14,000 people have died there as a result of gun violence and other crimes. The triumph of AN AMERICAN SUMMER is that this familiar story is rendered with compassion and insight as well as a fresh, compelling urgency. In a series of daily dispatches, Alex Kotlowitz chronicles the summer of 2013 in vibrant, revelatory prose that captures the drama and complexity of life in the city’s toughest neighborhoods. The result is a nuanced, dispassionate portrait—a classic of immersive journalism. As Kotlowitz writes, “It’s in these, the most ravaged of our communities . . . that we can come to understand the makings of who we are as a nation.”

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

Emily Bazelon and the cover of her book: CHARGED: The New Movement to Transform American Prosecution and End Mass Incarceration

Emily Bazelon


Bio: Emily Bazelon is a staff writer at The New York Times Magazine and a lecturer at Yale Law School. Her previous book is the national bestseller Sticks and Stones: Defeating the Culture of Bullying and Rediscovering the Power of Character and Empathy. She lives in New Haven, Connecticut.

Judges’ citation: Weaving together intimate personal narratives with deep research on bias and racism in the American criminal justice system, CHARGED documents the enormous power that prosecutors wield both in the courtroom and beyond. Following two protagonists through each key juncture of their legal journeys, Emily Bazelon exposes the human consequences of prosecutorial discretion and makes a strong case for reform. She juxtaposes those case studies with a sweeping look at the system that has led to mass incarceration and the nascent efforts to reverse that trend. A rare blend of intellectual prowess, meticulous research, and narrative suspense, CHARGED exemplifies the way narrative journalism can influence profound debates in American society.

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. Judges: Ethan Michaeli (chair), Imani Perry, and Mark Whitaker.

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

Kerri K. Greenidge and the cover of her book: BLACK RADICAL: The Life and Times of William Monroe Trotter

Kerri K. Greenidge


Bio: Kerri K. Greenidge teaches in Tufts University’s Consortium of Studies in Race, Colonialism, and Diaspora, where she is director of the program in American Studies, and where she is also co-director of the African American Trail Project. She lives in Massachusetts.

Judges’ citation: BLACK RADICAL is the most complete biography yet of one of the most interesting African American 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, pioneered the practice of civil disobedience during the brutal backlash against Reconstruction, and led the protests against the white supremacist blockbuster film “Birth of a Nation.” In elegant, engrossing prose, Kerri K. Greenidge brings alive this deeply complex man and the world of black New England from which he emerged, as well as an era of rough-and-tumble politics, media transformed by technology, and citizens struggling for justice—in short, an era very much relevant to our own historical moment.

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

Daniel Immerwahr and the cover or his book: HOW TO HIDE AN EMPIRE: A History of the Greater United States

Daniel Immerwahr


Bio: Daniel Immerwahr is an associate professor of history at Northwestern University and the author of Thinking Small: The United States and the Lure of Community Development, which won the Organization of American Historians’ Merle Curti Award. He has written for n+1, The Nation, Dissent, and other publications.

Judges’ citation: HOW TO HIDE AN EMPIRE, by historian Daniel Immerwahr, traces the history of America’s offshore territories, past and present, from eventual states such as Hawaii and Alaska, to second-tier commonwealths such as Puerto Rico, to abandoned one-time U.S. protectorates such as the Philippines. In addition to fascinating individual stories, Immerwahr also offers a revelatory analysis of how their fates shaped the course of political, cultural, and technological events on the “logo map” American mainland, creating a new entity, a “pointillist empire.” Meticulously researched and highly entertaining, HOW TO HIDE AN EMPIRE should provoke intensive conversation and debate among a wide range of readers, from those just beginning to understand American history to established academics.

About Columbia Journalism School

For more than a century, the school has been preparing journalists in programs that stress academic rigor, ethics, journalistic inquiry, and professional practice. Founded with a gift from Joseph Pulitzer, the school opened its doors in 1912 and offers Master of Science, Master of Arts, Master of Science in Data Journalism degrees as well as a joint Master of Science degree in Computer Science and Journalism, and a Doctor of Philosophy in Communications. It houses the Columbia Journalism Review, the Brown Institute for Media Innovation, the Tow Center for Digital Journalism, and the Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma. The school also administers many of the leading journalism awards, including the Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Awards, the Maria Moors Cabot Prizes, the John Chancellor Award, the John B. Oakes Award for Distinguished Environmental Journalism, the Dart Awards for Excellence in Coverage of Trauma, the Paul Tobenkin Memorial Award, and the Mike Berger Award.

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About the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard

The Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard educates leaders in journalism and elevates the standards of the profession through special programs that convene scholars and experts in all fields. More than 1,600 journalists from 99 countries have been awarded Nieman Fellowships since 1938. The foundation’s other initiatives include Nieman Reports, a quarterly print and online magazine that covers thought leadership in journalism; Nieman Lab, a website that reports on the future of news, innovation and best practices in the digital media age; and Nieman Storyboard, a website that showcases exceptional narrative journalism and explores the future of nonfiction storytelling.

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