Anderson wins National Book Critics Circle Award for 'White Rage'

By Elaine Justice | March 20, 2017

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Emory historian Carol Anderson received the National Book Critics Circle Award for criticism for her book "White Rage: The Unspoken Truth of Our Racial Divide," lauded as "a searing critique of white America’s systematic resistance to African American advancement."

Emory historian Carol Anderson is the recipient of the National Book Critics Circle Award for criticism for her book “White Rage: The Unspoken Truth of Our Racial Divide.”

In announcing the award, the NBCC describes “White Rage” as “a searing critique of white America’s systematic resistance to African American advancement.”

Anderson, the Charles Howard Candler Professor and chair of African American Studies, was in New York last week for a gathering of the nominees and the award ceremony March 16. She described hearing her name as winner as “a wonderful moment.”

Also memorable was a session where all the nominees gave a three-minute reading from their work. “Being in a space where the power of great writing is so evident and the clarity of these engaging ideas are cascading over each other — it was so empowering and uplifting being there,” she says.

In a review of her book in the NBCC website, writer, critic and NBCC board member Walton Muyumba writes that “White Rage sits like a hub among several recent and present NBCC finalists,” including Claudia Rankine and Matthew Desmond. The book “operates efficiently and elegantly, offering readers new intelligence about the American experience.”

Perhaps most gratifying to Anderson is that the book has been heard by a wide range of readers. “A lot of times, I’ll get emails like the one saying ‘I’m a 70-year-old white man in St. Louis. I knew something was wrong, but I didn’t know what it was. Thank you for writing ‘White Rage,’" she says.

“As scholars, particularly in the humanities, we often work alone, gathering materials, writing and thinking, thinking and writing,” Anderson notes. “Then you send it out; I sent mine to a team of amazing reviewers at Emory.”

She lists Brett Gadsden of African American Studies, Sherman James of Epidemiology, and Dorothy Brown of Emory Law as the first readers of her manuscript for “White Rage.” “They turned those chapters around so quickly with fabulous comments and suggestions,” she says.

“From the colleagues who read the manuscript, to the research assistants that I had, both undergrad and grad students, and the fabulous resources at the Rose Library, I can say that Emory was absolutely essential for ‘White Rage’ becoming ‘White Rage,’” she says.

Anderson also is the author of “Eyes Off the Prize: The United Nations and the African-American Struggle for Human Rights, 1944-1955” and “Bourgeois Radicals: The NAACP and the Struggle for Colonial Liberation, 1941-1960.” 

Although Anderson was the recipient of several prestigious awards and citations for “Eyes Off the Prize,” “White Rage” is her first trade book, and the first time she has ever been in contention for an NBCC award. “White Rage” also is a New York Times bestseller and a New York Times Editor’s Pick for July 2016.

Founded in 1974, the National Book Critics Circle Awards are given annually to honor outstanding writing and to foster a national conversation about reading, criticism and literature. The awards are open to any book published in the United States in English (including translations). The NBCC comprises more than 700 critics and editors from leading newspapers, magazines and online publications.

See the full list of recipients of this year’s NBCC awards.