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Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Wilkerson to speak April 22

Barry McNamara
Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Isabel Wilkerson will give the keynote address for the inaugural Conference of Undergraduate Research & Scholarship April 22 at 11:15 a.m.
Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Isabel Wilkerson will be the keynote speaker at the inaugural Conference of Undergraduate Research & Scholarship, co-sponsored by the Midwest Journal of Undergraduate Research and Monmouth College.

Wilkerson will speak at 11:15 a.m. on April 22 in the Kasch Performance Hall of Dahl Chapel and Auditorium. Her talk is free and open to the public.

Wilkerson, who won a Pulitzer for coverage of the 1993 Midwest floods for The New York Times, is author of the critically acclaimed The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration. In 2012, The Warmth of Other Suns was named to the New York Times Magazine list of All-Time Best Books of Nonfiction.

“Isabel Wilkerson is an amazing speaker,” said Monmouth sociology professor Judi Kessler, who is one of the conference’s organizers.

Kessler praised the “extraordinary” research Wilkerson conducted for The Warmth of Other Suns, which included interviews of more than 1,200 individuals over 15 years.

“In her keynote speech, she’ll devote time both to the content of her book and to the research that went into it,” Kessler said.

The Warmth of Other Suns examines the three geographic routes that were commonly used by African Americans to leave Southern states between 1915 and the 1970s, illustrated through the personal stories of people who took those routes.

Wilkerson raced against the clock to reach as many original migrants as she could before it was too late, eventually identifying the book’s three main characters. The result is what the judges of the Lynton History Prize, conferred by Harvard and Columbia universities, described as “the intimate epic.”

“Wilkerson has created a brilliant and innovative paradox: the intimate epic,” they wrote. “At its smallest scale, this towering work rests on a trio of unforgettable biographies, lives as humble as they were heroic. ... In powerful, lyrical prose that combines the historian’s rigor with the novelist’s empathy, Wilkerson’s book changes our understanding of the Great Migration and indeed of the modern United States.”

In addition to the 2011 Lynton History Prize, The Warmth of Other Suns also won the 2010 National Book Critics Circle Award for Nonfiction, the 2011 Heartland Prize for Nonfiction, the 2011 Anisfield-Wolf Award for Nonfiction, the 2011 Hillman Book Prize, the Stephen Ambrose Oral History Prize, the Independent Literary Award for Nonfiction, the Horace Mann Bond Book Award from Harvard University, the New England Book Award for Nonfiction, the Hurston Wright Legacy Award for Nonfiction and the NAACP Image Award for best literary debut.

Wilkerson has taught narrative nonfiction at Princeton University, Emory University and Boston University.

The Conference of Undergraduate Research & Scholarship, which will be held April 21-22 at Monmouth College, will bring together young scholars from around nation to share research, learn about other students’ projects and interact with peers.

The conference’s co-sponsor, the Midwest Journal of Undergraduate Research, is a peer- and faculty-reviewed journal produced annually since 2010 by a team of Monmouth College student editors and faculty members.