Pulitzer Prize-winning journalists Nikole Hannah-Jones and Isabel Wilkerson announced as ALA Annual Conference & Exhibition featured speakers

For Immediate Release
Thu, 05/20/2021


Donna Hunter

Marketing Specialist

Conference Services

American Library Association


CHICAGO – The American Library Association today announced that Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author of “The 1619 Project, A New Origin Story,” Nikole Hannah-Jones will open the virtual 2021 ALA Annual Conference & Exhibition, June 23-29, and Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author of “Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents,” Isabel Wilkerson will be the ALA President’s Program featured speaker, invited by Julius C. Jefferson, Jr., ALA President.

Registration for the conference is open.

Nikole Hannah-Jones is an award-winning investigative reporter who covers civil rights and racial injustice for the New York Times Magazine. She was awarded the 2020 Pulitzer Prize for Commentary for The 1619 Project, The New York Times Magazine's groundbreaking exploration of the legacy of Black Americans starting with the arrival of the first enslaved Africans in 1619. It has been read by millions,  studied in classrooms all across the country, and invoked by politicians on both sides of the aisle. Its central argument, that so many aspects of contemporary American life have their roots in the system of slavery out of which the country grew, has sparked intense debate in the two years since it was published. 

“The 1619 Project, A New Origin Story,” available November 2021, is a book that dramatically builds on the vision of the original magazine project with major expansions of the original essays, seven new essays by historians, and dozens of new poems and pieces of fiction. The book includes a significant elaboration of the project’s Pulitzer Prize-winning lead essay by Hannah-Jones and a new introduction that together, offer a stirring rebuttal to critics. Hannah-Jones has also written a third essay that makes the case for reparative solutions to the legacy of injustice the project documents. The 18 essays and the 36 creative works come together to show how the inheritance of 1619 reaches into nearly every part of contemporary American society, from politics, music, diet, traffic, and citizenship, to capitalism, religion, and our very democracy. This legacy can be seen in the way we tell stories, the way we teach our children, even the way we remember.

Isabel Wilkerson, winner of the Pulitzer Prize and the National Humanities Medal, has become a leading figure in narrative nonfiction, an interpreter of the human condition, and an impassioned voice for demonstrating how history can help us understand ourselves, our country, and our current era of upheaval.

She will discuss her book, “Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents,” available now. Poetically written and brilliantly researched, “Caste” invites readers to discover the inner workings of an American hierarchy that goes far beyond the confines of race, class, or gender. A book steeped in empathy and insight, it explores, through layered analysis and stories of real people, the structure of an unspoken system of human ranking and reveals how our lives are still restricted by what divided us centuries ago. “Modern-day caste protocols,” Wilkerson writes, “are often less about overt attacks or conscious hostility. They are like the wind, powerful enough to knock you down but invisible as they go about their work.”

Wilkerson won the Pulitzer Prize for Feature Writing in 1994, as Chicago Bureau Chief of The New York Times, making her the first African-American woman to win a Pulitzer Prize in journalism. She then devoted fifteen years and interviewed more than 1,200 people to tell the story of the six million people, among them her parents, who defected from the Jim Crow South.

Wilkerson has taught at Princeton, Emory, and Boston Universities and lectured at more than two hundred other colleges and universities across the United States and in Europe and Asia.

ALA Annual Conference & Exhibition attendees will have access to more than 200 educational sessions in the areas of Library Services, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion, Leadership, Teaching & Learning, Technology, Library Workplace, and more. Additionally, many of the News You Can Use series; interactive Discussion Groups; and President and Chair Programs provide an excellent opportunity for attendees to share thoughts amongst their peers.

The conference will launch on Wednesday, June 23 with a full day dedicated to The Library Marketplace, showcasing as many as 300 exhibitors offering innovative resources for libraries; 11 presentation stages that will highlight notable and genre-specific keynotes; publisher-led Spotlight sessions on new book titles; networking opportunities, giveaways, and more. An announcement of the top-notch authors headlining the varied Presentation Stages can be expected very soon.

Registrants are able to log-in to the Program Scheduler and “favorite” sessions, adding them to their conference calendar. The Scheduler should be regularly checked as it is consistently updated with new sessions and activities.

Stay in touch and get updates through the 2021 ALA Annual Conference & Exhibition (Virtual) website alaannual.org and follow the hashtag #alaac21 and social media: InstagramALA Twitter, and ALA Facebook.