William Pickens Prize

The Department of African American Studies awards the William Pickens Prize annually for outstanding senior essays in the field of African and African American Studies.

2019 Pickens Prize Recipient

   Eleanor Pritchett

Eleanor Pritchett, an African American Studies graduating senior, was awarded the 2019 Willam Pickens Prize for her essay, “’Transcendentally Material’: Aaron Douglas and the Visuals of Publishing in the Harlem Renaissance.”

Read about Eleanor Pritchett’s fascinating research project at Beinecke Library which resulted in new scholarship on Aaron Douglass’ book art, which is the basis for her award-winning essay. 

Read more about Yale Phi Beta Kappa graduate William Pickens (‘04), a leading civil rights activist of the early 20th century.

Annual Pickens Prize Award Winners


  • Eleanor Pritchett “’Transcendentally Material’: Aaron Douglas and the Visuals of Publishing in the Harlem Renaissance”


  • Youn Chang “Seat of Empire: Multiracial Student Organizing at Yale Against War & Militarism”


  • Lauren Chambers “A Different Kind of Dark Energy: Placing Race and Gender in Physics”


  • Jordan Konell “A Special Solidarity?: Philadelphia’s Black-Jewish Relationship and the 1964 Columbia Avenue Riot”


  • David Joseph-Gotenier “From Segregation to Re-Segregation: A History of Racial Inequality in the YMCA”


  • Ethan Mordecai Cargill “The Black Arts Iconography of John Coltrane”
  • Emily Wanger “An ‘Awkward Silence’ - Examining Civil Rights Organizations’ Belated Opposition to Mass Incarceration in the United States”


  • Jordan Rogers “Put your House in Order and Plot a Sweet Life:  Home, Movement, Sexuality, and the Black Diasporic Musical Tradition in the South of France”
  • Christopher Pagliarella “The African Methodist Episcopal and Black Baptist Churches in Literacy Education:  Achievement, Loss and Hope”


  • Rhiana Gunn-Wright “Breaking the Brood Mare:  Representation, Welfare Policy and Teen Pregnancy in New Haven”


  • Naomi Bland “Plan B:  The Collision of the Birth Control Movement and the Uplift Movement Viewed Through Works of Angelina Weld Grimké”
  • Rodney Reynolds “I Know of No Better Way to Express the Struggle of Our People:  King, Hughes, and the Poetics of the Civil Rights Movement”


  • Rena Karefa-Johnson “The Stolen Girls Locked in the Leesburg Stockade: The Forgotten Price of Freedom”


  • Andrew Dowe “Time/Space/Self - Movement and Identity in black queer literary imaginations
  • Maura Fitzgerald Second Line Parades in New Orleans: Revelry and Resistance in the ‘Spaces Between’ ”


  • Offiong Bassey “Unlikely Candidates: The Authenticating Power of Evangelical Conversion and Call in the Live of Nineteenth-century Itinerant Ministers, Sojourner Truth and arena Lee”
  • Hallfridur Birnir “Walking Towards Brilliance: The Public Sculptures of David Hammons”
  • Cynthia So “The Causes and Consequences of Undocumented Haitian Immigration to the Dominican Republic”


  • Kersten Charity Stevens “The Blues-Hip Hop Dichotomy: Assessing Interstitiality in the Black Noise of the Past and Present”
  • Bryant Hall “The Power of Hypocrisy: The Politics of Double Morality in Cuba”


  • Lia Bascomb “Three Voices of Black Iconography: Nina Simone, Bob Marley, and Fela Anikulapo-Kuti”


  • Julianna Bentes “From Strong Roots: The Impact of World War II on the Civil Rights Movement through Citizenship, Empowerment, and Mobilization”
  • Erin Liotta “Bill T. Jones and Uncle Tom: Understanding Modern America Through the Politics of Dance”


  • Nilofar Gardezi “Kaleidoscopic in Memory Now”: Symbolism and Historicity in Robert Hayden’s ‘Angle of Ascent’ ”
  • Cameron Leader-Picone “Colored People’s Laughter: African American Literature, Jazz, Blues and the Problem of the Color Line”
  • Sarah Nelson Wright “Adopting Differences: Hybridity, Intersectionality and Transracial Adoption In Contemporary America”


  • Joshua Jelly-Schapiro “Are We All Creoles Now?”: Ethnicity and (Imagi-)Nation in a Heterogenous Caribbean Diaspora
  • Melissa Barton “ ‘An Off-Rhyme Occasion’: Race, Politics, and the Artistry of Gwendolyn Brooks’s War Sonnets”
  • Alan Schoenfield “The Politics of Position in the Teaching of Black Literature and the Future of Multicultural Education”


  • Eyi Tuakli-Wosornu “Black Skin/White Class: An Exploration of Black Students in New England Preparatory Schools”
  • Alexandra L. Cox “Reproduction, Apprehension, Production: The Visual Politics of the Crack Baby Scare”


  • Ayanna M. Johnson “Why Black Women Withdraw Early from Selective Colleges and Universities”
  • Brian J. Kreiter “Blackaccess.Com: Reevaluating African-American Participation in the Internet Economy”


  • Rosa Walker “Blackaccess.Com: Reevaluating African-American Participation in the Internet Economy”


  • Regina Bain “Black Theater: The Altar Line:  An Ideology of Theater Art for the Black Community”
  • Lorelei Williams “Wallflowers: Black Women in the Television Landscape”


  • Nicholas Taylor Boggs “Of Mimicry and (Little Man Little) Man:  Towards a queersighted theory of black childhood”